The first of a minis series based on difficult conversations that are required between coaching colleagues and coaches and parents.
It is challenging to raise the conversation on some subject matters or topics, therefore they often become 'Taboo' where everyone avoids the discussion completely. I do not have the answers to it all, I can only offer my opinion and advice on the experience I have gained over 25 years of coaching.
The Taboo Series aims to raise awareness and knowledge around subjects and hopefully assist people to understand the reasons for certain decisions and to help you have some of those difficult conversations should they arise.
8 Minute read
The school summer holidays are drawing to a close.
Pre season training has, or is just about to begin.
Enthusiasm and excitement is building for the start of the new season from players and parents.
Watching their favourite team on TV; the end of the Transfer Window on Skysports building up the euphoria of the professional game and we none of us can wait to return to the game we love.
Young players hopes and dreams are running through their minds as they count down the days to seeing their teammates of seasons gone by and return back to training and matches is near.
Visualising that match winning goal they score; the goal line clearance they make, that incredible fingertip save to keep their team in the game during the last last few moments of the match…
Then out of the blue a week or two before the season is due to start mum or dad receives a text message from their team coach:
“Hi, just thought we’d let you know that we won’t be signing your son/daughter this season as we have been looking at other players and they’ve agree to join us. Thanks for your support the past few years”
Reading the above as a parent how do you feel?
Angry at the manner of how the situation has been handled?
The poor communication?
You’ve been with this club and coach for a period of time and built what you thought was a positive relationship - do you not deserve at least the courtesy of a phone call?
An explanation of why and how this has come about?
Yes. You do. And more importantly, so does your child.
For a variety of reasons players move clubs, move teams. Moving house; moving school; training nights may have changed due to moving up a year group and this clashes with other commitments; your child is not enjoying their football as much and would like a change; you as a parent may have your own perspective on how things are run at your current club and feel a move is in the best interests of your child. The reasons are vast and specific to each individual and family. No problem. We can all accept this as players, parents, coaches and clubs. Nature of the game.
Going back to the above text message received from your team coach, lets flip this on its head...
As a parent for your own reasons have been sourcing other football opportunities with other clubs.
You contact another team coach, you arrange for your son or daughter to go to a training session or two - or as some clubs like to label it 'a trial' or ' a taster session'.
The coach is impressed by your child's ability and want to snap them up quick to add them to enhance their own team and increase their chancing of winning.
Simultaneously your current club and coaches are working furiously behind the scenes to make sure everything is in place for the start of the new season too.
Coaches share the enthusiasm and excitement for the new season as much as players and they cannot wait to get started and see the kids once again after a prolonged break throughout the summer.
Player and parent meetings planned, coaches and workforce meetings have all taken place, the squad look ready on paper and in fact, your club may be turning new prospective players away during the summer months as they have enough players and will be able to provide ample playing time for them all throughout the season to help each child develop. Parent consent forms signed, players are all registered with the Jersey FA Training is about to resume, the fixture are out and we kick off our first game in two weeks time... awesome!
Then it happens.... your phone vibrates...
"Hi Coach, I wanted to message to tell you my child had a trial with another club a few weeks back and they have just got back to us to say they've got a place"
"Hi Coach, my child was invited to a session at another club and as a result he now wants to join them. The coach said he is happy to have him transfer over"
Remember how you felt moments ago as a parent.... with the shoe on the other foot so to speak, how would you feel as Coach?
You have coached the player for a period of time and built what you thought was a positive relationship with child and their parents - do you not deserve at least the courtesy of a phone call?
An explanation of why and how this has come about?
Yes. You do. And more importantly, so does your club.
However, are we all not just making this a little more complicated than it needs to be??
As mentioned above, there are vast and varied reasons to move clubs, but it appears the moves that include facts such as moving house, change of training nights etc are much easier discussions to have with your current club coach.
The moves that for example you feel where your child is not developing as you would like; the environment of the club or the coaching sessions are not what you expect; or you may believe your child has outgrown the group and requires a change of scene.
Of course the very nature of looking for a change of club is that you as a parent may not want to tell your current club that you are indeed sourcing other opportunities at a different club - perhaps a safety net just in case you cannot find a new club for your child and you end up losing your place at the current club.
With that said, the very fact you are looking to move club, or indeed have potentially had your head turned by another club suggests that perhaps you are not entirely happy where you currently are in the first place.
What ever the reason may be, it is imperative that an honest conversation takes place.
The knock on effect for your child not only learning in football terms but learning life lessons too on how to manage, deal with, and converse difficult times when emotions are wavering is surely far more productive than burying your head in the sand and avoiding what should be a healthy discussion between club/coach and parent/player rather just upping sticks and moving club without providing any real clarity or feedback as to why.
As a coach, players moving clubs is inevitable. We understand this will happen every season without doubt.
The real crux of this article is to offer advice to parents of young children and coaches that there is a right way to go about moving clubs that includes open communication (ideally face to face or a telephone call) feedback, showing integrity and a respect for all involved.
Please take into consideration the knock on effect for your team mates and parents you may be leaving behind at such short notice by leaving the squad potentially short of players a week or two before the season is due to start.
Training with another club whilst registered to your current club is not one of those ways, unless it is during whats known as the "free transfer window" during the month of June.
There really is no need to try and hide things or play it close to your chest - as believe me, the island is small, the football community is smaller, and we as coaches talk a lot to each other, so if you're child has trained with another club, it won't take long for your current coaches to hear about it.
And again, if you're looking to train with another club during free transfer period, a healthy conversation should have already taken place with your current club/coach. Ethics, values, integrity, respect. When shown the whole process goes smoother and works better for each respective party.
Let's not lose sight of it all. It's recreational amateur grassroots football. Everyone involved works hard for the better of developing players and their clubs. Everyone wants to improve.
For example if we do have a player that wishes to leave for any reason, my current club offers an exit strategy and offers support with the transition of player from our club to another by contacting other club coaches to help make easier the move for young players and alleviate some of the stress for parents in finding a new club.
There is so much more that can be written, however I think highlighting that fact that how parents and players expect and deserve to be treated by clubs and coaches also works the other way around.
If you are unsure of rules for transfers, or any other football rules in general please visit www.jerseyfa.com/about/rules-and-regulations/jersey-fa-rules for more information from our governing body.
As always, open to your feedback and comments and look forward to hearing from you.