Public Relations with Parents and Training
Note: The following exchange happened on the Jim Wendler Training Forum. There are some good insights by some members and it is probably good to know that when dealing with parents, no one is alone. – Jim Wendler
I received a text message from a father of one of the youth athletes I train. I get a few texts from various parents from time to time and this dad is probably the most frequent texted. As a father myself I understand the concern for his child and that he wants the best for his boy and also wants to get his money's worth.
One of his recent requests was that he wants to see his son start getting some muscle tone. His son is 12 and weighs less than 100 pounds. My main goals are to teach him how to do the main lifts properly and to build confidence. The father has stated many times that he know nothing about strength training, which to me means he leaving it up to me and he trusts me because he pays me every month. He constantly tells me, usually via text message, that he wants me to push his son "extra" hard today or he wants him to be really sore. I have attempted to explain to him that training is not punishment, but I don't think he understands this. I attribute his attitude to the shitty phrase "no pain, no gain." This was today's text conversation.
- Text 1: Boy said you took it easy on him yesterday
Text 2: I hope that isn't the case
Note: these texts woke me up bright and early this morning
- Training is a process, a journey, not a sprint. Myopic or short-sighted training is what desperate people do. I'm trying to build athletes for the long haul not to see how sore I can make them the next day.
Note: I was in no way upset or angry I just wanted to explain to him as clearly as possible what training means.
Because texting is such a poor form of communicating this man came to my gym at 10:50 (I open at 11:00) and he wanted an explanation to why I was so angry with his question. I explained to him that in no way was I angry, and in the future it would probably be better to discuss his son's training in person.
Luke, I deal with this on a constant basis. I coach high school and early college aged swimmers. The team I coach is a select team comprised solely of kids we believe have scholarship potential. You can guess how intense parents can be once they realized their kid may be able to pay for school with his own abilities.
If I may make a suggestion...you have the opportunity to show the parent you value his business, while at the same time preventing this kind of issue. Give him a call, and say something along the lines of "After reflecting on our conversation this morning, I was wondering if I could ask that we only communicate verbally by phone or in person. I really value coaching your son, and this mornings conversation showed me how limiting and problematic that typed communication can be. I don't want you thinking that my tone is one thing, while I intend something completely different again."
Nathan gave a fantastic suggestion Luke. Some parents are just awful and I've actually made it a policy of no texting.
I dealt with a parent today (face to face) whose son said "Nah, I don't really wanna" when I offered to train him along side his teammates, (my son and the kids I train play lacrosse). His mom didn't know I offered. So she started talking to me about things.
Mom: "I'm sure you hate talking about this stuff and answering questions.."
Me: "No, not at all actually. I'd be glad to help anyway that I can."
The Mom: "Oh, great. Well, um, they are growing so fast and he's so little, what should I feed him?"
Mom: "Oh stop, I mean he's so picky and only eats..." (I dozed off at this point.) Your son is getting very muscular and I was wondering... Well, my son as you can see is rather little and I'd like him to get excited about working out and I'd like some ideas on types of food. What does your son eat?"
Me: "For one my kids were never aloud to be picky. They ate what was on the table or..."
Mom: "Hahha they'd starve..."
Me: "We live in America. Hungry, yes, starve no." (It was at this point I had to put my CUSTOMER SERVICE hat on and not scold her on parenting, or tell her that her kid needs parents to live by example and maybe if he wasn't allowed to be a sad sack of shit then maybe he'd be "more active" like she wants him too. In any line of work it doesn't pay to be an asshole. Damn it)
I kindly suggested she keep laying the idea down for him to come train with us. I explained that I make it, as Luke said, not a punishment but a journey to being a better self. Whether one goes on to be an athlete or what ever shouldn't be the point but to foster good habits and becoming a well rounded person.
She said she would "try."
Keep up the good fight Luke. It seems you got a good thing going at your place.
Don't get me wrong. There's a time to be an asshole and shake a parent/kid/family off your roster.
For shits and giggles, here's an email I got from a parent who is constantly an asshat toward the coaching staff on my team. We sat his daugther because she was faking injuries being the reason for her shitty attitude, work ethic, and lack of participation when we knew she was fine.
Email from Parent:
How is Sheila not swimming in the meet "resting" her knee? She has 6 practices a week of which we insist she attends 4. How can swimming 2 events per day at the meet be any more strenuous than practice? If you're really concerned about her resting/strengthening her knee, you'd tell her to take NOV/DEC off, provide proof of doing the daily exercises the sports doc gave her plus whatever the PT gives her. You'd tell her to come back strong for the high school swimming season and spring events. Plus you'd return my $90 for NOV and not charge us for DEC.
I read that and was like "What the fuck man? Should I come to her house and do all your parenting for you as well?" I mean seriously? I should spend my time, finding "proof" that physical therapy is beneficial and argue with a 14yr old that she needs to change her attitude and please do her exercise? Fuck no. That's the parent's job.
My reply read:
You have certainly overstepped and offended here. It is not the job of any youth sports coach to go leagues beyond the efforts of a parent to convince their child to take responsibility of her own health.
If you can't convince your own daughter to do her rehab exercises properly, I am certainly not going to be able to. Moreover, I'm not going to bother wasting my time seeking "proof" for something which should be self-evident.
Simply put, Sheila will be resting her knee because in the meets she would have to actually do the swimming required to complete the events. This is something she regularly avoids in practice. Citing her injury as reason for not to participate 100% and giving us no choice as coaches but to let her sit out.
You can choose to remain out of line, or see the truth that Sheila's issues do not reside in the responsibility of her coaches. Either way, I have no intention of corresponding with you again until such time as your tone resembles something of respect.
We informed them that they were no longer welcome on our team and that perhaps they could find coaching more to the father's liking elsewhere. We did so in a professional manner, but that didn't make it feel less awesome to tell them to go the fuck away.