Barriers to Positive Parent Involvement
Despite the potential for parent educational programming to facilitate positive parent involvement, coaches, administrators, and directors discussed a number of possible barriers that would have to be overcome to achieve this end. Specifically, these barriers fell into three themes:
Key NCAA stakeholders acknowledged that the appropriate presentation of educational materials would be key for the implementation to be successful. Indeed, more important than the actual content of the presentation, participants described the person or “voice” behind the information as being of utmost significance. Despite this, stakeholders had wide-ranging opinions in terms of who would be the best voice to implement parent educational programming. A number of coaches felt that it should come from athletic administrators at the university who are charged with protecting student-athlete well-being. According to stakeholders, these individuals are trusted by parents as a familiar source of information. As one female administrator shared:
They have the ‘pulse’ of the student-athletes.
A second subset of stakeholders suggested that academic support staff members would be the best individuals to implement parent education because they have constant interaction and access to student-athletes throughout the year. A third group of stakeholders suggested that head coaches would offer an appropriate voice for parent education. Primarily, this built on the fact that coaches and parents have an established rapport and that coaches’ authority would serve as a great foundation for parent buy-in. Key stakeholders noted that if coaches were in charge, each could present the university athletic department’s parent policy in a way that was relevant to her/his specific team. As a coach, they could also then enforce the policy throughout each athlete’s career. As a male head coach (men’s football) shared:
I think it has to come from coaches, because sometimes the message is lost if it’s coming from someone else. There is direct interaction between the player and the coach, whereas the interaction with an administrator might happen a couple of times in their whole career.
A female head coach (women’s soccer) concurred, stating that the presenter needed to be someone who “understands the dynamic of the team” in terms of the specific roles coaches, parents, and athletes play in a given sport.
Smaller subsets of stakeholders offered third party sources, such as a sports psychologist or a former student-athlete, as appropriate voices for parent education. According to these individuals, these individuals would impact parents by offering a relatable “boots on the ground” perspective of the impact of parent involvement on student-athlete well-being. As a female administrator shared:
I think that a student-athlete talking to the parents can convey, “This is important for me. I needed my Mom and she wasn’t there,” and the moms are going to be like, “Oh God, I don’t want to be that mom!” I think that could almost pull at them more than a coach or administrator. They’re going to say “I’m a great parent.” But if they see a child saying, “I struggled, this is why I struggled, and this is what I needed.” They might take that more to heart.
A final group of stakeholders suggested that former sport parents would serve as the most appropriate voice for parent education. Largely, this was because parents who have been through the system are able to then reflect on the high and low points as a parent. Indeed, a female assistant coach (women’s basketball) suggested:
I think a lot of parents learn best by hearing stories from other parents. So, I think it (should be) a video or a pamphlet of parents of college athletes that tells us the five things you wish you have done different.
Despite disagreement regarding who would be the most appropriate voice, nearly all key stakeholders agreed on the characteristics of the individual who should engage parents. Specifically, participants noted that it needed to be an individual who was credible, relatable, and charismatic. Achieving this, they noted, would grab the attention of parents and drive home the importance of positive parent involvement in intercollegiate athletics.
In addition to providing an appropriate voice to deliver parent educational programming, key stakeholders also underscored the importance of crafting an appropriate message for parent consumption. Specifically, coaches, administrators, and parents emphasized that the message must correlate to the voice, while remaining focused on positive outcomes rather than making parents sound burdensome. A female head coach (women’s softball) stated:
If the message is conveyed correctly, it would definitely be beneficial. I enjoy watching other coaches coach because I can take something from them … but I don’t want someone to tell me how to coach. Same thing, parents want to listen and take something, but don’t want to be told how to parent.
Coaches, administrators, and parents believed that once parents become accustomed to participating in an educational program, the majority would be willing to do anything in their power to help their student-athlete become more successful. However, most f these key stakeholders also noted that simply getting parents to participate — to buy into the program — would be the biggest barrier in achieving positive parent involvement. As a male Athletics Director noted:
I think you will get a great response from student-athletes, but I think you will get a percentage (of parents) that just don’t do it because of time. So, maybe participation becomes one of the barriers. I don’t think there is really any heavy barrier other than that.
Despite these barriers, it was the common opinion of key stakeholders across NCAA Divisions is that each could be overcome at an institutional level to foster positive parent involvement in the context of intercollegiate athletics.