One of the primary goals of the present research was to highlight key stakeholders’ opinions of what parent education programming should look like in the context of intercollegiate athletics. While the range of responses across interviews was wide, coaches, administrators, and directors spoke to two distinct implementation themes regarding the actual enactment of parent education:
Key NCAA stakeholders spoke at length about the scheduling of parent education, specifically with respect to what time of year the program should be conducted. In intercollegiate athletics, the relationship between the university and student-athletes’ families begin, in earnest, during the recruitment process. Therefore, many stakeholders felt that laying out parental expectations at that time would be most beneficial. As a male head coach (women’s volleyball) stated:
I think (education) has to happen in the recruiting process … before the athletes even get here to campus, (parents) have to understand the relationship that’s expected. I think it is tough to change all that stuff later when they are already here and Mom and Dad are already in their ear and stuff … Earlier is better.
Stakeholders also widely expressed that once an athlete is committed to a university, parents should be repeatedly exposed to any and all parent policies in conjunction with taking part in a more formal education process. A male head coach (wen’s wrestling) exemplified this theme, stating that if coaches discuss policy daily with their players, they should take the same approach with parents:
Anything that you could get out to the parents, especially for that first year or first semester, it’s always on their mind. You know, as a coach you are always communicating the standards of your program to your student-athletes, so I think if you just (did the same) weekly with the parents, they would understand (their role).
In describing the content that should be included in parent educational programming, many coaches highlighted the unique aspects of their sport and expressed a need for targeted (sport-specific) education. Despite this, a number of common sub-themes emerged, namely the importance of keeping presentations short, intriguing, and relatable. Stakeholders felt that the most important aspect of parent programming would be to frame it as an educational tool for enhancing the well-being of student-athletes rather than as mandatory policy. A female head coach (women’s gymnastics) compared educating parents to the daily education she provides her student-athletes:
I think we live in a world where education is important. I compare (parent education) to telling my athletes not to eat certain foods. I can only educate them on what good foods can do for their body, but then (I have to) allow them to make the decision.
Stakeholders also suggested that videos and/or vignettes could be created to show parents real-life examples of what positive and negative parent involvement behaviors look like in the context of intercollegiate athletics. As a male assistant coach (men’s basketball) stated:
I think you have to show (parents) examples of how they look through someone else’s eyes. HBO did a documentary … on parents who are pushing and pulling and just making it so uncomfortable for their kid. I think if you showed them the parents that are over involved you would get some denial there. But it might be good and it will reach some people.
The take-home message seemed to be that parents learn best by comparing themselves to others, not by getting a list of “dos and don’ts” from an unknown source. In addition, coaches, administrators, and parents stressed the importance of providing parents with a “big picture” view of parent involvement. This, many of these stakeholders noted, would allow parents to associate their own involvement with the outcomes experienced by their student-athlete. As a female head coach (women’s gymnastics) said: