Parents And Coaches Together

Parents and Coaches Together (PACT) is an educational program developed at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethical Education and Development. The program is:

  • Based on research from developmental, educational, and sport psychology
  • Designed to help coaches and parents be on the same page in successfully creating a positive and motivating climate in Minnesota youth soccer
  • Presented by experienced trainers approved by the University of Notre Dame
  • PACT empowers coaches and parents to realize their unique roles in fostering athlete intrinsic motivation, character development, optimal performance, well-being and satisfaction

Creating a climate for excellence through Parents and Coaches Together (PACT)

By Iván Woyno – Director of Member Services (MYSA)

In my role as Minnesota Youth Soccer Association Director of Member Services, I often have the chance to ask parents, coaches and club officials about their ongoing efforts to grow and develop soccer in the state.  The feedback I receive helps me gather a mental image of the soccer culture in the area as well as foment discussions within it.  Last year, a club official forwarded to my attention the following parent feedback.  The purpose of forwarding the feedback was to inquire about Parent and Coaches Together (PACT) seminars, as the opposing team’s club had been hosting them for a few years and their effect could clearly be seen in the example provided.

“Our U12 girls played an away game last night.  Our team was short one player on the field and no subs.  The teams decided to play quarters to allow our girls some water and rest since we were down a player.  Both teams were playing hard - the effort from both teams was amazing.  At the first quarter break one more player arrived.  She was late and had forgotten her shoes, socks, and shin guards.  When the opposing coach saw that she was not prepared, their team offered her an extra pair of socks, shin guards and shoes.  Watching from the sidelines as their team scrambled to help so we could have a full team on the field was something to see.  Both teams surrounded this girl as she put on the loaned equipment; the shoes were a little small but that did not matter.  The referees checked her in and both teams took the field very excited.  It is hard to put into words the feeling at the field; it was just different than at the beginning of the game.  The parents from both teams began to cheer both teams on, it didn’t matter what team they were playing on.  The sportsmanship was infectious.  
 On the car ride home my daughter and I were talking about what happened.  She commented that she could not believe the other team had extra equipment and that they let our team use it.  She also commented on how hard all the girls worked during that game.  She said "We may not have won the game, but we played our best and it was a blast." 
 I got to the soccer field with a crabby kid and left the soccer field with a girl that was feeling good about herself, her team and the opposing team. 
It is amazing how a small gesture of sportsmanship changes everything.”
Developed in association between Minnesota Youth Soccer Association and the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethical Education and Development, the Parents and Coaches Together (PACT) program is a research based educational series designed to empower coaches and parents to realize their unique roles in fostering athlete intrinsic motivation, character development, optimal performance, well-being and satisfaction.  Utilizing developmental, educational and sports psychology, the seminars are designed to help coaches and parents/spectators to be on the same page in order to successfully create a positive and nurturing environment in which Minnesota soccer athletes are able to thrive and reach their maximum potential.  The PACT program consists of two hour seminars specifically designed for the audience and presented by experienced trainers approved by the University of Notre Dame and MYSA.  

Seminars are offered November through April and are free of cost for attendees of MYSA member clubs. The Parent Seminar is designed to help parents and/or spectators understand how to create a positive climate on the sidelines in order to encourage growth and improve self-esteem by players and referees alike.  Helping parents understand major differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors empowers parents to help the athletes beyond the short term and develop a strategy for long term success and participation.  

Addressing verbal and non-verbal communication tools, the seminars are designed to help bridge generational gaps and ensure that we are developing strong character athletes and not simply developing characters.  By further defining what can and can’t be controlled in soccer, presenters are able to provide a unique perspective to the spectator in order to motivate the athlete to become a champion and not just a competitor.  All of these tools are designed to help foster sportsmanship among teams, as well as unify parents in a common goal – the betterment of all soccer players in Minnesota.

The Coach Seminar is designed in similar fashion but it is purposively oriented on creating a nurturing climate versus a negative climate throughout a soccer player’s development years while at practices or games.  Including information on player motivation and strategies to create smarter goals and objectives, the seminar empowers coaches to reach out to athletes in positive ways to help ensure long lasting participation in the sport.  The presenters provide coaches with various communication models to help bridge communication gaps with parents and players in order to set common goals and avoid a decrease in participation and enthusiasm that can often lead to burnout and/or abandonment of the sport by the athlete.  

Addressing key components to a successful season such as a pre, during and post season meetings and their content, coaches can learn strategies to ensure that they are creating not just great soccer players, but outstanding citizens.  By ensuring that coaches are creating a champion sideline committee, engaging all parents and spectators and promoting a compete ‘with’ and not ‘against’, the PACT program can help promote growth at the club level and develop ambassadors of the game across all participation levels.

This article is being reprinted/posted with permission of the author and MYSA.

Parents and Coaches Together