The vast majority of archery students are youths, so you will be coaching a lot of kids. Because of the success of the movies: “The Hunger Games,” “The Avengers,” and “Brave,” and the London Olympic games of this summer (2012), all highlighting cool archers in a way, there is a small flood of kids seeking archery lessons. And every child in one of your classes comes with parents (grandparents, etc.).
Some coaches cringe at the subject of “parents” whenever it comes up in archery coach trainings. Everyone has heard stories of “Little League Parents,” “Helicopter Parents” (they are always hovering), and even “JOAD Parents.” We will not deny that an occasional parent can be a royal pain in the keester, but do realize that the vast majority of archery parents are good people looking to help.
We train our coaches to address parents positively and with forethought. You cannot just shove them out of the way, tell them that all you want from them are signed checks and silence. You are a stranger to them, and archery is a form of weapons training, so they want to assure themselves that their children are in good hands. Your focus on safety will be reassuring to all parents as well as your archers. Here is some guidance for working with parents.
Parents Can Be Helpful
Put yourself in the position of having to chaperone your child to a fantastically boring event: if you are male, think about taking your child to a doll show or a beauty pageant. If you are female, think about taking your child to a paintball event or a video arcade. Whatever your personal horror is, put yourself there. Watching an archery event is right up there with watching paint dry; it is about as dull as a sporting event can be. So, consider the poor parent, being dutiful, chauffeuring their kid to an archery lesson and then . . . Z Z Z z z z. Parents will do anything just to stay awake, so consider giving them something to do.
They aren’t qualified to work the shooting line as they do not have a coaching certificate, but if you ask almost any archery coach, they will tell you they got sucked into coaching because they had a child who like archery, they were asked to help, it kinda looked like fun, and they might as well, . . . , you know the story. It is the most common path to “archery coach.” We have had parents help with paperwork (after they’ve done it for their kid, they help others do it for theirs), pass out armguards and tabs, monitor the kids behind the waiting line to make sure they are not getting into trouble, those kinds of things.
Be sure to talk to parents before and after class, because they will have questions. Which leads to . . .
Parents Need Training, Too
Parents will have a lot of questions and if they are not archers themselves (Parent Question #1 “Are you an archer?) you can’t assume anything. It used to be the case that a majority of the kids in a class had archer parents, but that is no longer the case, so everything needs to be looked at afresh. For example, parents need to be told that “shooting at home” is not a good idea (maybe if you live on a farm, have archer parents involved and have cow insurance, but not ordinarily). You may think this is silly but we had grandparents tell us after their kid had just one lesson “Little Johnny (name changed to protect a minor) enjoyed his first lesson so much we took him to K-Mart, bought him a bow and arrows, then took him to the state park and had a delightful walk on a trail with him shooting at pine cones and squirrels.” After we recovered from our faint, we explained that arrows were not allowed to be shot in state parks unless specific permission is given and that he should never, ever shoot on anything other than a certified archery range.
They didn’t know . . .
Whatever you think they know about archery, they don’t . . .
It is best to assume they know nothing.
We are delighted to be able to recommend a book to archery parents that will answer a great many of their questions and that is “A Parent’s Guide to Archery.” It is available on Amazon.com so it should be easily available to all. (I know the author and he is a really cool guy.)
If you don’t want to go that route, prepare some handouts for parents, with definitions of terms, safety rules and what we call “the Rules for Parents.” We keep these handouts in an “accordion file” so we can whip out whichever one we need in short order.
And, it is not unusual for parents to get bitten by the archery bug, too. Ask them if they want to give it a try. You can even have a parent’s section of the line for those who do or set up another class just for them. There is a certain economy for having the parents and the kids at the same time (fewer trips to the range) but you want to make sure everybody gets enough attention or there could be hard feelings about the parents “taking over” the kid’s class (or the equivalent).
Rules for Parents
These are short and very, very important!
Rule #1 Please drop off and pick up your child on time.
Sometimes, when parents come to trust your ability to care for their kids, they will just drop them off and come to pick them up later. And we have had parents show up minutes to hours late to pick up their kids. You can’t very well just leave the kid at the range, or public park, or wherever your class it, so you can be stuck. Some programs have rules, like those of day care centers, in which there are fines for picking up your child late (some charge by the minute!).
Rule #2 Do not talk to your children while they are shooting.
A parent’s voice cuts through a wall of noise like a hot knife through butter (as it should). We have seen kids, having heard a parent calling their name swivel their upper body 180° (without moving their feet—they are oh, so flexible) so that their arrow was pointing directly away from a target and right at the spectators!
Rule #3 Do not exhort or “coach” your child while we are working with them on the line.
Parents of soccer (football), baseball, or football (American football) kids are used to rooting for their kids from the “sidelines.” Phrases like “Attaboy!” and “Don’t drop your bow arm!” can be heard. The problem is that the parent can’t know what we have just said to their child and probably the best their comment or instruction can do is dilute or mix the message of the coaches. Often when we are trying to teach a new behavior other bad behaviors show up. But we want to focus on just the new behavior at that moment and an instruction from a parent (hard to ignore for any kid) about the other thing shifts the child’s focus away from what we are trying to do.
We recommend that parent’s “debrief” their student-archers at the end of class. Yes, it is a little like “What did you learn in school today?” but if the students can articulate what they were learning it helps to reinforce that learning. If the child seems confused, a parent can then ask for some clarification from the coach.
Parents are a valuable resource. Use them well. Hey, treat them nicely and they may even help out!