A veteran gymnastics coach was eating dinner with his wife when he began to complain about his day. The coach loved what he did for a living and he loved his athletes. But he had grown increasingly frustrated by the way their parents were interfering with the training process.
Despite being a knowledgeable and accomplished instructor, who had been operating his own gymnastics academy for many years, the coach had reached a breaking point.
“The parents don’t know what they’re talking about,” he told his wife. “They criticize the way I coach. They criticize the way I run the academy. They criticize the gymnasts’ techniques. During competitions, they yell inaccurate instructions from the bleachers.
“Those parents undermine everything I’m trying to teach the kids and I’ve had enough of the divisiveness!”
The coach’s wife interrupted him. “How do they know what you’re trying to do?”
The coach initially interpreted his wife’s question to be combative and lacking support. But the more he thought about her words, the more he recognized their legitimacy. She was right.
How were the parents supposed to know what he wanted? Training sessions were closed. The coach didn’t want his gymnasts to be distracted, so he barred parents from entering the gym. He made them wait in the lobby, unable to observe what was being taught and emphasized.
The parents criticized his methodology because they lacked insight. They wanted their kids to experience success. Yelling instructions from the bleachers was their way of trying to help. By barring parents from training sessions, the coach had inadvertently created a void in understanding. The parents didn’t know they were yelling inaccurate instructions.
The next morning, the coach cut a hole in the wall separating the lobby from the gym and installed a two-way mirror. The parents could now see how the coach was training their kids and what he was emphasizing, without distracting the athletes.
The two-way mirror changed everything. Parents became more supportive once they saw what the coach was doing with their own eyes. Being able to observe the training sessions gave them the insight they needed.
The parents began echoing the same encouragement to their kids as the coach. The two-way mirror got the parents on the same page as the coach. It also allowed the coach to start seeing the parents as assets instead of sources of hindrance.
My work affords me access to a lot of different sports teams and this access grants me a unique perspective in terms of how successful teams operate. The most successful teams—the ones who experience perennial success—include their athletes’ parents in the process.
These teams allow their parents to observe their training sessions. Some of them have parents standing along the sidelines the entire practice. Others have parents peering into the training facility through large windows. I’ve even seen several elite academies livestream their training sessions and provide parents with login credentials.
Their transparency is the source of their success. The teams’ transparency transforms the parents into team stakeholders and compels them to feel more like invested teammates than under-informed outsiders.
If your team is experiencing divisiveness, maybe it’s time to take a look at your level of transparency. Investing in a two-way mirror could improve the depth of your stakeholders’ investment.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.