“The parents on our youth team will either make or break our season.” This is something I’ve heard from people for many years now and I tend to agree with this. I’ve witnessed firsthand how the culture and attitudes of parents can affect a team. Sadly, most of the negative issues coaches have had to deal with could have been avoided if more time was spent educating parents.
Over the years, most of the teams I’ve coached have had great parents whose support and dedication reinforced the culture we were trying to establish. This wasn’t by pure luck; I believe that coaches need to be meticulous in communicating with them.
Every year, we take great strides to hold a preseason parent meeting, laying out the game plan for a successful season. In our series about educating Journal readers on effective youth sports coaching, we will discuss the how’s and why’s behind meeting with the parents of your athletes.
When facilitating a parent meeting, always begin with a brief introduction of the coaches and parents who hold a position in the organization or team. I also use this time to talk about the key beliefs of the coaching staff and the organization (which includes positive reinforcement in our coaching and teaching life lessons through the sport).
An effective parent meeting will cover several key topics and should proactively answer the questions that all parents will have. This includes what the additional costs are to participate, what equipment will be needed and what fundraising activities will be done (along with where this money will be going).
Parents also should receive a written practice schedule which includes contact information of team leadership. We also include the dates of team pictures and the end-of-season banquet, as these days are important as well. This gives parents plenty of time to plan around the dates, ensuring 100 percent attendance from team members. If the game/tournament schedule is finalized, the parents should also get a written copy of this along with the snack schedule (if applicable).
Many of us have seen the YouTube videos of angry parents yelling at their kids for losing or cussing at referees for a missed call. Don’t let this happen to your team by waiting until a parent makes a foolish decision in front of the kids. Be proactive by addressing sportsmanship and appropriate parent behavior before competition begins during this meeting.
I find value in talking more about what actions parents should demonstrate rather than talking about what they shouldn’t do. In this case, I reinforce that parents should praise their child’s effort after competition (saying things like “I was really proud when you…”) and should always put the lesson taught above winning.
Parents play a huge role in youth sports and can add a lot to the dynamic of the team. Use this meeting to build a partnership between you and them. Some coaches are quick to write off parents and it saddens me when I hear teams wanting to prevent parents from coaching or even restricting parents from attending practices. Coaches need to understand that parents spend more time than we do with their kids. Use this truth to educate parents about the sport, your team, and the positive culture you want to provide to the kids. If this is done correctly in your meeting, you gain an ally in helping build remarkable young men and women.
Mike Gempeler has coached youth sports for 18 years and is a regular contributor for the Lee's Summit Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.