Successfully teaching young people character skills requires a team effort. Coaches and parents must work together to make the youth sports experience as productive and fun as possible.
It’s difficult for a coaches to accomplish teaching goals and tasks when they’re at odds with parents. Coaches need their support. This is why it’s so important for coaches to build and maintain positive relationships with parents. One of the best ways to do this is through good and consistent communication.
Let parents know your expectations ahead of time.
Many parents, especially those new to youth sports, have a preconceived idea of what the experience will be like for them and their child. That’s why it’s important for coaches to communicate their coaching philosophy to parents and players.
– The first step is to hold a mandatory meeting for parents and players before the first practice. Here, coaches can layout and discuss their coaching philosophy, behavior and performance expectations, practice and game schedules, and let parents and players know how a coach will run practices and games. This gives everyone an opportunity to ask questions and work through any issues they might have about how and why a coach does certain things. This meeting puts everyone on the same page and helps the coach begin building a positive relationship with parents.
– There are so many ways to communicate with people today. The use of a text message, e-mail, social media or a team organization app are great ways to make sure parents are informed. Coaches should pick the ones that work best for them and the majority of parents. Be prepared to be flexible and patient. Even when coaches do their job to keep parents informed, some of them may not always respond or return the favor.
Notify parents of changes or concerns.
– If coaches regularly inform parents about schedule changes at the last minute, they’ll have problems. Parents will grow disgruntled and frustrated and players will miss practices and games due to conflicts. To avoid all this, coaches should notify parents as soon as they become aware of any changes in times or locations.
– Coaches should tell parents about any behavior or performance issue they might have with their child. This way, you can enlist their help. Sometimes, all it takes is some additional teaching at home to help solve a problem.
– It’s just as important to inform parents when their child is doing well. If a player is upbeat, positive and consistently uses character skills correctly, coaches should reinforce the behavior by telling his or her parents! It’s fun to be the bearer of good news, and players and parents appreciate it.
– Coaches should always remember that they are working with a parent’s most precious gift – his or her child. Coaches should be just as understanding, patient and kind with parents as they are with their kids. When coaches talk with parents about their child, they should do it in a way that’s positive and helpful and not insensitive or hurtful. The last thing a coach wants to do is damage their relationship with parents.
– Make a statement that has substance and deliver it in a calm, positive way. Tell parents exactly what’s going on and how they can help, and do it in an empathetic, understanding and kind manner. When coaches use this approach, parents are more likely to respond favorably and be willing to help.
Communicating with parents is a necessary and important part of coaching. Good coaches do it well by telling parents the rules and expectations upfront, relaying schedule changes in a timely manner and passing on information about positive and negative player issues as they come up. Good communication also involves using empathy and saying things in a way that helps draw a positive response from parents.
When coaches communicate well and keep parents up to date, they create a healthy partnership that can help coaches meet their goals with kids.
Kevin Kush of Boys Town wrote this guest blog for momaha.com. Kush has been a teacher and coach for more than two decades and is widely recognized as an outstanding motivational speaker. He has been honored as an ABC News “Person of the Week” for leading his Boys Town High School team of at-risk youth to an undefeated regular season. He is also the co-author of "Competing with Character," where he examines the good and the bad going on today on youth playing fields, along the sidelines, and in the stands. "Competing with Character" is a guide to creating an environment where character, sportsmanship and fun are once again priorities youth sports.