Anyone who has lived in an area impacted by a hurricane knows the importance of building solid structures that can withstand the pounding winds and damaging rains that may come up in typical hurricane season.
A proactive approach is key.
Waiting until the storm arrives is usually too late and quickly becomes damage control.
The same is true of relationships. Taking a purposeful approach to building strong connections is essential to weathering the ups and downs that may come.
Coaches who apply this wisdom in their youth sports programs can turn parents into partners.
Here are three specific areas that youth sports coaches can address, to nurture rock solid relationships with the parents in their program.
Parents are an important part of the equation for success in youth sports. Coaches that recognize this, realize that being credible in the eyes of parents is a worthwhile goal.
Unfortunately, this can be challenging to achieve. Varying levels of family involvement and differing expectations of what sport is supposed to be means that no two parents are alike – which can be intimidating for coaches.
Keeping a sports parent at arm’s length is not an effective answer.
Focus on these three areas in your relationships with parents to remain credible in their eyes:
- Building Trust by responding quickly and kindly to emails and/or phone calls.
- Show You Care about them and their children by spending equal time with families. Work hard to not show favoritism.
- Be Competent in your knowledge and skills and always continue your education. Also, be honest when you don’t know the answer.
Removing the guesswork for families helps to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary frustration. Clear and open communication can go a long way in this.
Today’s access to technology makes it easy to be clear with all the families in your program via email, texting, skype calls, Facebook groups, and team newsletters.
Here are three areas that can benefit greatly from transparent and effective communication – each of these should be introduced initially in a parent meeting at the beginning of the season:
- About Values: Impart the values that you expect the team to operate in – and be sure to live by them. These guiding principles need frequent reinforcing for them to stick.
- About Your Philosophy: What is the overall philosophy of your coaching approach? A sentence or two that captures this could be shared in your signature block at the end of every email. This can also be reinforced in your one-on-one conversations with parents.
- About Everyone’s Role: Team meetings before and after competitions are a great time to positively and gently reiterate expectations for everyone involved. Sometimes parents need guidance in understanding how their role is uniquely different from a coaches’ role.
No two seasons will look the same. Diverse talent, unique personalities, unpredictable challenges and fluctuating support all make for one-of-a-kind experiences each time.
Creativity can be an indispensable ally to your success. Parents want to feel confident that the coach is giving thought to new and productive ways to get the most out of athletes.
Think out-of-the box in these three areas:
- Instructing: Capture the respect of parents by always finding fresh and engaging ways to instruct athletes in skill building and in teaching the basics of team sports.
- Inspiring: Invite older athletes (from previous years) to come and speak to your team during practice. Perhaps an athlete that has gone on to play collegiately can share some positive experiences that they have had.
- Communicating: What works in some programs may not work in others. Be open to exploring new ways to give and exchange information.
At the End of the Day...
Parents have the ability to greatly impact not only a young athlete’s experience in youth sports but a coach’s experience as well. Be strategic and purposeful about bringing them on board for a productive season, by being credible, clear, and creative.
Everything Growing Champions For Life does is to help sport organizations create the most positive learning environment for athletes, parents, and coaches. I have shared our strategies with stakeholders in many sports. If you are interested in learning more about our in-person seminars and workshops, webinar series or online learning program, I would love to hear from you.