Dealing with Parents
Parents can be your biggest source of help or your biggest headache. Learn how to work with them and you will have their support. The roles they plays in supporting their young athlete can make such a big difference in their childs development. It's a good idea to have a short parents meeting before the first practice. Let them know up front what you hope to accomplish during the course of the season. Let them know where they can help, either at practice or at home. Most of them would be willing to help if they know what to do. For most, that might be playing catch with their daughter on non practice/game nights. For some, they might be willing to help at practices.
What I have done in the past when I inform the parents of the first practice, I also let them know at the same time that we will be having a mandatory meeting the first half hour of the first practice. I start things off with a welcome statement and then excuse the players to start some drills with the assistant coaches. Now the players will not have to hear the discussion I have with the parents.
Many local associations have a “parents code of conduct” form that needs to be signed and returned to the association. This meeting would be a good time to take care of this paperwork.
It’s a good idea to put together a contact list of parents on the team and hand it out at the meeting. That way they can schedule their carpooling or arrange rides when needed. Make sure that your contact information is on this list.
You may be required to produce photo ID’s and documentation like birth certificates throughout the season, especially at tournaments. I suggest that you will want to collect all this information at this meeting and put it in a packet that you have it in your coaches game bag so that it is always with you. The coaches game bag should include your score book, pencil(s), rooster info and ID documentation
The topics listed below should be covered at the Parents Meeting. Scroll down the page for more detailed information on each topic.
Let the coaches coach
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Playing time will always be a question that will come up. The association or club that your team belongs to may have a policy on playing time. Let them know what the policy is or, if there is no policy, let them know what your philosophy is on playing time.
I have used the same philosophy with every team that I have coached. I will do my best to balance playing time during league play. This does not that mean that the player who never shows up for practice gets the same playing time as everyone else. If they don’t make practice, they will see a reduction in playing time. If they never make practice, they will, in short order, never see playing time. Now, you have to take sickness, injury and family emergencies into account. When it comes to tournaments, I will not watch the playing time as close. The goal in a tournament is to win a game in order to play another game, therefore, I will use stronger player longer and the other players will be used in roles as needed in order to get another game. Some players’ roles will be bigger than others. Your association may have rules that you may have to abide by regarding playing time or maybe you have a highly competitive club team that is driven by wins and losses without regard to bench time. Whatever the case, if you let the parents know up front what they are getting into, you will avoid a lot of questions later in the season.
Talk about sportsmanship at the meeting. Let them know that you are the coach and if the umpire needs to be approached, you are the only one that will do that. The old saying is “let the umpires umpire, let the coaches coach, let the players play and let the parents (fans) cheer”. Again, just like the players, ask the parents to keep the cheering positive for our team. The same rule of thumb goes for parents or fans talking to opposing players, coaches or their fans that the coaches follow, that is “If you don’t have anything nice to say, do not say anything”.
Let’s talk about the word “don’t”. Ask the parents to not use this word when cheering or giving advice. I know that I will let this slip out once in a while and then I rephrase my comment. If the first word out of your mouth is “don’t”, think about replacing that word with “ATTENTION”. If you were to say “ATTENTION, swing at a bad pitch”, that would be just the opposite of what you want them to hear isn’t it? Replace the “don’t statements with what you want them to hear. “Pick out a good pitch and give it a ride” is a much more positive way of stating what you want them to do.
Let the Coaches Coach
Let them know that they should not be giving the players coaching advice. Again, let the coaches’ coach. Advice like “stay positive” or “you can do it” are fine, but, advice like “keep your weight back” or my all time favorite “keep your elbow up” are not the advice that the parents/fans should give them.
• This assumes that every fan in the stand knows what they are talking about.
• Can (and I have observed it) frustrate and confuse the player.
Talk about your expectations as far as being on time for practice and games are. Talk about what they (the players) should have with them for practice and games. Water, gloves, spikes, visor, sunscreen etc are the type of stuff that should be covered. Also let them know what your expectations are as far as picking up their child after practice and games. You, as coach, schedule and plan practice for a specific time slot. You do everything you can to end your practice on time so parents are not kept waiting. When practice is over, you should not have to hang around because someone decided not to be there on time to pick up their child. Of course, being responsible, you would not leave a child alone. Let them know that you are the coach, not a baby sitter. If they can’t be on time, make some arrangements. Let the coach know what the arrangements are so there are no surprises. If you do have to wait with a player for their ride to show up, do not wait alone with the player. Make the last parent there wait with you. I give this advice for two reasons.
• If the coach isn’t enough pressure to be on time, we’ll try a little peer pressure.
• Even though you have gone through a background check to coach, being alone with a minor is not a good idea.
I’m not saying something bad would happen, but why would you want to put yourself in that position?
The parents who want to help during practice should be given good instructions. Do not expect that they understand all the mechanics of a compact swing or proper fielding. A well intentioned, but uninformed parent could be feeding the players bad and confusing information. Try to keep the tasks you give them simple and instruct them completely. Also observe what they are doing to insure it is being done correctly.
Explain what your goals are for the team and for the individual players. I am not talking about setting goals that are totally out of reach. A goal that is believable is acheavable. Your team goals may be improving a team total batting average from 200 to 250. In order to accomplish this team goal, you will have to set a goal for each of the individual players to improve. A defensive goal could be to reduce runs allowed from 8 per game to 4 per game. Again, in order to accomplish this team goal, you will have to develop individual goals for each player that would contribute to the accomplishment of this goal. When you let the parents know the team goals and work with each player to develop their individual goals, the parents are more likely to support both you and their child in an effort to accomplish those goals. Let the parents know how they can do that would help their child be successful.
When a parent has an issue about something, they should ask to meet with the coach to talk about it. YOu do not want an issue to grow, however, you do not want the heat of the moment to make things worse than they might be. When a parent asks to meet, set up a meeting time that is:
24 hours later (cool down period)
In a location seperate from the players (not at a practice or game)
Attended by two coaches (helps to eliminate the "he said, she said" conflicts)
When it comes to games, there will come a time when someone in the stands will get on an umpire or say something they shouldn’t. If it is going to hurt the reputation of the team, you need to be the one to politely step up and ask that fan to back off. You should deal with your fans only. If a fan from the opposing side is getting out of hand, talk to the opposing coach and ask them to talk to their own fans. Do not talk to the opposing fan yourself. This could lead to an escalation that could end up in the newspapers. If the opposing coach does not deal with their fan, you have three choices. The first is to just live with it and let the game go on. You could talk to the umpire to see how he or she wants to handle it. The last choice should only be used in extreme situations and that is call 911 to have the person removed. Again, before doing that, talk to the opposing coach and the umpire to make sure that it is an appropriate thing to do. We do not want the players to think that yelling at the umpire is something that should be done. The kids learn from example. The papers and news is full of situations that have gotten out of hand and everyone had to start at a smaller, seemingly insignificant statement. Because of this, police no longer hesitate to remove someone from a game site if asked to do so. The best bet is to keep the game a game, stay cool and don’t embarrass your child.
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