Coaching a sports team is always challenging. There is always a fine balance between pushing a child to their potential and putting stress on them, not to mention being able to maintain diplomacy among parents. In this weeks Fuel The Dream series, Coach Reed talks about how to effectively communicate with parents. Check out his helpful tips and Ted Talk below.
- Don't be unresponsive- A lack of response is disrespectful and also sets off alarms. You are working with their child, and therefore you need to at least be available for parents. Any response to parent communication is better than none. Imagine if a teacher kept his door locked and never answered parent emails....being responsive can save you a ton of problems in the long run.
- Don't take it personally- I have "mediated" too many adult arguments to count and most of them had nothing to do with the child. Sometimes adults take things too personally and lose sight of who this is all about in the end. Keep the child at the center of the discussion and don't take things personally so calm heads prevail.
- Don't lie- Be authentic. Be honest. Keep your word. Even small lies are dangerous, especially when working with someone's child. Tell parents the truth, and whether or not they agree, they will at least respect your word. In the end, you are your words, so make them count.
- Don't be disdainful- They may not know the sport you are coaching. They may be a bit "high maintenance", but they are intelligent, rational, professional adults. Treat them as they would be treated in their realm of expertise. The moment you show disdain is the moment you create an enemy out of a potential ally. You know more about sports, but that does not give you the right to be a jerk.
- Don't talk about everyone else- We all like to draw comparisons. We also want to use others to argue our side. Make it very clear from the get go you will discuss only their child and no one else. Things said between coach and parent never stay between them. So if you start throwing other kids under the proverbial bus, it will get back to the parents.
- Do communicate often- Don't inundate them, but do keep them in the loop. A weekly recap via email, a quick post-game chat on the sidelines, and at least one meeting a year will keep the communication lines open for you. Also, be clear in your writing so there are no misunderstandings. Problems are far more likely to arise when there is confusion and no communication.
- Do explain high-level tactics- Let them know why you do what you do. Many times they don't know better and a simple explanation of the team or club tactics and philosophy goes a long way to keep them engaged and supportive.
- Do provide guidelines or rules- Set the tone right out of the gate. You are in charge. We are professionals. We will act on the field as we would in an office. Give them guidelines, set ground rules, and be consistent.
- Do seek to understand first- Whether they are right or wrong, they have a concern. Listen, acknowledge and understand. You don't have to agree, but you have to validate. Once you have given them your ear, then, and only then, give your side. People who are heard first will be more likely to listen.
- Do give them tasks- Tell them things they can reinforce at dinner or during games. Words they can use that support training. Ask them to be engaged in meaningful ways that support your coaching and help their child and they will jump on it.
- Do put it in writing- This is a cover your tail move, but put everything in writing. It is much easier to stop an argument or cover yourself if you have written proof. Especially when a dispute pops up months later, you can show the exact date and time it was said.
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