“Communication works for those who work at it.” – John Powell
Communication has always been an important part of being an effective and impactful coach. Most often, people think of that idea as it relates to coach to player communication: how well can a coach pass on ideas, concepts, strategies, and emotions to the participants?
There is another important part of coach communication that can be just as important when it comes to a season being a success, or a challenge. It’s not as easy for many coaches to talk about, and it is something many outright fear: communication with parents.
This vitally important coach responsibility can be a challenge in regular times, but, of course, we are not living in regular times. Many coaches have seen their team season’s cut short, eliminated completely, or delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether your season has already gotten back underway, in the planning stages, or still several months out, you should be actively engaged in dialogue with the parents and players. Your organization is likely providing information on sign-ups, updated guidance, etc. As the direct connection between the organization and the player families, you can assist in those efforts by providing the information as well, while adding any additional context or clarity that you feel would be helpful.
As you move through the process from organizational messaging to team messaging, there are some important guidelines to keep in mind.
To begin, don’t wait for your organization to beginning communicating with parents and players. You can begin that process at any time. Remember that you can communicate without new information to provide them. Check in to see how they are doing, pass along interesting notes, stories or drills, recognize their accomplishments outside your sports. These are all ways to show the players and their families that you care about them beyond just what happens between the lines.
The upcoming sports seasons are likely to look different than they have in the past, with additional guidelines and requirements in place due to the pandemic. Parents are going to have questions on what this will mean for them and their child, what safety measures you and your organization are taking, and if there are any changes to scheduling or protocols related to games and practices.
Try to anticipate what questions parents may have and be proactive in providing the information during the early stages of your communication.
One of the first things you likely receive from your organization upon the completion of registration is a contact list, if you didn’t have it already. In many cases, there is one parent or guardian name, email, and phone number on that list.
However, as the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and in many cases, “It takes a village to allow a player to participate in youth sports.” The parent or guardian listed on the registration may not be the only person that needs to receive important information and updates on the athlete and the team. A spouse, grandparent, uncle, aunt, sibling, neighbor, or friend may be involved at varying times in shuttling the child to practice or games, or serve as the responsible party to ensure the player is where they should be at the designated times. Ask the contact that you have if there are others who should receive communication from you as the coach and add them to your contact list.
Speaking of contact lists, don’t assume that everyone has the same methods of communication available or that they are always available to see or respond to your communication immediately. Ask parents and the other people involved with the player if there is a preferred method of communication and if they are available to answer or respond in the event you need to contact them while you are supervising their child at games and practices.
As important as communication has always been as a coach, it is even more important now. Make sure you are prepared to handle this important part of coaching responsibilities.
SportsEngine provides everything leagues and organizations need to deliver great youth sports experiences, including a fully-featured mobile app that keeps coaches, athletes, and families connected all season long. To learn more, visit SportsEngine.com/HQ.