One of the major parts of any high school football coach’s job today is dealing with the parents of the players. Any coach who ignores that responsibility can suffer graves consequences. The more the coach can be proactive with the parents, the less difficulties he will encounter as the season progresses. Here are some suggestions to think about that might help to keep those relationships from becoming a team problem.
Always hold a parent meeting prior to the season. Proactive communication is a must. Go to great lengths to advertise and encourage parents to be present or have someone there to represent them. The head coach should have as many coaches present as possible and meet as many of the parents personally as he possibly can. This is a great time for parents to sign all appropriate forms and for the coach to explain school and team rules. A handout package that includes practice calendars, game schedules, nutrition, medical information and phone numbers of coaches and trainers will be appreciated by those parents. Parents like organization. The coach should cover injury procedures during games and practices. It is important today to discuss concussion procedures. A preseason meeting is a great time to cover player and parent expectations for the season. If there are changes to practices or other events, the coach can let parents know how that will be handled. The head coach should always have a time for questions. After the meeting, stay and talk to individual parents about anything they wish.
Communicate with parents continually through out the season. It is quite common today to use social media such as Facebook or Twitter to publicize team events, promote games or team unity and let parents know about changes in schedules. Attend booster club meetings and talk to parents about the progress of the team. Many parents may attend practice and afterward may be around to have a quick chat or just say hello. Make your phone number available and encourage parents to call about anything. Remember that everyone likes to know what is going on and no one likes to be out of the loop.
Promote the values of high school football with parents. The coach should let parents know that their athlete is learning some valuable lessons that will benefit them in the future. Although scholarships and championships are a byproduct of high schools athletics, they are not the primary concern. Coaches should always preach the importance of team over the individual.
Teach parents how to deal with the adversity of the game and how to help their sons. Most parents would appreciate knowing what to do about injuries, their son being demoted to second string and what to say after a disappointing loss. Handouts with suggestions are good to give them some guidelines, but they should always feel like they can call the coach for advice. Coaches should let the parents know that they are always available to help.
Always thank the parents and make them feel special. A preseason letter to the team parents or a simple card to a parent complimenting their son can be an enormous help in keeping parents thinking positive thoughts. Never pass up an opportunity to brag on a athlete to the parent in private whether in the grocery store or after a practice.
Coaches should avoid these things because they will always cause difficulties.
*Avoid bragging on an individual player during a public meeting or on social media. If you talk good about one player but not about others, you will anger some parents. After all, their child is better than the one the coach complemented.
*Never talk to a upset parent immediately after a game or before or after a practice. These are very emotional times. A coach should allow that parent time to calm down, as well as giving the coach a chance to think about why that parent is upset and prepare for the meeting.
*Never talk about other people’s children to another parent. Upset parents always want to compare their child to someone else’s.
*Never talk to a parent about playing time unless you have already met with the athlete. Talking to the athlete first will usually eliminate that parental meeting. Most players know why they are not playing more but don’t want to discuss it with their parents.
*Never criticize the athlete when talking to the parent. Let the parent talk first and get out their frustration. Then discuss what the player must do to improve his performance and thus his playing time. A coach may need to ignore some of what the parent says and even apologize for a lack of communication. If the coach says the athlete is too slow, too small or not skilled, he can expect a fight. The coach should keep bringing the conversation back to what the athlete needs to do to improve.
Finally, it is important to understand that some parents want to be difficult and the coach will never satisfy them. Accept that reality and move on. But honesty and good communication can lead to many positive coach and parent relationships throughout the season that may last a lifetime.