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Up-Front Communication With Parents Of Young Athletes
Coaches dealing with the parents of young athletes are often faced with unexpected problems. In the following article Darren Wensor introduces a "coaching information kit" as an up-front communication tool that may help to avoid such problems. The article is based on the author's address to the 2001 Coaching Congress of the Australian Track and Field Coaches Association and is reprinted from Modern Athlete and Coach, Vol. 20, No.4, October 2002. It has been edited to fit the U.S. high school coaching situation.
If you coach young athletes, one of your major roles is to deal with the parents
of the athletes that you coach. It is a role that cannot be ignored, sidestepped
or trivialized. To be fully effective, you should approach this role in an
organized, comprehensive, professional and up-front manner.
One strategy that can be used to achieve this is to develop what I will term a "Coaching Information Kit." A Coaching Information Kit (CIK) is a handout that aims to inform parents about all important aspects of your coaching operation. To be most effective, it should be handed to a parent on their initial inquiry about your coaching, and/or sent home with your athletes on the very first day of practice.
The process of developing and using a CIK has a number of benefits:
IT FORCES YOU TO GET ORGANIZED
The process of developing a CIK is as important as the product. It makes you think extensively about how you want your coaching to operate and the type of details you need to provide to parents. Having all of the information in writing means that each parent receives the same information and there is less chance of you forgetting to communicate some of the details.
IT LAYS EVERYTHING OUT ON THE TABLE
Being up front helps to prevent later misunderstandings about such things as procedures and conduct. Everything is spelled out clearly in writing to all relevant parties.
IT CONVEYS A PROFESSIONAL IMAGE
Being able to provide parents with a CIK conveys to them that you are organized, put time into your coaching and take doing a good job seriously.
IT MAKES COACHING MORE SATISFYING AND ENJOYABLE
Many coaches grumble about things such as athletes being absent from training without notice, athletes turning up intermittently, parents putting their children through extra training outside the coach's program and finding their athlete is attending another coach's training without their knowledge. These coaches shouldn't grumble. It is often their fault that they have not properly or clearly communicated their expectations. Many parents unknowingly cause frustration for a coach by not following accepted etiquette or procedures that a coach figures that they "should know." It is not good enough to expect people to know how to act in a coach/athlete, coach/parent relationship. It may be their first one! Tell them how to act! Avoid all the potential problems by taking a few proactive steps and set the boundaries right from the start. It will make your job a lot easier and much more enjoyable.
DEVELOPING AN INFORMATION KIT
Below are some major pieces of information that you will want to consider including in your CIK.
Coaching Mission Statement
Your Coaching Background
Coaching Philosophy and Individual and Team Goals
Athlete Training Progression
Organization and other information
THE COACHING MISSION STATEMENT
Your coaching mission statement is your formal statement of purpose as a coach,
for your athletes and for the team. It focuses on what you want to be and what
you want to do as a coach. It is the key criterion by which everything you do
with your coaching is evaluated.
To develop your coaching mission statement:
List your most important coaching-related values (up to twenty). Examples may include: fun, positive experiences, leadership, full potential, growth, improvement, healthy lifestyle, etc.
Narrow these down to the seven most important to you. If you could only have seven, which ones would they be?
Craft a statement based on these values until it reflects your coaching. It
should be strong and clear. It is not something you usually write overnight; it
may take many sittings and many revisions over days, weeks or months. Persist
for at least half an hour at the first sitting, then revisit it the next day.
NOTE: Your coaching mission statement is not set in stone. You may add to and alter it as appropriate.
Include here all of your coaching qualifications and experiences, including your non-track background. It is nice for parents to know who you are and what you have done.
COACHING PHILOSOPHY AND GOALS
Some people use "philosophy" and "mission statement" interchangeably, however I believe that, while your coaching philosophies should reflect your mission statement, there are subtle but important differences. Your coaching philosophies are principles or beliefs that reflect how you actually coach, e.g., "All young athletes should avoid early specialization."
Don't forget any general or specific team goals you might have and goals regarding individual development. Make these goals challenging, but realistic (achievable).
ATHLETE TRAINING PROGRESSION
This provides parents with some idea about how you plan to progress the young athlete as he/she advances during his/her prep career. It provides information about what they will be doing each year and how this fits into the overall picture. It is very important to provide parents with a "big picture" and educate them to look long-term.
ORGANIZATION AND OTHER INFORMATION
This is the nuts and bolts of your coaching. some elements to include are:
How practice sessions are organized
When, where, what time and for how long you train
What to bring
What to do if an athlete cannot attend
What happens in very hot or wet weather
What if an athlete is sick or injured
Expected athlete behavior
Discuss here the relationship and respect between coach and athlete, what will be expected in terms of ordinary courtesy, reliability, attitude, etc.:
Include here relevant phone numbers and even a postal address. The parent should know how to contact the coach, and vice versa.
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