The relationship between coaches and parents is so important but can also be very delicate. Clear communication between both parties is crucial to a successful and productive relationship. From day-to-day operational information to the settling of disputes there are steps everyone can take to aid in the development of a positive culture of communication. When programs are built on that strong foundation, it will propel your team, your student-athletes’, and your personal experience to new heights. Here are some tips on how to get started:
1. Establish your team’s main form of communication. Be consistent with that.
From day one, teams must establish its communication structure and expectations. There are dozens of platforms out there coaches can utilize to communicate with their parents and athletes. Explore options like TeamSnap, Facebook, Slack, normal e-mail, etc. to find the one that is right for your needs. Then stick to it. Avoid utilizing multiple platforms if possible as that allows more room for errors, miscommunication, and confusion.
Also consider setting up a weekly communication calendar. By doing this, your team will know what to expect and when to expect it. This will hopefully cut down on excess e-mails from both parents and coaches alike. An example would be:
Every Monday: Weekend wrap up and important information for the coming week.
Every Wednesday: Information on the coming weekend’s games/tournament.
Every Friday: Reminders for any weekend practices, games, tournaments.
Let’s say the coming weekend’s tournament does not have information released by Wednesday – still send the weekly e-mail letting everyone know it isn’t available yet and any information from the tournament you may have. Sometimes, you won’t have anything and that is okay! It is still important to stick to the communication calendar. Obviously things come up and change so there will be times where other communications are needed but having a normal structure in place will provide stability and ease anxieties that come from lack of information.
2. Consider creating a separate e-mail for team communication.
Separation is important to maintaining balance. Both parents and coaches should consider setting up a separate e-mail account for team communication. E-mail and social media can get overwhelming quickly, separation can help ease that. Creating this separate account will also help ensure you are not misplacing, accidently deleting, or accidently opening and forgetting about a communication.
Let’s also say your team communications come to your work e-mail, it can be really easy to project your mood, feelings, or stress you are experiencing while at work onto that e-mail correspondent you received. Which can result in a negative reaction to a piece of information or crafting a negative reply that you may have not meant to express in that way.
3. Set rules and expectations around cell phone calls and texts.
While it isn’t necessarily reasonable to have separate phone numbers there are steps that can be taken to manage this form of communication. Set rules and boundaries for cell phone numbers for parents, athletes, and coaches alike. Have a conversation about what kind of information warrant a call or texted versus an e-mail. Set up a “time frame” for when calls and texts are okay be sent (e.g. 9am-7pm) for non-emergencies. Define what constitutes an emergency and plans for how those situations will be handed.
All and all, the goal of setting these boundaries and expectation should be respect. Parents, athletes, and coaches all need to be respectful of everyone’s personal, relaxation, and down time. Since it can be harder to get away from a cellphone, unlike e-mail, there needs to be more emphasis and conversations on how calling and texting will be managed with your team.
4. Find a balance between face-to-face and digital communications.
In this digital age, it is often easier to send an e-mail or text rather than talking face-to-face. Work with your team to strike that balance. When is a call, text, or e-mail acceptable? When does a conversation need to be had face-to-face? This is also an imperative ability for your student-athletes to learn, so you can help teach them an important life skill!
Another component of team communication is documentation which has become more and more important. This is one benefit of e-mailing or texting. However, if you have a face-to-face conversation that you’d like to document an idea is to send a follow up e-mail soon after the conversation ends containing what was discussed. That way, the conversation is documented while it is still fresh in everyone’s mind and all involved parties were able to have that crucial face time with one another.
5. Avoid gossip.
Parents and coaches alike must avoid gossip with other parents and coaches. This can be tempting but is the fastest way to cause major problems within the coach-parent dynamic while also setting a bad example for your student-athletes. Also be mindful that “venting” can be a form of gossip or can quickly devolve into gossip. Work to address issues quickly and only between the people involved. A good rule to practice: address the issue within 48 hours or let it go. Don’t let gossip sink your team or your student-athletes’ experience.
6. Step away if needed.
When tensions run high it is okay to step away and return once cooler heads prevail. Having the maturity and clarity of mind to identify the need to regroup before returning to a conversation will be crucial to your culture of positive communication.
7. Give each other the benefit of the doubt.
In general, coaches and parents alike are doing the best they can! Work hard to find empathy and understanding through communication. Work to not blow a situation out of proportion, work to not take things personally, work to reach a middle ground, work together to find solutions. Stability and transparency in communication will help get you there and navigate challenges!