Setting Expectations with Parents / by James Leath

It is that time of year again when we as coaches get to meet our new athletes (exciting)…and their parents (not exciting). It is my experience that the more intentional I am about my expectations regarding the parent’s behavior, the fewer problems I have during the season. I have to remind myself to remember parents react because they want the best for their child, so they don’t see (and in some cases, even care!) that I have an entire team to take care of. 

Parent Expectations Meeting
At the beginning of every season, I sit down with the parents and let them know what they can expect from me as the coach of their child. I go through a list of bullet points I have curated throughout the years, so there are no surprises. To set the stage, I quit coaching in highly competitive leagues because it just wasn’t fun for me and the fun was limited for the kids unless for some reason we were in a league in which we dominated teams. Even when on winning streaks, winning became mundane. But the moment we started losing, parents got upset, athletes got sad, and no one was having fun. So, to volunteer coaching I went.

To start the new school year, I thought I would share what an initial parenting meeting sounds like when I am running the show. It is directed at a youth football team. Enjoy!

Hello parents, thank you for allowing me to coach your children. My name is James Leath, I am a volunteer coach, and I look forward to a great season. Please pull out your phones and shoot me a text message with your name and your child’s name. My number is 559-XXX-XXXX.

Let me start with some things you can expect your child to learn this year. 
We will practice the fundamentals every day. At the end of this season, your son or daughter will know how to tackle, hold a block, catch a ball and throw a football. They will understand the basics of offense and defense.

Practice will begin at 3:15 and will end at 5:15. My coaching staff and I will stick around until 5:30. Please do not be late. We have families we want to get home to. I encourage you to meet other parents to help with carpooling. 

You are more than welcome to watch practice, but please do not interfere with our coaching. There will be times we will ask for help, but aside from that, I do not allow parents to "sideline coach" during practice. If you do, I will ask you and your child to leave. 

If your child misses practice, whether for a doctors appointment, bad behavior at school, or any other reason, they are excused ONLY if they call me at least 10 minutes before practice begins. I encourage you to help them know what to say when they call me. Calling the coach (one day, their boss) is a lesson they need to learn.

(Check out this post on calling the coach)

I will not talk about playing time without your son or daughter involved in the conversation. If you think your child should play more, I suggest you come to practice and see for yourself what we are trying to do. Chances are you will see first hand why they are or are not in the starting lineup. 

If you want to talk about the game, I welcome your thoughts, please wait 24 hours before you contact me to discuss. I will not answer texts or calls within that buffer period, nor will the staff. This is because all need time to decompress from the game and be able to speak about what happened without emotions clouding the discussion.

Your child’s safety is very important to me. Football is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport. If I do not feel it is safe for them to play, I will pull them. 

If you have any concerns, I am available to speak about them, but during practice (unless there is an emergency) I am unavailable. 

Lastly, I know this may sound harsh, but I am not your friend, I am your child’s coach. I have been coaching a long time, and I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a love for the game and a passion for your child’s growth as a person. I am part of the process of raising your son or daughter, and I take great pride in that. I will treat them with the love and respect I do my own children. 

I have a few minutes for questions before we end, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your child’s life.

I hope this example gives you some ideas on how to set the proper expectations with parents. Be thoughtful and intentional about your communication with the parents of your athletes, and it will pay off later in the season!