One of the strongest qualities of a great soccer coach is their ability to communicate. Whether on the practice field, sideline, or in a team meeting a coach can command the attention of a group and can lead with their words or sometimes just their body language. As youth soccer coaches we have the gift of communicating with kids. It is totally different than a 1 on 1 conversation with an adult and is challenging for most people, but for us it is second nature. I often find talking to my soccer players more enjoyable than talking to adults because of the energy and enthusiasm kids bring to every chat. So naturally where I believe many youth soccer coaches struggle is in communicating with their parents.
Sometimes we forget about the Time, Energy, Commitment, and Money parents put into our teams and clubs. For this reason coaches can neglect to communicate consistent feedback and perspective, that in many ways, if we did consistently, would actually make our jobs easier. The purpose of this article is to create a discussion on the best ways to talk to your parents and to keep them informed and happy. Which is turn will keep coaches and directors off their phones for hours every week discussing why Timmy didn’t play as much as he usually does. Below I have listed some things I do with all my teams to keep parents from flooding my inboxes. However I would love to hear from you with more recommendations as I think we are all looking for a better way to deal with the hardest part of the job…
Communicating with your parents on a weekly basis is my key to success. I email my teams and programs every Monday with a weekly Newsletter. I cover things like:
- Practice Times and Locations For the Week (with any changes ahead)
- Game Schedule for the weekend ahead and beyond
- Practice and Game Day Policies: What time to arrive, what color to wear, who is bringing the ice and med kit, etc… critical to show you are organized
- Weather For the week, with anticipated changes
- Practice Topic of the week – to let the parents know what we will work on and what the team should be doing at home for more time on the ball
- Game Recap – The most important aspect of my weekly newsletter, which is basically a commentation of the game from my perspective. I never use player names, but highlight great moments and key in on things we need to adjust so that the parents always have an idea of what I am thinking.
The Weekly Newsletter tool is so key in communication because it shows that I am organized and professional, and gives the parents a little insight into what I am thinking. How many of your parents have never attended a practice? How many of your parents actually know what is going on in a soccer game? Well it is your job as a coach and trainer to educate them, and if you don’t you are subject to nonsensical phone calls and emails that could have been answered by a little perspective and a little time dedicated to a weekly email. Parents can then turn around and use this information to relay messages to their kids that are consistent with what I am saying as a coach. Which is key for those parents who love to think they know soccer in and out! For those interested I have attached a copy of a simple team email I sent out this morning to my U11 girls.
Hold a Parent Meeting once a season. Set your guidelines early on and let your parents know what to expect from the season ahead.
- Set expectations: training and game day policies, attendance demands, goals for the season, player development discussions, and the roles of a soccer parent.
- Tell them how you run a practice, and encourage them to watch one. Be professional and be confident enough to have parents watch your session and prove to them their child is in the right hands.
- Tell them how you manage a game: Game time, although not as important as practice time, is more important in the eyes of a soccer parent. So explain to the parents right from the get go how you plan to divide up those 60 minutes between 14 plus players!
- Discuss the Schedule: Do this early to avoid conflicts, as we all know, these “super star kids” are doing 5 different activities and there are only 7 days in a week.
- Be Honest and Open to Communication: Although you don’t want them flooding your inboxes, you want them to know you are always open to talk. Just make sure it is not within the 24 hours after a game (that is our club’s policy, or the cool down policy as I call it). Set specific time in the day when it is OK to call you so you aren’t talking to parents at all hours! For me, mornings are my sanctuary, but from Noon-4PM I am available to talk about anything soccer related until I hit the coaching field.
The preseason or mid-season meeting can take a lot of pressure off of coaches backs as it gets the group of parents together and often airs out any issues that may be lingering. I like to have my parent meetings just before games or in-between tournament games when I know it is easy to get the group together.
Have 1 on 1’s with parents and players. Almost in an evaluation format, you should discuss with parents and players independently how their child is doing. In the end it is never about the team, it is about the player. Parents want to know how their kid is doing, and especially with my higher level and older teams, I make an effort to have face to face conversations with the parent and the player together. At this point most coaches, like myself who trains 40-50 kids across 3 teams is like, “How do you have time for all this.” To that I say, you probably have the same phone conversation at some point during the season anyway, so get the 10 minute parent/player meeting out of the way creatively. I’ll do this during a scrimmage, when I don’t necessarily need all of my focus to be on the game, and just pull parents and players out 1 at a time to discuss things like:
- Player development: what they do well, what they need to work on.
- How the kid feels about the team. Are they happy where they are, what position they play, how many minutes they get on game day?
- I always ask how I am doing as a coach? and if there is something I can improve to make it a better experience?
- Finally talk about a plan to increase development. Whether it be soccer related, fitness, or nutrition. Tell the kid in front of the parents what they need to do to improve and it turns great results.
Just keep in mind this is a sensitive tactic and not every player will respond well to this form of communication. Should you be doing this with U9 girls in flight 5, probably not, but for the higher level teams that are paying for an experience, you should be giving them independent access to your thoughts on personal development.
These are just some ideas and topics I use to communicate with my parents, but I am always looking for ways to improve myself! Now it is your turn to post some information you find useful so that the coaching community in NJ can deliver a better product State wide to those dedicated players and parents that are so deserving.