Jim Thompson | @positivecoachus
Damon R. Tarver
One of the most critical aspects of developing the team or league culture you want is gaining buy-in from players’ parents. A group meeting with parents is a wise investment, because people are more likely to live up to expectations if they know them.
Host your parent meeting in a private setting (such as the home of one of the coaches or parents), where you can have the full attention of the group. If this is not possible, then the meeting could occur before one of the first practices or games when parents would need to drop off their children anyway.
Here is a sample agenda and notes to help guide your parent meeting.
- Welcome and introductions
Share how excited you are about the upcoming season and having their children on your team. Share some of your relevant background as an athlete, coach, parent, and community member.
Learn more about the parents, too. You may say something along the lines of, “We’re going to spend a lot of time together, so let’s get to know each other.” You may then ask each person share their best, worst or funniest personal moment in sports.
- Coaching philosophy and team values
Share your values as a Double-Goal Coach, whose first goal is winning, and whose second, more important goal is teaching life lessons through sports. Give them the PCA Parent Letter describing PCA’s three principles:
- Honoring the game/ROOTS of positive play: Where ROOTS stands for respecting Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and Self.
- Filling the emotional tank: Aiming for the “Magic Ratio” of five truthful, specific praises for every truthful, specific, calm and constructive criticism.
- The ELM tree of mastery: Where ELM stands for Effort, Learning and Mistakes are OK, so players try to learn to master their sport, rather than worrying about the implications of mistakes.
Ask for questions on each before you go on to the next. Ask for their support in building a team culture that reinforces those principles. Ask a “what–if” question: “What if an official makes a bad call against our team? Will you be able to set a good example for players and Honor the Game?”
Because mistakes are such a motivational problem, share the mistake ritual you intend to use with your team (such as the “no sweat” gesture of wiping sweat from your brow) and ask them to reinforce it from the sidelines.
- Goals and hopes for the season
In addition to goals such as winning and qualifying for postseason, share such goals as, “Every player” will:
- Love lacrosse at least as much at the end of the season as at the beginning
- Improve skills and tactical knowledge
- Get chances to compete in meaningful situations
- Want to return next season.
Ask parents about their goals and hopes for the season. This may give insight into the players’ motivations. You also will begin to discern who will be most helpful and supportive of your goals, and who may present a potential problem. You don’t have to respond to everything right then. You can think about it and talk with specific parents later if they express goals that are inconsistent with your values.
Make sure everyone has practice and game schedules. Hand out a phone and email list, or get parents to sign up on a list for distribution later. Make sure they understand what equipment their children need, and leave plenty of time for questions.
Share your policy on playing time and missing practice (yes, you should have a policy in writing), which will help avoid future conflict. Let parents know when and how they can contact you (at work during the day, only in the evening, etc.)
- Ask for Volunteers
Your parent meeting is a good time to find volunteers for any duties youneed help with, such as a snack or carpool coordinator. This provides another chance to see who is most (and least) enthusiastic to support the Positive Coaching culture you are trying to establish.
Sample Parent/Guardian Meeting Agenda
Double-Goal Coach Job Description
Parent Pledge Form
Jim Thompson is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Positive Coaching Alliance, a non-profit formed at Stanford University with the mission to create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports so that all youth athletes have a positive, character-building experience. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share your suggestions for and experiences with managing the all-important preseason parent/guardian meeting in the comments section.