Set Up a Meeting
Having a preseason meeting is the perfect way to get coaches, parents and players together and on the same page. In addition to addressing the rules and protocol for the season, coaches should also lay out what the goals are for the team throughout the season.This will let players and parents know what to expect moving forward.
Focus on What's Important
For 8 & Under, 10 & Under or 12 & Under teams, winning shouldn't be top priority. The goals of younger teams are most likely going to encompass learning the skills of the game and giving each child playing time so they can develop their skills and fall in love with the sport. On the flip side, winning might be a more significant goal for older teams that have players creeping towards the collegiate level because they want to be exposed to college scouts and scholarship opportunities.
No matter what the goals are of the team, it is important to establish them early on so everyone has an understanding of what to anticipate from the season ahead.
During the preseason meeting, coaches should have all of the season's goals, ground rules and the protocol listed out on paper. There also has to be rules of engagement set up so that everyone knows how to react and respond to a coach. If a parent does end up having a problem and wants to speak to the coach, the best method to approach the coach should be written down so that everyone knows how to handle those situations. For example, a coach might think it is best to talk after practice when no players are around, talk over the phone, or even via e-mail. Whatever the preferred method is, those rules of engagement should be known and understood by both parents and players. Once those rules are down on paper, every player, every coach, and every parent should have to sign that paper as a letter of understanding amongst everybody.
How to Communicate with Parents
If a parent does end up crossing the line, a coach can always shoot out an e-mail to that parent and remind them of the paper they signed and what the goals, rules and protocol are for the team and everyone involved. When sending out an e-mail like this, you should always ask for a response just to make sure the parent or player received and read the e-mail.
Is it easy to get defensive. So, when parents do cross the line or get inappropriate, it is best for the coach to have a cooling-off period before they approach the situation. Before you contact a parent whether it be through e-mail, over the phone or in person, sit back and assess the situation first. Then, once you have digested everything, approach the parent and help them through whatever issues or anxieties they are experiencing. I tend to believe that most people are good natured, even when it comes to their kids and being protective. When parents do get out of line, coaches should keep in mind that parents are coming from a good place, out of love and protection, not because they are a bad person. Always assessing the situation from that point of view will help as well, by understanding where the parents concerns are coming from.
The big thing in dealing with parents and players as a coach is establishing the ground rules. As a coach, a player, and as a parent, having those ground rules established is extremely important. These rules let every one involved know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. When those clear definitions are lined out it just makes it easier for every one to enjoy the season and enjoy the great sport of softball.