Now more than ever, parents are very involved (some would say “over-involved”) with their sons and daughters club careers that you must be ready for just about anything. But in order to maintain a positive club culture a positive relationship needs to exist between your coaches and your players and their parents. Here are steps you can take to build and maintain that healthy relationship this season.
1. Establish a Simple Club Mission and Core Values
Your club’s mission is your club’s identity, your brand. Establishing your mission gives your club a direction, where you are now and where you’d like to be in the future. Your club’s mission and core values allow you to make key decisions and define success. The core values of your club do not only apply to the club leadership, they also apply to your players, parents and coaches, because they identify what everyone’s roles are. The key decisions you make should fall in line with your club mission and core values.
There are varying philosophies when it comes to communicating with parents. When establishing your club philosophy and core values on play time, player-coach relationships, and parent-club relationships, it is important to understand how this will impact your parent relationships.
One main question to answer first is: Will your club have an open door policy, closed-door policy, or somewhere in between when dealing with parents. Some club directors feel that putting the responsibility of communication with the players, and leaving the parents out of performance and playing time issues, allows the players to develop confidence, accountability and maturity, which ultimately improves “coach-ability” and player development. In turn, some clubs feel this can leave a gap in communication between the players and the parents, causing miscommunication that can cause problems later on.
2. Set Communication Boundaries
While it may appear easier to take parents out of the equation, many club directors feel as though they are able to retain players and build cohesion by creating an open door policy. If you choose the open door policy with parents in your club, you are inviting parents to come directly to you with questions, complaints and concerns. As much as we hope for positive feedback and compliments, much of the feedback we will receive will be negative. That’s just the reality. Relationships are usually stronger if there is an open door policy. There is a move toward understanding of issues and dealing with the tough questions that come from swimming in deeper waters.
Communication is critical. It is important that parents understand that coaches are learning too and your club is investing in the education of your coaches. Parents are vital partners in the success of your players and your team. If you do not play their daughter in the match, or take their daughter out of the match, they will naturally wonder why. Your club values should challenge your parents to understand the expectations of the club to the parents. Communicate the message that you want parents who share your club’s commitment to your club values and who want to share in the successes of the team, rather than in just their child. The parents should understand that they need to be engaged on all the players’ successes and failures.
Stress the importance for parents to want all players on the team to have a positive experience and that you expect them to be an integral part of your club’s efforts to provide it. Devote a half day before season begins to helping parents plan for their important role in the club. During this session you can reiterate your club’s mission and core values. Increase your parents’ volleyball IQ so when they are watching the game, they are watching the right things. Teach parents the rules of volleyball, the skills of volleyball, statistics, and how substitutions work. So when you pick your line-up toward the middle or end of season, parents understand how statistics played a role in that. Help your parents understand effective ways to communicate with the coaches and their child.
3. Manage Expectations
Your club is only as good as your coaching staff, and every club strives to attract and retain great coaches. It is as important for your coaches to buy into your club’s core values as it is the parents and players. Communicating your core values through educational sessions with your coaches is a great way to build club cohesion and bonding among your staff. It can also help your coaches learn and understand the key principles of connecting with players and parents. Set expectations for your coaches and meet with them before, during and after season to evaluate their coaching experience.
During the season there are a lot opportunities to connect with your parents and players and get everyone on the same page:
a. Preseason communication: Overview of club, goals and objectives, core values
b. Tryouts: Overview and expectations message
c. After Team Selected: Coaches introduction to prospective players (about self and tryout) and Playing time packet
d. During Season: Parent/Player meeting with coaches with progress report/update (3 different sessions). Invitation to participate in the Feedback Surveys. Mid-season update
e. End of Season: Review of the club season and plan for next season. Recognition of core value leaders. Review feedback of Feedback surveys
Make sure your coaches feel comfortable coming to your club leadership when they have issues on their team. Give your coaches a way to contribute ideas, so they feel empowered. Playing time is usually the number one issue coaches have to deal with. Going into your first tournament, coaches can meet with each player (and parent if you choose) so they know their role and expected playing time going into the weekend. If parents are present, it eliminates the chance of miscommunication if the player were to tell mom or dad something different than what was communicated during the meeting.
After the tournament (24 hours after or at the next practice) coaches can meet with their players again to evaluate how the tournament went. This few minute meeting can make a huge difference by establishing a positive, trusting relationship between the player and the coach and make sure there are no questions or frustrations that are unresolved.
No team is perfect and issues will most likely arise. Empower your coaches and allow any issues with a player to first be communicated with hope for a resolution first with the player and the coach. This keeps the process simple and straightforward for communication with players and parents with your club staff. If, after this has happened with no resolution and a level of confusion or frustration at home, a meeting can be arranged with the player, parent and coach.
4. Form a Parent Council
A parent council is a great way to provide a channel for parents to give input and have a voice. It also encourages parents to be engaged and be part of the solution, rather than just complain. The Council is made up of a parent representative from each team and reports directly to the Board of Directors or the Club Leadership Team. Each representative acts as the voice of their respective team by bringing concerns, issues, suggestions, etc. from the collective team’s parents. Parent Council Meetings can be held every month to review any concerns/ suggestions/ issues. As appropriate, these are reviewed by the club management and if appropriate changes are made to address the issue. If issues cannot be resolved via the parent council, a VAE Board member may attend to help resolve the issue/concern. Create a culture where parents understand that they have a voice and are heard, but ultimately Club Leadership makes the final decision.
5. Be Willing to Make Tough Calls
No doubt there are various ways to handle the relationship and communication with parents. Relationship building is always a question and you should lay out your rules within your comfort zone. Some prefer to swim in deep waters, as they have found that the benefits of risk have been worth it in the long run. Know that you are not going to please everyone and accept that. If a player and/or parent(s) simply don’t meet the expectations set forth by your club, some difficult decisions will have to be made, and you may need to part ways. By trusting your club philosophy and core values, communicating a consistent message, and having a system for evaluation and feedback, you are setting your club coaches, players and parents up for a positive experience.
The JVA hosted a seminar at the 2015 Annual AVCA Convention in Omaha, that featured 3 Club Directors who have 3 different philosophies of working with the parent/player/coach tried. The seminar is called “Strategies for Managing the Coach-Parent Relationship: Three very different approaches to working with parents: from total involvement to very limited involvement.” As we mentioned earlier, there are varying philosophies that have been successful. The seminar was recorded and posted in the JVA Educational Resources.