COMMUNICATION! Most are pretty good at communicating with the kids. Almost all are terrible at communicating with their parents. And there is a reason for this. They don’t like us. My state’s E License course even encourages them not to engage with parents. And to leave that to the parent team manager. Horrible idea. They believe you should sit on the sideline, shut up and get out of the way. To some extent, they’re right. And wrong.
How do they get paid? The kid’s registration fees. And where does that come from? They don’t like parents but I have never seen a coach not set off fire alarms if their check isn’t in the bank 20 seconds later than it’s supposed to be. So sit down, shut up, get out of my way, and hand me your wallet. Is that how it works? While parents can, without a doubt, be bad actors, they are often victims of acting on their instincts rather than being guided with the wisdom of coaches far more experienced with this journey.
We are all paying big money for this, investing even bigger time and these are our children…so like it or not soccer coaches…people who pay the bills have a voice. It’s an unavoidable fact of life and if you treat parents like unknowing soccer idiots (even though they may be) unworthy of your attention, you do so at your own peril. That’s ego and a grand canyon-like gap in the acceptance of the reality that those paying don’t need to be involved.
Mediocre coaches that communicate well to parents will be more sought after than really good coaches that hate parents. Treat them like customers soccer coaches…even the really dumb ones. I have dumb customers, I’m nice to them as long as they keep paying. And guess what…they keep paying.
So here is the how-to communication guide to keep parents happy, quiet, out of your way and happy to pay the money:
- Team meetings.
- Before the training begins with your team, set expectations of this kids, parents. That’s great, but also tell them your style, philosophy and what they can expect from you. Write it down. Make everyone sign their commitment including yourself.
- Have at least 2 team meetings per league season (nice if at tournaments while everyone is away from home and kinda social anyway). Talk about the team progress, changes in approach, why you are doing what you are doing, etc.
- Email often…the more you do the more they will like you and the easier things will be
- Let parents know what you are working on in practice. “This month we will be focused on the defensive concept of pressure cover and balance”. Give them an explanation of what to look for in their kids in the games other than the score.
- After tourneys, big games, etc. send an update to the parents talking about what you see, how the kids are developing against your training objectives.
- Email is a great tool because you don’t have to listen to stupid parent questions as much (even though you should listen as often as they arise) and some parents that “get it” can often explain it to those that don’t…taking the heat off you.
- Do evaluations
- If your club is not attempting evaluations, how can they say they want to develop your kid? If you are teaching math, you give tests and report cards, right? Do evaluations in non-soccer speak so that kids AND parents can understand what the child has to work on. Take time with this and really show you have gotten to know the kid.
- Do evaluations 2x per league season. One at the beginning and one at the end. Kind of a no-brainer.
- Do them in person. This is a people business
- Coaches often hate evaluations, but suck it up, to do your job well you need to do them.
Your club’s management should be pushing the coaches to do this, if not, you have to start asking some questions I think. Communication is required for any relationship and club soccer is a service business that requires it to be successful. Once you get to the point of college interest, these communications factors are essential–as is knowing your role in all that. It will take coaches more time to do these things than what they are doing, but happy customers mean more money, they’re out of your way and they are focused more on development than winning the World Cup at 10.