Communication as a Coach
Communicating with Your Parents
Coaches, as the baseball season arrives I want to challenge you to be a better communicator with your players and their parents. I know, you are volunteering your time to coach a team and don’t want to turn the think into a part time job.
I get it, but remember this…
You are making a lasting impression on young children and in my opinion you should make it a great experience for them and their parents regardless of the amount of time it takes you. I go so far as to tell you not to volunteer unless you plan to give it your all.
With that said, I have a secret…
Not really, but it’s something you can do that will make things much easier on you and make you look like the organized caring coach you are.
So what is it you ask?
I can’t tell you the number of coaches that do everything right from teaching fundamental baseball skills but fall down on the communication to the players and parents. This is a terrible rookie mistake and any coach that has been coaching baseball for any length of time will tell you communication can make or break you.
Below is a rough plan of how I communicate to my players and parents during the season. We will start with parents and then cover the players.
- I provide them with a “parent’s letter” on the first day of practice that outlines my coaching philosophy, my background, team goals, team rules, discipline and contact information.
- I have them sign a parent’s code of conduct that outlines 10 things I expected them to adhere to. Basically covers things about yelling at their kids, coaches, umpires and other rules I feel are needed. To be honest this is a great protection for you because if you get one signed when an issue arises you can pull out the paper and tell the parent they signed and should have understood the code of conduct. Trust me, you coach long enough you will find a parent on one of your teams that goes way too far on something. Be prepared to deal with it.
- I create an email list and ask them to provide me any addition email addresses they want included on team contacts. Lots of my parents want grandparents etc. on the email list.
- Provide the parents with a copy of the league rules that you play under and tell them to read the entire set of rules. I can’t tell you the number of times I have parents upset because of how the game is managed. When I explain the rule to them they usually calm down. Do this up front so they understand the rules their children are going to play under.
- Explain to them how you plan to handle cancelled practices. Email, phone call etc. They should understand what is going to happen and not be waiting around to find out.
- Communicate via email to them after each practice or game. At least once per week telling them about the progress the players are making.
- When problems arise you should be willing to discuss the situation as communication usually cures all. If not, then you should engage your league officials for help.
In summary, if you are not willing to take the time to do the things I’ve outline above then do everyone a favor and don’t volunteer to be the head coach. You can still get involved but you really don’t need to be leading things. I’m not trying to be rude about it, but I can’t tell you the number of parents that come to me year after year telling me how bad their coach is. When I ask them what’s going on, it’s never about the coach’s ability to teach baseball. It’s always, “he never tells us what’s going on” or “he doesn’t talk down to the level of the children”. Please do everyone a favor, communicate! You can learn to communicate with practice and also remember to talk to the level or age group of your audience.
- It goes without saying but you need to communicate positively with you players. No it actually needs to be said because I can’t tell you the number of times I hear coaches screaming at their players for something they did wrong.
- The little one’s didn’t do things wrong on purpose. They need to be walked through it time and time again, even at the older age groups. You as a coach know baseball, so communicate the right and wrong way to do something. Do it as many times as necessary. I know there is always a player or two that are out there only because mom and dad forced them to but I challenge you to make a difference it those children’s life. You can by showing patience and helping them be the best they can be.
- When you communicate to children be firm but fair in the language you use. Get down to their level and look them in the eye. Take your sunglasses off so they can see your eyes and explain to them what you need to. I can’t tell you the number of times I watch coaches stand from a far, looking down at players and barking orders to them. It doesn’t work, so stop it.
- When correcting fundamentals on the field communication is very important. Verbal and visual communication is needed for them to be successful. Explain slowly and show them what you are asking them to do.
- Have a team meeting before practice and explain quickly what you have planned for the day.
- Have a post practice meeting telling them what they did great and what they need to work on as a group. End things on a positive note each and every time.
- If you see one of the players doing special things during practice or a game take the time to email the parents after it’s over and tell them what their little one did that was so great or shocked you. Find a way to do that with all your players at least once per season.
In summary, you have an opportunity to make a difference in these player’s lives. Step up to that challenge and create a great environment for them to thrive in. I know you are a volunteer but please don’t coach if you are not willing to put the time in. It might seem that no one appreciates it but they do trust me. They won’t always tell you they appreciate it because you know what? Most people just can’t communicate. It’s true, don’t be the one that can’t.
Remember: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
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