One of the most important and challenging relationships facing youth coaches today is that which exists between coach and parent. If it is a poor relationship, it can present many problems and an atmosphere of tension. This, in turn, may create an unpleasant environment for the coach, parent, and most importantly, the athlete. If the coach can develop a good working relationship with the parent, many of the problems can be avoided and the entire experience will be rewarding and enjoyable for everyone involved.
One of the most effective methods of communicating the goals and objectives of your program is through a Parents’ Orientation Meeting. A face-to-face meeting with all the parents will go a long way toward uniting coaches and parents in a cooperative endeavor that benefits the players. Many potential problems can be eliminated by good communication that begins before the first practice.
The following are some topics that should be addressed at the Parents’ Meeting:
- Coaching Philosophy and Primary Goals
- Team Rules
- Understanding the Sport
- Understanding & Minimizing the Risk of Injury
- Emergency Procedures
- Equipment Needs
- The Player’s Responsibilities
- The Parents’ Responsibilities
- The Season Schedule
- Team Budget
- Question and Answer Period
At this time, introduce yourself and your coaching staff to the group of parents. If you wish, have an association official make the introductions. As the coach, you should briefly describe your background, coaching experience, and your reasons for coaching. The parents should also introduce themselves and indicate how long they have been involved in the program.
Explain the meaning and importance of the orientation meeting, which is designed to create good coach/parent relationships for the benefit of the children. Also, it is helpful to distribute handouts of the meeting agenda to the parents. This provides structure to the meeting and a place for parents to take notes.
Coaching Philosophy and Primary Goals
Present your personal goals and objectives for the upcoming season. Your coaching philosophy should emphasize fun, the teaching of fundamental skills, teamwork, sportsmanship, and respect for others. This is very important for building your credibility as a coach.
Make sure parents understand what is expected of them and their kids (things such as arrival times (practices/games), curfews, dress codes, commitment). Ensure that not only the rules are explained but the repercussions of not abiding by the rules are discussed as well. These should all be discussed and accepted at the parents meeting so that there are no surprises later on in the year.
Understanding the Sport
Many times during the course of the season, spectators question officials, shout instructions to players or contradict the coach because they are unaware of the rules or lack a basic understanding of the sport of hockey. This can often place a strain on the coach/parent relationship. By reviewing some basic concepts and rules, you can help avoid these situations.
Understanding & Minimizing the Risk of Injury
Parents should be told what they can expect in terms of possible injuries in hockey.
Injury prevention measures that are commonly used for games and practices should be outlined. Parents should be assured that the playing/practice area and equipment will be checked to help keep players safe and free from hazards. They should be told of the availability of first aid and who is responsible for its administration.
Have the parents provide the information necessary for you to handle an emergency (parents’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, names and telephone numbers of family doctors and the hospital of preference). You should also describe the procedures that will be used in case of an emergency.
Explain what equipment the players need and where it can be purchased. You may also want to offer advice on the quality of skates, sticks, helmets, etc., and indicate how much parents can expect to pay for specific items.
You might want to bring an example of the equipment that each player will need and provide tips on the proper care and maintenance of equipment.
The Player’s Responsibilities
Children must assume certain responsibilities if they wish to play ice hockey, including good sportsmanship, teamwork, and being on time for practices and games. Also, cooperating with coaches and teammates, developing team and individual skills, and abiding by the official playing rules are responsibilities that players should embrace.
These responsibilities should be discussed so that parents can help reinforce them at home.
The Parents’ Responsibilities
Parents of young athletes have many responsibilities that should be discussed at the Parents Meeting. Now is the time to discuss them so they understand their responsibilities within the framework of the team
Take this opportunity to ask parents for their assistance over the course of the season. Telephoning, refreshments after games, hosting of visiting teams and assisting with travel arrangements to out-of-town games are some areas that may be discussed.
The Season Schedule
Provide the parents with a schedule of games and practices for the upcoming season (if possible). Otherwise advise the parents how this information will be delivered to them and when. Also, inform the parents as to when players are expected to arrive at practices and games and when they will be available to leave.
You may also wish to provide a list of all the players’ addresses and phone numbers for the parents.
Review the team budget with the parents and make sure it is acceptable to all. At no time is it acceptable to add “non-hockey” items to the budget (such as clothing). The budget such cover only items related to the running of a hockey program (i.e. tournaments, extra ice, team activities etc).
Question and Answer Period
Concluding the meeting with a question-and-answer period will provide parents with an opportunity to raise any concerns they may have.
Parents can be a great asset to a hockey team as well as a positive influence. By inviting them to talk with you about how you perceive your role as coach, the purpose of the Lakeshore Minor Hockey program, and the responsibilities that they and their children have to the team, you are helping create a good coach/parent relationship.