Friday, February 22, 2013

Planning your parent meeting

In my opinion, your most important non-technical moment during the season is your parent meeting.

Don't ever underestimate how important your team parents are.  They drive your players to where you need them to be.  They pay the bills.  They have incredible influence on how receptive your players are to your coaching and philosophy.  What they say in the car before and after your games can undo weeks of work at training.

I have always had parent meetings in one form or another but I never appreciated how useful they could be until my oldest son started playing travel hockey in Welland.   During my first parent meeting, as a parent, I also wore my coaching hat taking mental notes.  That was in 2001.

Your parents have to be made aware of as much as possible about your program.  They are trusting you with their children 2-4 times/week and you need to establish as much trust as possible.  You also want as much buy-in as possible to help move your program along.

My initial suggestions:
  • Set a location away from the field, and not around training.  Separate night and time, an event all on its own.
  • Confirm your location and required equipment.  Only once did I leave it a little "loosy goosy"and the facility ended up being unable to serve our needs.  Thankfully it was in the time of cell phones and we were able to quickly adjust.
  • Seriously consider if you want to invite the players.  I never did as I wanted parents to feel free to ask me ANYTHING.
  • Take the time to get to know your parents, have a little social time together, but take the actual meeting time seriously and be professional.
  • I always had it within a meeting room of a local restaurant or pub.  It allowed for social time after and suited those who came from work and might be hungry.
  • Ensure you give enough notice so at least one parent from each family can attend.
  • Give advance notice if your treasurer is collecting money that night. 
Set an agenda and review it with your assistants.  Make sure you leave your parents with everything they need to plan their season and do what you can to eliminate any surprises during the season.  Here are some points you might/should cover:
  • All contact info for team coaches and players
  • Locations and possible dates for season games (if schedule is out)
  • Training schedule
  • Location and dates for tournaments
  • Budget for season, over and above club registration
  • Corporate solicitation, fundraising if applicable
  • How you will communicate with team
  • Coach's expectations of players and parents
  • Club's expectations (Code of Conduct, etc)
  • What the parents can expect from you
  • What players can expect from you
  • How can your parents help you (some ideas on what to cheer on the side, bed times, pre-game meals, etc) 
  • Playing time philosophy
  • Policy/guidelines for handling disputes
  • Assign jobs to parents (involve your parents!) 
  • In modern times, you should have a social media policy for your team.
  • Open the floor to any questions people may have and ANSWER the questions
I am big on the parent meeting.  Here is my reflection of my parent meeting for the 2012 season. (I wrote in my reflection that I was considering inviting the players,  but that idea lasted about two hours.  It's possible that I might have hit my head on the cement and blacked out for a few hours.)  My intention was to set my parent meeting up to avoid any and all misunderstandings during the season.  My first and still assistant coach, Rino Berardi, set me straight on this back in 1989 and it's been very helpful.  I was always fortunate enough to have parents on my team who had older children playing travel sports and asking questions I had not thought of ... and nipped those in the bud the following year.

Just as you would prepare for practice, you need to prepare for the parent meeting.  Know your program inside-out and make sure your presented philosophy is sincere.  If you are pretending to be somebody you're not, the real you will come out soon enough.  

You want to share as much information as possible to avoid surprises for the families.  Do yourself a favour and avoid surprises yourself.  If you have jobs that require a lot of interaction or confidentiality, approach those parents in advance and assign those jobs.  And make sure you have several duties available for any parents who want to be involved.    Parental involvement is great for the group and gives kids a chance to see their parents in another capacity.

If you coach house-league, a lot of these issues may not need covering (budget, travel, etc) but your parents deserve the same respect in terms of meeting with you and knowing your program.  The children they trust you with are just as precious as the children in the travel program.

A new issue for coaches this year (2012) is answering questions about LTPD.  There are very valid questions that will be asked by parents and you should be prepare to answer them to the best of your abilities.

My last 3 suggestions:
  • Check with your club to ensure there are no policies with respect to team parent meetings.  Some sporting associations ask that an executive member or technical director be present.
  • Stay aligned with your club's policy on team bank accounts.  Many clubs are moving to a system of having one main bank account with sub ledgers for each team.
  • If at all possible, try to host the meeting at a location that sponsors your club.  Nothing builds goodwill like 30 parents walking through the front door!
Your parent meeting should not be seen as pressure, but rather the launch party for a peaceful and enjoyable season where you are left to do what you love; coach.