Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Communication is KEY!

Posted by admin February - 16 - 2015 - Monday

I had lunch the other day with a young head coach in our area. He wanted to “pick my brain.” We talked about various subjects and he shared some of his experiences at the schools he coached at before moving to our area. In each case, he shared an incident where parents of players just about made it intolerable. He moved on from one school to the next hoping to find a situation where the parents were more cooperative and supportive. As Lee Corso says on ESPN Game Day, “not so fast, my friend!”

He shared how things were going better at this new school he’s now coaching at in our area but… he’d already had to meet with a mom who was convinced that her son was better than the young man the coaches were playing at her son’s position. From his description of things, it sounded like the coaches were right— as usual! But, that wasn’t going to stop that mom from complaining.

I asked him about the type of relationship that he tried to develop with the players and their families. He assured me that he and his staff had their players’ best interest at heart and worked very hard to build relationships on and off the field. I then asked him about the parents. The “eyes cast down” look on his face said it all. He shared how parents had just about driven him out of coaching. At each stop, it was parents who simply took the fun out of coaching their kids. I could tell that he was visibly upset about this.

“How well do you communicate with your parents, Coach?” I asked him. His reply, “I try to stay as far away from them as I can!” I then began to share with him 2 things from my experience (found in my book, by the way!) that have proven to be of immeasurable importance in forging a good working relationship (and in some cases, good personal relationships) with parents throughout my career. I could tell that this piqued his interest. Here they are:

1) I make it clear to my parents from the first time we meet that I am fully aware that they have given me the responsibility of taking care of their most precious possession— their son! I let them know that I, and my coaches, will never knowingly say or do anything to harm their son. I explain how I coached my own son years ago when he played for me in high school. The deep sense of commitment that I had to make that as positive an experience for him (and his teammates) as I could was of utmost importance to me. It carries over even today to all of my current players. This point is emphasized throughout the year. I also point out to the parents that I’m there to help them. If they have a concern or their son is not cooperating at home, for instance, that I am there to help them. What I am trying to establish is a sense of community and a shared sense of concern for the well-being of their sons. This carries over to #2:

2) The importance of establishing (and keeping!) lines of communication open between the head coach and the parents. I shared with this young head coach how since I’ve got back into coaching in 2011 (after being out since 2006) that the biggest difference I saw was the use of technology and social media on the internet. I explained how I communicated via emails with our parents once a week during the season and at least once a month during the off-season. He looked at me like I’d lost my mind! I went on to tell him how many parents had personally thanked me for keeping them in the loop. They told me how it was the first time that they felt like they really knew what was going on in their son’s football career. I compose a Weekly Newsletter every Sunday evening during the season. I send it out as a mass email to all players, parents and school administrators. I feel like the AD and Principal like to be informed too. I give a review of the game from the previous Friday. Anyone who performed well, I give them a “tip of the cap” for a job well done. I bring out things that we need to improve on and share a little about our upcoming opponent. If there is important logistical information, like what time we’ll be leaving school for an away game that week, it is brought out in this weekly newsletter. I will also share something of a motivational nature to inspire our players to keep working hard. Rarely do I add anything negative. I want to stay focused on the positive and how we’re going to improve.

This coach was intrigued. I shared how much my team’s parents appreciated it and that the emails are critical in building strong ties with our parents. I want everyone to feel like we are “all in this together.” I want our parents to feel part of our program— not create an adversarial relationship. He said he was going to try it! I encourage you head coaches reading this to adopt it too.

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