This is an excerpt from Coaching Youth Baseball by Babe Ruth League, Inc.
In addition to sending and receiving messages and providing proper feedback to players, coaching also involves interacting with members of the coaching staff, parents, fans, umpires, and opposing coaches. If you don't communicate effectively with these groups, your coaching career will be unpleasant and short lived. So, try the following suggestions for communicating with these groups.
Before you hold your first practice, the coaching staff should meet and discuss the roles and responsibilities that each coach will undertake during the year. Depending on the number of assistant coaches, the staff responsibilities can be divided into different areas. For example, one coach may be in charge of the infielders, while another is responsible for overseeing batting practice. The head coach has the final responsibility for all phases of the game, but as much as possible, the assistant coaches should be responsible for their areas.
Before practices start, the coaching staff must also discuss and agree on terminology, plans for practice, game day organization, the method of communicating during practice and games, and game conditions. The coaches on your staff must present a united front and speak with one voice, and they must all take a similar approach to coaching, interaction with the players and parents, and interaction with one another. Disagreements should be discussed away from the field, and each coach should have a say as the staff comes to an agreement.
Coaching Tip Your coaching staff must be organized before practices and games. Work with your staff to ensure that tasks are completed by assigning specific tasks to each staff member. This will allow you to use time more efficiently, so you can focus on the actual practice or game.
A player's parents need to be assured that their child is under the direction of a coach who is both knowledgeable about the sport and concerned about the youngster's well-being. You can put their worries to rest by holding a preseason parent-orientation meeting in which you describe your background and your approach to coaching (see Preseason Meeting Topics). If parents contact you with a concern during the season, you should listen to them closely and try to offer positive responses. If you need to communicate with parents, you can catch them after a practice, give them a phone call, or send a text or e-mail. Messages sent to parents through players are too often lost, misinterpreted, or forgotten.
Coaching Tip Be clear about your expectations with parents. Every parent will lobby for more playing time for his or her own child—it's human nature. Make it clear that you will be glad to talk with parents about any aspect of their child's development as a person and as a ballplayer, but that playing time is a decision made by you and your coaches, and that this is something you won't discuss. Bringing this up early helps stave off misunderstandings and miscommunication later.
Preseason Meeting Topics
Before the Babe Ruth local league season starts, it is a good idea to have a meeting with the parents of your players. When parents are involved from the get-go, channels of communication and expectations are established before any issues arise. Listed below is a guideline of topics for your preseason parents' meeting.
- Talk about yourself as an athlete, coach, or parent. Explain your coaching philosophy. Have the parents introduce themselves and include who their player is.
- Outline the paperwork that is needed:
- Emergency information: Collect vital information from parents by having them provide emergency information and consent for treatment for injury or illness (see the sample Emergency Information and Consent for Treatment Form at the end of this chapter). If any parent has a medical concern regarding their child, discuss such in a private conversation, perhaps after the meeting.
- Informed Consent Form (see a sample at the end of this chapter): This form provides permission to participate in baseball and acknowledges that parents and players understand the inherent risks of playing the sport.
- Go over the inherent risks of baseball and any other safety issues.
- Discuss rules and expectations:
- Team values: Explain the core values for your team.
- Expectations of athletes: Explain the expectations you, as a coach, hold for your players.
- Expectations of coaches: Explain the expectations you want your players and their parents to hold for you and your coaching staff.
- Standard of conduct for coaches, players, and parents: Explain the policies for your team, for example, late policies, unsportsmanlike conduct policies, and practice and game policies.
- Explain goals for the season:
- Your goals as a coach for your team and players.
- Parents' goals for their players.
- Cover logistics:
- Schedules: Hand out schedules to each parent. Review the season practice schedule, including the date, location, and time of each practice session.
- Contact list: If available, hand out contact information to each parent.
- Methods of communication: e-mail list, emergency telephone numbers, website.
- Review the proper gear and attire that should be worn at practices and games. Inform parents of the date and time that uniforms and equipment will be handed out.
- Discuss nutrition, hydration, and rest for players.
- Discuss ways that parents can help with the team:
- Provide snacks after games.
- Be a scorekeeper for games.
- Serve as a “Team Mom” or “Team Dad” to promote open communications between coaches, parents, and players.
- Discuss any other volunteer positions that need to be filled.
- End the meeting:
- Provide time for questions and answers.
- Thank them for their time.
- Let them know you are excited for the season to start.