Mar 21, 2022 • 6 min read
Building relationships with your team is the most important thing you can do as a coach. Relationships and trust are built through consistent communication with the team. The team includes all members of the sporting community — players, parents, fans, and volunteers. As a coach, creating a culture of open and honest communication will help to make your season great.
Start your season off on the right foot with a preseason meeting with players and parents. Introduce yourself, your coaching philosophy, player expectations, playing time, and volunteer expectations. This meeting is an ideal time to set the culture of communication for the season.
Encourage players to talk to you if they have something on their mind, a question, or any problem. Assure your players that you will answer as best as you can. And, if you don’t know the answer, you will try to find out for them. Share a story of a time when you confided in your coach as a kid and how it helped you get through the season. This makes you relatable and takes away any power dynamic.
Be a role model for positive communication to your team. Feel free to give direction in practice or a game to your team that builds a culture of constructive criticism. Discourage the use of phrases like “you need a better touch” or “why can’t you do this?”. We want to find ways to build one another up. Encourage positive interaction between players. This not only boosts morale, but also players continue to love the sport because it’s more fun when there’s positive interactions. After games, have team members share one positive thing about another player.
Consider referees, umpires, linesmen or women and all volunteers as part of your team. Never confront, raise your voice, or yell at a referee. They are doing their best and will make mistakes on the field just like everyone else. Be a role model for positive interactions with officials to set a good example for the community.
Coach and parent communication can make the difference between an average season and an exceptional one. Parents can be highly involved in their kid’s team. On some youth sports teams, it’s the parents who are most likely buying the equipment, driving the children to practice, paying season dues, and coming to every game. Welcome parents into the fold and communicate with them up front. A weekly Friday email can be a great way to keep parents in the loop that doesn’t take too much time.
Let the parents know that they can talk to you about concerns. Encourage parents to have their child talk to you directly first. This establishes you as a trusted adult confidant. If the young player isn’t confident enough yet, encourage parents to come with them. Youth sports can teach kids how to advocate for themselves in a safe environment.
Sometimes, emotions run high during the season. If a parent is upset, it is a good idea to ask them to wait 24 hours before contacting you. This allows intense emotions to settle and to address the issue with level heads. It creates a better opportunity for both parties to have a productive conversation. Some youth sports teams have a 24-hour rule after games in which parents can’t contact a coach until that period has passed. The purpose of this is to let the emotions settle and what happened marinate a bit before the conversation.
Foster a parental community of positive enthusiasm. Discourage gossip or negative talk about players on the sideline. Encourage your parents to cheer and give praise. Ask parents not to give instructions to players on the field. This can result in player’s seeking validation and instruction during the game which takes away from the creative development process. Parents may not coach during practices and games. It’s important that the parents let you coach and show support as you try to develop your players.
Do you prefer to talk face-to face, on the phone, through text, email, or via the TeamSnap app? There are so many ways to communicate to your team and to your parents. Choose your favorite method of chatting and let your community know how to reach you. Be sure your team has your contact information and each other’s to keep in touch with each other.
As a coach, be a good listener. Don’t interrupt players or parents when they are speaking with you. Give them space and time to communicate their needs. Use receptive body language when listening. Turn your feet toward the speaker. Look them in the eyes, smile warmly, nod or shake your head when appropriate. Communicate often and early to your team. If you feel like a situation is brewing or escalating, talk about it as soon as you notice it. This will help to diffuse intense situations.
As a coach, your goal is to develop an athlete to reach their fullest potential. Giving feedback is essential to being a successful coach. Feedback can motivate, challenge, direct and support players to improve their skills. Your feedback should be positive, specific, timely, well-timed, and sincere. Most importantly, acknowledge the efforts, not just the results. Create a trusted feedback loop for players and parents.
Building relationships with your players is the most important thing you can do as a coach. Learn about your players and show a genuine interest in who they are. Take time each practice to have a couple of conversations with your players. Understand who they are, what their goals are, and the struggles that are going on in their lives. This can only happen through open and honest communication. It’s what your players will remember you by.
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