Getting your season off to a good start involves being proactive on a number of items. You will want to get all your gear together, and get an idea of your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as meeting with your players and understanding their hopes and expectations.
Don’t forget to set up a meeting with your players’ parents, so you can lay out all of your rules and expectations. A great way to get parental buy-in is to have a group meeting with them before the season begins. There you can explain your coaching philosophy and set the tone for the season. With parental approval and involvement before your first practice, your season will get started on the right foot.
In case you are unsure about what kinds of subjects you might cover, here’s an outline to get you started.
1. Welcome and Introduction. Start off by introducing yourself to the parents, and explain your background, including any previous coaching experience. Parents want to know why you have been chosen to coach their children. Show your enthusiasm for the sport, and let them know just how much you plan to enjoy the season.
2. Coaching Philosophy. Here’s where you lay out how you plan to coach. Many coaches follow a “ROOTS” philosophy – this stands for Respecting the Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and Self. You have the unique opportunity to teach children that they can respect others even as they disagree with them. You may also let the parents know that you lead by encouragement and positive feedback as opposed to intimidation and threats, and that you appreciate learning and effort.
3. Goals and Hopes for the Season. Is winning a huge priority, or do you just want the players to have fun? One thing you should express is that at the end of the season, you want every player to feel good about himself and to want to return to your team for the following season. You want to help the players improve their skills and knowledge of the game, and to give them all the chance to compete in a meaningful way.
4. Ask parents what are their goals and hopes. Make sure your meeting is interactive, and ask parents what they want their child to achieve. Perhaps ask about previous coaches, in what areas they may have felt that the previous coach was not successful. Listen respectfully. You can learn a lot about what the parents want and don’t want in this segment of the meeting.
5. Ask for parent involvement. Many parents will not want to do anything, but others will be more than willing to help out. You might want to set up a rotation of parents to bring snacks and drinks to the practices and games. You might need some carpools to get the players from the home field to any away games. You might also want to enlist some super-enthusiastic parents to help as an assistant coach, an administrative assistant (taking notes and keeping stats for later analysis) or other such activities that can help lighten your load as the coach.
If you have a one to two-hour meeting with the parents before the season even begins, and lay out all of your issues and allow them to discuss theirs, your team will be off to terrific start even before their first practice. You will not be disappointed when you see how much this simple time commitment will help during the rest of the season.