This post certainly won’t be for everyone. However, if you are an athletic coach, an administrator, player or parent of a player you may find it quite valuable.
A few years back we had an increasing number of parent and player issues. If you read the headlines, we are certainly not alone in that regard. I am not the type to complain, because that is pointless. Instead I wanted to solve the problems, prevent the drama, and get back to focusing on making our team competitive. It was either that or hang up the high school whistle for good and go back to coaching college ball.
I spoke with some coaches I respected. I also scoured the internet looking for answers.
What quickly became apparent was a need to be preemptive. We simply needed to take the time to address issues that may come up before they come up. So I put together the Westfield Bombers Football Handbook. It served as a guide for parents and players and as a resource for our coaches. I made copies and distributed to our players to read and asked that they share it with their parents.
In recent years I have held a parent meeting and quickly gone through a power point based on The Handbook. Putting all of the parents into a room has a very interesting effect. I asked anyone present if they had any problems or concerns with what was in The Handbook. Nobody said anything, and the parents seemed appreciative.
I then wrapped up the meeting by saying that The Handbook will then become the mutually agreed upon ground rules, and should be referred to if issues do arise.
Of course, later on in the year we had issues. One parent wondered why his son didn’t get the ball more. Another wondered why his son did not play more. The third approached the coaches immediately after a game to discuss a playing time issue. In two of those instances, chain of command/communication issues arose.
In each instance, I was able to refer to specific pages of the handbook which addressed those very issues. I literally copied the relevant sections and once again brought them to the parents attention. This was particularly effective in the instances when parents skipped the chain of command and went directly to my superiors with their issues.
The effect was exactly what I hoped for. Rather than being sucked into the drama, I could stay above it. Rather than being forced to articulate and defend my answers, I already had the answers and had given the parent an opportunity to discuss how such an incident would be handled long before the incident had even taken place. When parents failed to follow what they had agreed upon, their motivations and actions became more evident.
I’m fortunate. The vast majority of the parents I deal with are tremendously nice people. Even parents who would raise issues for the most part just simply don’t understand what is going on; The Handbook provided a means to educate them. Finally, for those very few parents who will always be self interested and critical, The Handbook has resulted in their criticism becoming less meaningful and detrimental.
I will never again coach a season without using a handbook and parent meeting. Unfortunately, I have seen many fine people driven out of the coaching ranks because of issues with parents and players. The amount of time and effort it takes to coach simply is not worth the hassle. When these fine people get out of coaching it is the kids, and ultimately society, that suffers.
So I share this in an effort to keep more good people out on the fields and courts working with young people. Maybe they can use some of these ideas in regards to problems with playing time, off-season preparation, playing multiple sports, communication, college recruitment, and issues with chosen game strategies. Maybe that will result in a few more good people staying in the game and that will result in more kids of character and mental toughness.
Click here to see the excerpts from the Westfield Bombers Football Handbook.