The Biggest Mistakes You Make When Dealing with Parents by: Kate Boyd, Guest Contributor Cheer parents can occasionally cause difficulty, but here’s something I’ve discovered over the years: if you avoid a few specific mistakes, they’ll not only be more pleasant to deal with but also more trusting of you. Here are a few of the mistakes I’ve made in my 13 years of coaching and how you can avoid them: Not Helping Them Support Their Kids Just like you, the parents want to give their kids the best, but sometimes they just don’t know how. You see their kids in a different setting, so you may have a little insight into how they can support their child in cheerleading, especially on competition day. Give them the tools. Tell them the kids need them there. Help them make signs that encourage their specific children. Make the parents the hero of the day by helping them communicate their love and respect for their children in a way the cheerleaders will best respond to. Not Communicating Well Communicating well means giving parents the information they need in a way that they understand and respond to. Know your audience and tailor every email or phone conversation accordingly. For example, when you communicate instructions for checking in at a competition or where they should be before the next game, be sure you’re not assuming they know all that you know. Anticipate their questions and be as specific and helpful as possible. That way when they know they won’t see their child for a few hours before a competition parents are comfortable knowing they’re in your hands. Not Giving Them Any Buy-In We all like to feel as though we have a say in a matter. Parents are no different, especially when it comes to their children. Sure, you’ll have a few that are low maintenance, but there will be others that want to contribute in some way‚ even if they know nothing about cheerleading. So do you just let them be frustrated? Of course not! Give them something to do or something to decide, however small or big. They want to be a part of the process. Consult one or two about a big decision. Even if you don’t go with their suggestion, they’ll appreciate the gesture. Give a crowd of them the reins of a holiday party. Make them feel important. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Not Making Your Boss Aware Of Any Higher Maintenance Parents Even if you avoid making most or all of these mistakes, you’ll likely still have something come up with a parent. It happens to all of us. If you find yourself communicating with one parent very often or several times about the same issue, you need to let your boss know‚ whether that’s a gym owner or a school administrator. Sometimes situations escalate, and a parent may want to take it up the ladder to your boss. Make sure that your boss is aware of the problem and your position before the parent gets there. They want to back you and get it resolved, and they can’t do that if they don’t know what’s going on. At times, we can mistake problems with our coaching for problems with parents. Make sure that you’re doing all you can to empower parents to confidently lead their athletes throughout the season, and they will likely return the favor. Learn more about Kate Boyd here. You can read her other contributing articles here.
Parents seem more involved in their children’s lives than ever before. Parents who were too involved used to be called “overprotective’; now, “helicopter parenting’, or “over-parenting’, is trending and can be very frustrating as a coach. To avoid a lot of parent interruption, some gyms hold closed practices, but most times after practice, coaches can be bombarded with questions from parents about their child. With that in mind, here are four simple ways you can strengthen your relationship with your team’s parents:
Probably the biggest issue parents have is communication: parents want to know what is going on with the team, and, of course, their child. Have you talked to a teen lately? Trying to have good communication can be difficult, and you are usually met with one-word answers: “How was practice? ” “Good. ” “How was school? ” “Fine. ” “What did you do? ” “I don’t know, stuff. ” It is no wonder that parents are bombarding you with questions‚ they cannot get any information from their kid! As the coach, you have to have open lines of communication, whether that is by email, by phone, or setting aside time after practice to talk to a few of the parents. Cheerleading is expensive, and parents want to know that their child is getting the attention they think is due! This does not mean you have to stay hours after practice every week to talk to each parent: let them know that they can email you, and you can set aside time at a later date to discuss their specific questions, needs, or concerns.
When joining a new team, there is usually a meeting with the team to go over new season expectations, code of conduct, and responsibilities. A parent meeting should also be held with a new team. Parents need to know what is to be expected of them because, especially with a youth team, you need a lot of help from the parents! Parents can help with transportation, putting together fundraisers, etc. Make it clear from the start what the parent expectations are, how they can communicate with you, and what codes of conduct apply to parents. Sometimes, because parents love their children and want to see them do their best, there is always at least one parent that goes a bit overboard, and as the coach, you need to reel them in a bit.
3. Open practice.
Some coaches hate the idea of open practice; some really enjoy it. The same goes for parents: some just drop their kid off at practice, and others want to sit and watch.
Once a week or once a month, allow an open practice, so the parents who want to come and watch their cheerleader can see how they have improved. Limiting open practices gives you time as a coach to be a coach, and have control of your team. Opening practices once a week or once a month also allows the parents to feel involved, and to see your coaching style.
4. Show gratitude.
Parents really do not get the acknowledgement they deserve. Most parents are juggling more than one kid, a job, making sure dinner is ready, helping with their children’s homework, going to school, etc. It is amazing that parents get anything done, and, because of that, you should let them know how much you appreciate them helping out with fundraisers, transporting multiple kids to competitions, helping with makeup and hair, and all the extra stuff that goes along with making a team function! Have your cheerleaders do something nice for their parents, like a spaghetti dinner or putting on a special performance for their parents. Not a lot of teams do this, and it really does make a difference to the parents‚ for they really do deserve a little praise every now and then!
Parents are an integral part of a cheerleading team, and
having a good relationship with parents is very important for coaches. Cheerleading teams and parents become family: you spend so much time together traveling and going to competitions, that having a good relationship between the coach and parents can really make or break a team! Having open communication, clear expectations, open practices, and showing a little gratitude can go a long with repairing or starting new relationships with your team’s parents.
What else can cheer coaches do to strengthen parent relationships? What worked for your team? Let us know your tips in the comments!
It is the best time of year‚
competition season! Congratulations on making it this far, and with final competitions quickly approaching, you might be thinking what’s next. Your team has their choreography down, travel and lodging is taken care of, uniforms are in tiptop dry-cleaned shape and you are all set to go. However, you know as an experienced coach, once you arrive at the competition, anything and everything can go wrong‚ especially when it comes to run-throughs! Every year, it is something new, so here are a few ways to make run-throughs better at your next competition.
Have a family meeting right when you get there. This meeting should include parents, or anyone involved in pickup and drop-off, i.e. chaperones or carpool parents. Depending on the age of your team and if this is your team’s first competition, some parents need to be informed of what to do more than others. Most parents new to cheer may not know about run-throughs at all! During this meeting,
break it down for your parents. This might be your 12
th competition season and you may think parents might know what to expect, but I can guarantee you, they have no idea and have probably never even heard the word “run-throughs’ before in their life. I can also guarantee they have no idea it is closed to parents or that they have 3-4 hours to kill before their child actually competes. Make it clear and then proceed to check into the hotel.
Time is not on your side. I cannot stress how important punctuality is at competitions! These
competitions are like well-oiled machines: schedules are strict, and not something to mess with. If you are late, you will lose your practice spot. Period.
Judging. Don’t get it twisted‚ teams are being judged from the moment they walk in that door. Some competitions are stricter than others, and things like
poor sportsmanship can cost you a few points before you even set foot on the mats. As soon as your team walks in that building, they are representatives of the cheerleading community as well as their team. Be sure to talk to your team about cell phone use, appropriate competition conversation, etc. You don’t want to miss out placing because of something that could be easily avoided!
Know what needs work. Your team has been
practicing this routine for weeks, and you know what parts of it need last minute practice time to get right. As a coach, your team has worked hard to get to this point and you do not want to waste precious practice hours just doing the routine over and over. You need to push those last-minute practices to make sure everyone hits their portion just right. Of course, you will want to do full routine run-throughs and take a few breaks before you go out to the main stage. But, you really want to focus on what needs most attention to make your routine flawless.
By following the steps above, run-throughs will be a breeze. The competition atmosphere is intense and a lot of things are going on all at once. Having a game plan together and being prepared is the best thing you can do take make sure all aspects of your competition day will run smoothly.
How do you have to better competition run-throughs? Share your tips with us in the comments!