Parent Meetings

By Fred Engh

A well-planned and executed pre-season parent meeting can help set the tone for a fun and stress-free season for all involved.

But if it fails to cover all the bases, it can ignite a season of discontent and confusion.

We checked in with three Certified Youth Sports Administrators (CYSAs)—Rance Gaede, Athletics Supervisor for the City of Tamarac (Fla.) Parks & Recreation; Brent Peintner, Director of the Cheney (Kan.) Recreation Commission; and Guillermo Chacon, Recreation Leader for Sports for the City of Gainesville (Fla.)—to get their insights on conducting parent meetings that produce results. Here’s what they had to say:

Keys To Running A Productive Meeting
Gaede: “The key for us has always been to be prepared ahead of time and be thorough, yet concise, on our information. We make sure parents know the basics to get them started and then make sure we have trained our coaches well enough to pick up where we left off. We also combine our parent meetings with player evaluations to increase attendance. Parents are put in a separate location during evaluations so we can have their attention and the kids are in a less-stressful environment. Parents are always asking about important dates, so we make sure we cover them verbally, have a handout ready, and then point them to our website in case they misplace any information. These dates include when to expect a coach to call for their first practice, when practices begin, when they will receive uniforms, when games begin, when games end, when picture day is, and when closing ceremonies are. We also highlight any rules changes from the previous season.”

Peintner: “Parents, more than anything, want information: practice schedule, game schedule, equipment needs, uniforms, gym locations, website address, rules, etc. Make sure and get all of the information they need and go in-depth; also, where they can find that information online if they have questions during the season besides just calling your office or asking the coach. Make it as easy on them as possible.”

Chacon: “My parents already know our meetings are 45 minutes to one hour max. Anything longer and you will lose them. Come prepared with a meeting agenda, talking points, visuals—and practice the night before! If you are unprepared or speak without confidence, the parents will know, and it could be the start of a very bad or complicated season.”

Mistakes To Avoid
Chacon: “Start and end on time—it’s a must. If you say your meeting is an hour, finish in 50 minutes to leave room for Q & A. Don’t allow parents to change your policies, or don’t change a policy to please one or a group of parents.”

Helping The Atmosphere
Peintner: “It always helps that parents are informed on the things they really want to know, plus it allows you to talk about behavior and expectations, respecting officials (and sometimes to recruit officials), policies, rules, and items that will help avoid issues. Rules for kids are often modified, so informing them of rule changes helps avoid parents shouting at the game over something that is the incorrect rule. Example: youth basketball may have 5 seconds in the lane versus the NFHS rule of 3 seconds.”

Ensuring Parent Participation
Gaede: “We combine parent meetings with mandatory player evaluations. If a player does not attend evaluations, we cannot place them on a team.”

Positive Results
Gaede: “We have more informed parents who have improved their behavior before and during the season. They know what to expect now and don’t feel left in the dark. It also reduces the amount of time that staff members spend answering emails and phone calls. Finally, it allows quality time during practices and games for my staff and me to interact with the parents. No longer are we answering the simple stuff—we can get into ideas for improving the program or ideas for additional programming. It has also helped us in recruiting coaches.”

Chacon: “In three years of holding preseason parent meetings we have not had one incident at any of our games. Our meetings have set the standards and expectations that make the league enjoyable for the most important people on the court—the children!”

Fred Engh is founder of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via email at fengh@nays.org. To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit www.nays.org or contact Emmy Martinez at emartinez@nays.org or (800) 729-2057.