Six Tips to Better Communicate with Parents

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

Tiverton High (RI) veteran coach Bob Murray admits that winning can cure a lot of problems with parents. With more than 200 career wins to his record, he has a longer leash than most.

Still, he takes special care each season to ensure that parents feel as if they have a direct line to the coaching staff. He is also deliberate about setting boundaries for parents and policies regarding the proper way to communicate with coaches.

Here are Murray’s six tips to foster better communication with parents.

Communicate via social media. Murray started a Tiverton football Facebook page, where he shares film with players and parents. He accepts any friend requests from parents so that they can stay abreast of team news like cancellations or delays. “Any communication on that page is directed to both players and parents,” Murray said. “That keeps them informed. Parents like to know the things we’re doing, the different styles we’re using, game changes, game times, etc.”

Hold an orientation meeting. Murray also serves as the Tiverton athletic director, so he starts each fall season with an orientation for parents of all student-athletes. After general instructions for athletes of the various teams, he breaks the groups down by sport. During the football meeting, Murray provides parents with his cell phone and insists that they call any time they have a problem.

Set boundaries. During that preseason meeting, Murray asks parents to avoid from interfering with practice. Parents are welcome to come and watch, but they cannot comment to a player or approach a coach. “Parents are stakeholders in the program,” Murray said. “They’ve invested a lot of time giving rides. If a parent wants to meet with me, I just ask that we do it on my time.”

Meet with parents in private. When a parent does wish to meet, Murray is clear that no player should be present during the parent-coach meeting. “We’ll pick and date and time for the parent or parents to come in,” Murray said. “I’m accessible to all, but not in front of the kids. If we can’t agree to disagree, the conversation is not worth having.”

Don’t compare players. A parent will often want to discuss his or her son’s playing time, and why other players are starting over him. Murray has a simple rule when addressing the depth chart. “If we’re talking kids, let’s talk about your child,” Murray said. “Let’s not compare to another child that isn’t here. Let’s talk about a specific issue.”

Address conflicts. Angry parents don’t often become less angry on their own, so Murray advises coaches to address issues before they spiral out of control. “Be yourself and be honest,” Murray said. “Make it clear that you’re approachable, but if they don’t like it, that’s the way it is. I have a little bit of a rough edge, so parents know that if they’re coming to meet with me, they better have a good reason.”

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