Softball Fans
How to Set Parental Expectations

Managing the expectations of your team's biggest softball fans, the parents, is one of many challenges of coaching youth softball.

If not properly handled, this issue can become quite thorny, be it an issue around playing time, position in the batting order, position on the field, practice attendance, abusive behavior by parent or player, or whatever, this issue needs to be addressed early in the team's formation. If this issue is allowed to run unchecked, any chance of establishing your coaching psychology,

Establish a fun teaching environment
that results in winning (eventually).

will evaporate quickly. Team harmony is key in establishing your ability to effectively run the team. At the end of the day, the parents are interested in making sure that their daughters are being treated fairly, are being given an equal opportunity to play and advance their skills and that you are happy that their daughter is on your team. They really are your team's biggest softball fans. Sometimes, however, the actual interpretation of what you are doing, without a clear set of guidelines can lead to a serious break down in communication and a very big problem for you.

Enjoying Nationals Opening Ceremony

One of the more effective means to achieve this team harmony is by utilizing the team letter. Click on the link to see an example of a team letter. This has been generally used in a travel team environment, where the goal is to keep the team together year after year as you build on your previous successes while integrating new players in seamlessly. It may also have some application at the recreation team level, where a communication of practice time, equal playing time, and your general philosophy around coaching explained upfront may help parents understand why you are doing the things you are.

If you are coaching in a recreational league that requires everyone to play equally in the infield and outfield, the letter should state that. If you have practice time at a certain time and you expect parents to be there to pick up their daughters at a certain time, the letter should state that. Basically, the letter is essential in establishing a baseline understanding by the parents of why you are doing what you are doing.

Stepping up to the plate

For the travel and older teams, the team letter is essential in establishing credibility right up front. In the team letter, you will see that practice schedules are set out. Practice attendance expectations are set. Number of tournaments are identified with the goals of the team established (participation in national tournaments, etc.). In addition, player and parent conduct expectations are also set. I have also seen where the "24 hour" rule has been defined and enacted. The 24 hour rule is where a parent sees something happen during the game impacting the treatment of their daughter and is extremely unhappy with how things were handled. The 24 hour rule state that issues of this type should only be addressed to the coach 24 hours after the end of the tournament. The benefit of the 24 hour rule is that typically by the time 24 hours has passed, most of the emotion of the situation has dissipated and both parties (parents AND coach) can then discuss the situation as adults.

Again, the object with these tools is to ensure team harmony as you deal with the ups and downs of the season, be it from the players, or from their biggest softball fans, the parents.

Hey parents, I came across this great e-book on how to handle the trials and tribulations of youth baseball and softball. It will tell you what professional baseball players tell their friends on how to handle the rough spots during your child's career. This e-book is designed with you, the parent in mind. May be just the thing to make these all too short years of your child's sports career far more enjoyable and an even bigger softball fan.

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