It has been said that a team that doesn’t have good communication is like an engine that has been broken down into its separate parts. All the parts in great working order, but without the rest of the engine parts, the individual pieces just won’t work how they were supposed to.
I’m afraid that we have a lot of broken-down engines in youth sports.
You see, the team is not just the players. The team that has broken down communication is the team that’s made up of parents, coaches, players, and league administrators. It’s everyone involved in youth sports.
That’s the team that needs to focus on the importance of good communication. I honestly believe that if all the parties involved in youth sports would practice some valuable communication skills, there would be less conflict and more happy players.
Whether you are a coach, a parent, a player, a league administrator or official, these are the components that will foster good communication and as a result, a healthier youth sports culture.
Be Open to Feedback
A know-it-all attitude or one that screams “I’ve got this, I don’t need your help!” will build walls. I’m not saying you must take everyone’s advice but be open to the fact that someone may have a good idea that you hadn’t thought of. Coaches are open to parents. Parents are open to coaches. Parents are open to other parents. Coaches are open to your athletes.
After you’ve listened to the feedback, sift through it to see if any of it is valid and proceed from there
Be Clear About Roles
Coaches should always be upfront about the role of each player on the team. Coaches should also be clear about their philosophy and what they expect from parents. Parents should understand their role as encouragers for their kids and as supporters of the team.
If these things are spelled out before the season starts, it might very well make for a smoother season.
Build a Team Spirit
When parents, coaches, and players get along well, they will automatically communicate better. Building a team spirit not only gives everyone the opportunity to get to know each other better, but it also helps to create a culture where everyone feels they are invested in the outcome. This, in turn, improves communication channels.
Those team parties or trips for ice cream after a game or backyard barbecues are not a waste of time; they are important to team bonding opportunities. Be sure to put some on the season calendar.
Use Communication Tools
I shouldn’t even have to suggest this one, but there just may be some folks who still do not understand the value of apps and online tools to manage good communication on a team. Coaches, if you’d rather not do this, find a parent who will do it for you. Parents need and want to get lots of communication, so they don’t have to wonder what’s going on or, so they don’t have to search to find it. Try my friends at TeamSnap; they’ve got an amazing team management tool.
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Point Out Individual Strengths and Use Them Well
Find that mom that loves to plan parties or the dad that’s great with the clock. Coaches find that player who is good with leading warmups or loves to organize the equipment.
Everyone has something they do well and when you can let people work in their strengths, you will foster good teamwork and communication.
Encourage Personal Responsibility
It’s time for everyone to stop blaming everyone else for mistakes and miscues. If you blew it, own it. Coaches and parents, model this to your kids and players; it’s a lesson they need to learn, and your example is one of the best ways for them to take it in.
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This type of honesty and openness will also improve communication between everyone on the youth sports team.
George Bernard Shaw says that the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Are you under the illusion that the communication on your team is good when in fact, it is barely breathing? Take a closer look at your team communications and make the steps needed to improve.