Commissioner Corner: The Importance of Engaging Parents

By Quinn Ursprung | Posted 9/14/2020

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Commissioner Corner is a blog series tailored for organization leaders that features advice for leagues, by leagues, across a variety of topics.

The relationship between an organization and an athlete’s parents is important. Parents pour money, time and support into the organization by simply allowing their athlete to play the sport they love. Things may look differently compared to previous seasons, but the engagement is just as vital.

Below are the perspectives of league leaders and parents on how to engage and best develop the parent and league leader relationship.

How do you build relationships with parents and get them involved in your program?

“Our parents are customers, stakeholders and partners in ensuring that all youth enjoy their youth experience through sports. We engage the entire Indianapolis community to help define what the youth football progression should look like and all the lifelong lessons young people get from playing football.

“We make sure parents have ownership in our program and are empowered to help develop and sustain an environment that supports youth development. Each team has a team mom and a parent that leads academics, students' exposure, fundraising and safety. The parents receive training and are empowered to lead. It takes a village to develop young people, and we make sure our parents understand that nothing happens without their involvement.”

Emil Ekiyor // President of Indy Youth Sports // Indy Youth Sports (IN)

“Part of the relationship-building starts outside of football through community events and other various youth sports programs like wrestling, baseball and basketball. Our community is relatively small and very rarely do you go anywhere without someone knowing you. It’s about sharing the excitement and passion for youth football, not only of what the program believes in but what the program strives to teach on and off the field.

“Treating youth football as a game and not a sport is equally important. Let these children develop and grow as individuals in a team atmosphere. Providing tools such as Parent Guides and Coaches Guides assist in the creation of a consistent message. Following through is what really builds the relationship and trust with parents. The Bismarck Youth Football League was founded in 1974, and we continue to depend on volunteers at all levels to provide a meaningful experience for our children. Promoting what we do and being a cheerleader of what the game of football can teach on and off the field creates a buzz. When asking for volunteers, we always tell them we will support them and that it's a very rewarding experience.”

Jon Artz // Vice President & League Coaching Director // Bismarck Youth Football League (ND)

How do you keep parents engaged during season?

“We have weekly newsletters for parents that feature game statistics, name the offensive and defensive players of the game, celebrate student achievement in school and highlight team moms and parents. We also execute college visits during the season. We take students to an Indiana University game annually (over 400 attend). These college visits serve as exposure for our students and parents are actively involved all the way through.”

Emil Ekiyor // President of Indy Youth Sports // Indy Youth Sports (IN)

“Clear and concise communication is necessary at each level of the organization. Having a meaningful league parent meeting to define expectations, guidelines and rules are important. Echoing that similar message at each team-parent meeting is important too. We tell first-year players’ parents, "Take your child’s expectation and cut it in half and then maybe cut it in half again. Allow these children to grow at their rate and continue to reinforce a positive environment.

“From a team perspective, we ask the children to complete chores at home. We encourage them to go above and beyond their normal chores as many people have invested in them to be in football. They must be good children, students and citizens. We ask a set of parents to lead their respective team cheer section on gamedays (Culture Keepers). Our team has a "Parent ball" and after each practice, we have a football that a child can take home and play in the backyard with mom or dad. They must sign it and bring it back the next practice before it goes to the next child.

“We leverage social media and our website for our communication and events. We've had events such as a coaches picnic before the season, team tailgate parties after preseason, end-of-year team banquets and an end-of-year league banquet for all volunteers and sponsors.”

Jon Artz // Vice President & League Coaching Director // Bismarck Youth Football League (ND)

Tips and advice for leagues who want to improve how they engage parents.

“We should not push parents away! Parents care for their children and want to see their children succeed and enjoy everything they do. We must see them as customers and give them the best customer experience possible. Youth football memories last a lifetime for young people. We must understand that as well as our role in making the memories positive and fun.”

Emil Ekiyor // President of Indy Youth Sports // Indy Youth Sports (IN)

“Clear and concise communication and follow through. Do what you say and say what you do. It's never perfect, however, be a listener first and speaker second. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen to the concerns and challenges parents face with their child, then provide guidance and encouragement. Adversity isn't always bad. We tend to lean on each other to find a path through the storm together which leads to a positive outcome.”

Jon Artz // Vice President & League Coaching Director // Bismarck Youth Football League (ND)


Do you have insights to share that can help youth football across the country? Submit your thoughts and you could be featured in the next Commissioner Corner blog.