The new sports season usually brings the addition of first-year families. This year, with some leagues not playing and others in action, there is the potential for more families to transfer onto new teams than usual.
I’ve worn many hats during my 30 years in youth sports, but every season at least one of those hats has been as a parent. And with that hat on, I’ve always gone out of my way to help make the new families feel welcome.
I do this by making sure the new parents aren’t standing alone watching practice. I go over and introduce myself. I ask questions like what team they came from, where they live, how many other kids they have, where they go to school, and what they do for a living. As they share information, I reply providing the same.
I always avoid giving any negative opinions about anyone involved with the team and don’t spend a lot of time talking up anyone either. My philosophy is that it’s up to each person to develop their own opinions on people and I know I wouldn’t want someone else saying anything negative about me, my wife or my kids – deservedly or not. That’s just not fair.
I try to get a feel if they would like to meet some of the other parents. Usually, if they are very talkative it’s an indication that they are an outgoing person and probably would enjoy meeting the others. I just say, “Let’s go meet the others.” But if they seem a bit shy or introverted, I might just say, “I’m going to head back over to the others, and you’re welcome to join us. “
The other thing I do is to make sure at the subsequent practices, any of the “veteran” parents who weren’t there the week before still get to meet the new ones. In other words, I make myself the official “team introducer.”
As for the new players, I always suggest to my sons that they make sure to include them right from the beginning. This can include introducing themselves before practice even starts and picking them as a partner or being part of their small group in drills and activities. Water breaks are great places for “getting to know you” conversations and introductions to other teammates.
This season under pandemic conditions is going to be challenging enough. Help ease the stress for new families by welcoming them with open arms, by way of an “air high-five”, of course.
Stay safe and healthy.
Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years with perspectives as a parent, coach and board member. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.