Here’s an email I send to parents of our YOUTH TEAMS right before our first tournament. Feel free to get ideas or copy pieces of it for your own use.
Before getting to the letter, keep in mind I have been coaching various levels for a long time. Things like “unequal playing time” might not be the right approach for a less experienced youth coach — or even an experienced coach that doesn’t have the discipline to keep the score from influencing too many decisions — or a team that has fewer than 9 players — or for the league you play in — or for any youth coach for that matter.
I also have a relationship with or at least some level of familiarity with the parents. In other words, they already know me at least a little bit.
Last and not least, this is what works for me in my situation. If this were a high school team, I would handle certain things much different. But for my situations regarding our youth teams, this is what I use and what works for me.
Subject: <Team Name> Playing Time, Team Rules & Guidelines
With our first tournament coming up, it’s that time of the year to send out our team rules/guidelines for parents and grandparents.
Please Read Everything Below Closely
1) Playing Time Will NOT Be Equal
Everyone will get plenty of opportunities on the court but I can tell you right now playing time will NOT be equal. There will be some games where your daughter does not play very much. There will be some games where your daughter plays a LOT (more than other players).
There are countless reasons that playing time varies. Some of those reasons include:
- I messed up the rotation or made a mistake.
- I took a player out because I didn’t feel they were giving their best effort. On occasion I will take players out of the game, sit them down on the bench, and tell them exactly why they were taken out. I find that bench time is a very effective form of motivation.
- I felt a player was dominating and it was starting to hinder the development of others on our team.
- I’m trying to give our team a chance to win and match players up a certain way.
- Your daughter asked to come out.
Probably the biggest reason playing time varies quite a bit is because we are trying to develop every player on the team as much as we can. If I give everyone “equal” playing time in each game, that will hinder the development of the best players, the average players, and the below average players.
For improvement to occur, every player needs to be challenged (they need to fail a little bit) — but not too much. So I adjust playing time to match players up against appropriate competition. It won’t be perfect, but by the end of the season, everyone should get mostly equal opportunities.
2) NO coaching or shouting out instructions from the stands.
Parents stick to cheering, clapping, and positive comments only. Leave the coaching to the head coach and the assistant coach on the bench.
This is important for lots of reasons…. For one, it’s hard enough to get the players to hear their coaches voice and instructions. When you add a bunch of parents shouting out instructions, it gets really tough for the players to hear and/or process what their coach is saying.
Second, sometimes parents yell out instructions that contradict what the coach is telling them.
Third, parents yelling out instruction becomes contagious. It happens all the time. It starts out with one well intentioned parent (or grandparent) yelling instruction. And before you know it several other chime in and it’s just a blur of too many voices.
The players need ONE voice (their coach).
I know this is really hard to do. I have been there. And I realize that sometimes the instruction is helpful and you’ll see something the coaches are missing. But the negatives of allowing this clearly out weight the positives. Just relax, have fun, and stick to cheering.
3) Don’t complain about the refs calls.
Look, the refs are going to make bad calls. That is just part of youth basketball and what we signed up for. So just accept it and don’t even pay attention to the refs.
I want our players to be resilient and I don’t want them worrying about things they can’t control (the refs). When they hear the parents complain, they start to think it’s justified and the refs must be treating them wrong. Then the excuses start to follow. That type of attitude does not fit into our core values and the character skills we are trying to develop with this team.
So please don’t complain about the refs or complain to them. Our players are going to be resilient and play through what ever happens on the court. No excuses.
Some of the teams we play are going to complain and shout and you name it. Don’t worry about what they do. Let them be idiots. As most of you already know, things can get ugly in the stands — obnoxious behavior, yelling at kids/coaches/refs, parents getting kicked out. No matter the circumstances, that will NOT be the Tigers coaches, parents, or players!
4) Don’t bother complaining… but please DO give me feedback.
Fortunately we have a great and positive group of parents. I have NOT received one single complaint since coaching the Tigers. But for the record, I am volunteering my time here. So don’t bother complaining to me. It just won’t fly.
With that said I DO strongly encourage feedback, communication, questions, etc. If you have suggestions for me, please give them to me.
I totally want to improve as a coach and improve things for our team!! Constructive feedback will help with that.
5) Choose convenient times to talk (not during practice, right before games, or right after games)
I always have an “open door policy” for players and parents. I just ask you choose convenient times for this communication.
Giving me feedback right before a game, after a game, or before practice probably is NOT a good time! Wait for some down time or even better, let’s schedule a time for us to chat.
If you have any questions, let me know.