Ah, parents. They are a major part of our athletic departments. With them we can do great things. Without them, we probably get fired. If you google the phrase “athletic director and parents” most of the first responses are tips on how to “deal with” parents. (full disclosure: we’ve written a few articles in this tone as well) While there are some parents that we definitely have to “deal with,” we would rather learn how to “work with” the parents of our athletes. It is for this reason that you as the AD need to know the pulse of your parents.
The Bible admonishes believers to live together in unity and harmony multiple times in the New Testament. Striving together in the name of Christ should be the goal of all Christians whether it be in a local church body or in a Christian school.
So knowing the pulse of parents should be a big deal to the Christian school athletic director. Knowing our parents as partners is what helps us “work with” them as opposed to “dealing with them.”
Today’s article offers a few tips on how best to know the pulse of your parents. Some of them are questions to ask yourself; others are just points to remember as you go about your job. Hopefully, you find all of them helpful. Thanks for taking the time to read them.
What Gets Your Parents Excited?
Every school and every set of parents are different. So much of this depends on the culture of your community and the background of your families. However, everyone has something that they are passionate about.
Know the pulse of your parents excitement; find that button and push it.
As the AD, you should be very interested in finding out what gets your parents going. Do they prefer one sport to another? Are they not interested in one of the sports that your department is offering?
You probably already know that there are some moms that are all over it during volleyball season and disconnected during other seasons. Some dads will get out the checkbook every day for football, but don’t want to be bothered with track and field.
Tap into these passions, but find a way to link them to the overall program. You know that all the sports are connected to each other. And if you are at the average Christian school, you’re sharing athletes (and consequentially parents) between multiple programs.
Use the excitement of your parents for certain sports and channel it into an excitement for the athletic department across the board.
What Are the Complaints from Your Parents?
As athletic directors, we’re quick to recognize positive response but even quicker to dismiss complaints.
Don’t be guilty of ignoring complaints because “they don’t see the big picture.”
By that we mean that everyone’s big picture is different. Yes, you are looking at the athletic department and its needs as a whole. However, the parents are looking at that one particular sport (at the time) and how it affects their big picture.
Obviously, some complaints are unreasonable and silly. Many times complaints come from the people who are the least informed, least committed, and least involved in the athletic department. Be careful, though about dismissing these complaints out of habit.
When complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained that wise men look for.” – John Milton
Bottom line: we’re working with athletes and their parents. If there are legitimate complaints, you would be wise to consider them.
Do Your Parents Know Your Athletic Department Vision?
You deal with you school’s athletic department everyday. You work with schedules, coordinate events, supervise coaches, and – at the Christian school – coach a few teams as well. No one know the athletic department like you. You know where it’s been, and you have a vision of where it’s going.
Sometimes parents stray away from the vision that you’re trying to carry out simply because they don’t know it.
Publicize your vision for athletics as often as you can. This should include what you currently do and what you’re looking to add in the future. Also, include whatever philosophies and concepts you value in these publications.
If your parents know that your school never intends to offer a certain sport then you keep from butting heads with those parents who try to make it happen.
Clarity in vision will either drive away the parents that are pushing for sports that you can’t offer, or it will cause them to devote their time to other sports. Both results are ok for your athletic department long term.
Properly promoting your plan can also help speed up the development process of some sports. You never know. Baseball at your school could happen a lot faster if parents know that you’re heading that way in the future. They may choose to invest money or time to help you make it a reality.
Be Equally Excited for Everything
Some sports are not as exciting to you as others. Personally, I can’t stand track and field. Meets are too long, and events are too short. Plus, our program isn’t big enough to field a full team. So we wait around all day to watch six or seven kids compete. It’s the worst, in my opinion. However, I’m at nearly every meet cheering on our kids.
Why do I subject myself to this if I don’t care for it? (besides the fact that it’s my job) The main reason is because it matters to the kids that are competing, and it matter to their parents. (sometimes more than the kids) If they’re going to put in hard work to represent our school, I will be there to cheer for them.
Be enthusiastic about every sport. Make an appearance at as many games as possible. This is easier said than done, especially towards the end of the school year. However, you need to make it a priority.
We’ve seen the effects of disinterest from the AD’s office, and trust us when we say it’s bad.
Nothing will harm your relationship with parents at your school faster than perceived apathy from the AD towards certain sports.
Another trap that I’ve fallen into a few times is caring more about a sport that I’m coaching than a sport or team that is running concurrently. For example, I have to be careful as the varsity boys basketball coach and AD when I’m working with the girls program. They deserve equal time, money, and consideration.
We’ve said many times that “perception is reality.” When it comes to working with parents, this statement is very true. Be excited and be visible. If you’re not, people will talk and it won’t be good.
Know the pulse of your parents. For the most part they fund your program and they supply your athletes. Learn how best to work with them. What better example of teamwork than seeing ADs, coaches, and parents working together for their athletes.