Episode 44 – Parents Manual

Your Sports Resource


We will dive into building your club’s parent’s manual. Setting expectations for families at the beginning of the season is crucial, yet many clubs fail to make it exciting and engaging. I will show you how to avoid this pitfall and create a captivating parent’s manual.

In this episode you will learn:

✔ What is Parent’s manual and why is this important to you and your club
✔ The various list of items that should be included in the parent’s manual
✔ Vision, Values, and Behavior (VVB)
✔ Two areas that are important in outlining your parent’s manual
✔ Swim Parent

Tool mentioned:

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00:00:03 – Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource podcast, where each week you’ll learn actionable strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization, we are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership.


Let’s get started.


Renata Porter here and I want to thank you for joining me today to talk about building your clubs’ parents manual.


I’ve been waiting to have this conversation for a few months, mainly because I want it to be timely, and right now, I know most of you have just started the summer-long course season.


And you should be considering what updates you are going to make for the kickoff of the new Year in August.


One of the most important areas for clubs to focus on is setting expectations for the families at the start of the new season, and you may already have a family or a parent meeting every year and feel like it’s a piece of cake, but I really would like for you to take a step back and consider.


What should be updated or reframed to make an impact?


Even those of you who do this well still deal with families who don’t understand how they are to work with coaches and what practice expectations are or what truly their role as a parent is in competitive swimming and what better way to really establish the expectations.


And providing up-to-date and accurate information piece than using the parent meeting at the start of the year followed up with a pretty robust parents manual.


I think way too many clubs take this opportunity too lightly. And make it boring and not exciting and engaging. And then they don’t take advantage of the mental concept of kicking things off with families in the right way.


Every person loves an opportunity for a reset, and that’s how you should view the parents’ meeting and the information you provide.


So today we’re going to talk about the parents’ manual and then maybe what should be included in the kickoff meeting.


Honestly, every club is going to approach the meeting differently, but where you shouldn’t scamp is the information, you provide to them to take home, right? Which is the manual.


So, I’m going to kick this off with listing out the various items that should be included in the manual, that will seem probably like common sense and it’s not anything that I want to elaborate on, but I’m just going to give you a list. In no particular order of what should be included in the parents’ manual.


So, you’ll want to do. You’ll start off by doing your history or your story, so a bit about the club, how you started, where you came from, anything up into this point, and you would list your current coaches and your board. You should include meet basics.


Understanding how to enter using team unify understanding or reading heat sheets, arrival times, and any other expectations, I think what would be good is maybe doing a day in the life of a meet what it looks like. I think that would be helpful to new parents.


Your group standards should be included in the parents’ manual and the requirements for moving from one group to the next, and that is a huge problem for parents who don’t understand how their kids qualify for the next group, so if you can lay that up on the parents manual, that would be great.


Anything about ordering, team gear, and supplies that should be included, and then of course your policies, right? Your code of conduct, your volunteering.


Expectations and even if you feel like you have all these items in team unified to tick off to say that they’ve read them, chances are they haven’t. So, I would make sure that I include all of these policies in the handbook. That way there’s no room for excuses.


I personally would like to see more clubs add in what the board does. Its purpose behind it and how elections work?


And then what committees are there, what they do, the purpose behind them, and then how the parents can be engaged and give back to the club? I think that would help a lot for parents.


Now keep in mind that you must write this information and the parents’ manual or handbook from the perspective of a new member, OK, they don’t know anything, so it must be clear and concise.


Well organized, so it’s easy to follow, right meets are a big stressor. So think about how to write that information and it can clear and concise way. But from the perspective of they’ve never been to a meet before, so they need to understand that.


OK, now there’s two areas that I want to dig into more deeply that I feel are important to outlining your parents’ manual and at your first kickoff meeting. And both of these directly go to the culture of your organization.


1st is the vision values and behaviors and the expectations regarding those behaviors, and the 2nd is what it means to be a great swim parent.


Now both of these I would put right up front, right behind your history and the story about your club, why?


Because this is an area that causes the most problems for a club, the culture of your organization is directly related to the caliber of coaches you have and can attract, as well as the swimmers.


It sets the trajectory of the success of the club. Keep in mind when I say success though, I’m placing in Championship meets is only a part of the puzzle.


OK, ultimately you want a great organization that families love, that they will turn around and recommend to their friends. You’re creating well-rounded, goal-oriented, steeped-in-values, young adults.


You are creating a great place to work for your employees and you’re giving families a safe haven for their children to learn and grow.


You can’t do that. At least not well if your culture is in the toilet. So again, I would start with the vision values and behaviors, and what I would do there is I would explain what they are and why they’re important to the organization.


They should understand that the values are meant for everyone, staff, volunteers, athletes, and parents.


Then I would showcase some scenarios for each of your behavior statements so they can really engage and relate to with what you’re trying to explain, so let me give you some examples.


So if you have the behavior statement of be respectful, responsible, and ready, well that can apply to swimmers and coaches. OK, so that means come prepared and ready to work.


Your bag is packed and you’re on time if you’re a swimmer. If you’re a coach practice is already written, your phone is put away and you’re on time.


Another behavior statement is growth is a journey. This is a great example for parents. Kids progress at their own pace and part of that growth involves failure.


So as a parent, don’t pressure your kids to win every race. It’s about progression overall and doing their best. And you know when they don’t well, what did they learn?


Another example of a behavior statement could be bring and share positive energy. And the example could be with the swimmers.


You know, I guess, do you have some that are kind of like brushing the line of bullying like they have a snide or negative comment to make all the time right, not bullying, but just kind of brushing that line.


Well then, correcting against this behavior statement and calling out those who live up to this are ways that you can really make this real for the families.


Now remember your values and behaviors are meant to be modeled and celebrated, so you have to call out the right behaviors consistently so they become part of your ethos.


But for the handbook, it’s good to provide the expectation and then examples of what you mean. And I would relate those examples to every member in the organization.


Don’t leave out your parents. Don’t leave out your staff. It’s not all about the swimmers.


Now the next area to include in your handbook is what it means to be a great swim parent.


I would break this down into areas like your responsibilities as a swim parent being a good role model, and helping your child enjoy swimming, and understanding their performance goals.


For example, some of the responsibilities could be for a parent. They could be to encourage their child to swim, but not pressure them.


That they need to understand their child’s goals and create an atmosphere to achieve those goals.


A lot of parents confuse their own goals as what the child wants, so it’s good to make that distinction in your handbook.


Another example of parent responsibility could be helping your child meet the responsibilities and rules of the team.


For being a good role model, this is about understanding what and how you say things on deck or before and after a meet really matters, and it’s not all about what you say, but the nonverbal messages too.


If the swimmer tried their best right and it just didn’t work in their favor. Well, they can read that disappointment on a parent, so you need to explain that.


Also how that parent speaks to other families and behaves towards the coaches the child sees, and if it’s negative, what can’t be a do as I say, not as I do. Again, put it in the handbook.


Quite honestly, we shouldn’t have to put these things in writing, but in this day and age, unfortunately, we do. So it’s important to outline what it means to be a good role model.


As far as the performance statements I made, understanding what performance goals are really just simply means that the goals are established by the coach. And the swimmer their child, right?


So they are based on swimmer improvement not placing first. This is a big hurdle for a lot of parents, right? They jump to comparing their child to other children.


Like why did you let them beat you? They out-touched you. How come you didn’t get first right? Or I’ve even seen some parents compare their children to themselves when they were younger.


Yeah, you know, like, well, when I was your age, I was doing X in this event. So none of that is really good and they have to understand that performance goals are established by the coach and the swimmer, and they are for them to achieve.


If you go on the Your Sports Resource website under tools, you’ll find a tool called “How to Excel at Being a Swim Parent.


We’ve listed out this information and a lot more. It’s 11 pages of information that breaks down what I’ve discussed. But it also gives you what to expect from a coach.


What are the coaches responsibilities and a bunch of other items, so please take this and download it and pull off pieces that you like and use it for yourself.


Or just take the whole thing and just give it to your parents. Use it to suit your needs. That’s why we build these tools, right?


So take from it what you like or take it all whatever you want, but they’re there for you to use.


Now for these two culture areas that I’m asking you to put up front in the parents’ manual, you may want to follow these sections directly with your code of conduct policy.


Your safe sport policy and any other policies that you have that pertain to expectations and as a bit of a side note, you really need to develop your processes for correction.


So do you give warnings and are they documented and given to the head coach and the parents? How many warnings before they are made, the swimmer is made to sit out, and what constitutes a removal?


So if this process hasn’t been formulated by your club yet, please do it immediately. That just protects you and your staff and the organization overall when problems arise. And you should include this process in your code of conduct.


Now if you have all this and you aren’t following it, that’s going to put you in hot water. So that needs to be corrected.


OK, if you aren’t doing a parents manual, or if it’s gotten a bit stale, or if you have one you’d like, but you’re noticing that you’re starting to have some behavior issues from the parents and volunteering or from the swimmers, I hope you take my thoughts into consideration.


The best way to ensure your members are successful and ensure that you protect the culture of your organization is to set expectations from the start and that begins with the Parents Handbook.


And then what you choose to talk to them about at the yearly kickoff meeting. If I were you, I’d make it about your vision values, and behaviors, because everything else is easy. Once you have that down.


Thank you for listening and please subscribe rate and review this podcast so we can reach more people such as yourself.


Also, don’t forget to download the “Excelling as a Swim Parent” tool on yoursportsresource.com. Thanks for spending time with me.