The pre-season meeting

It is very important to have a pre-season meeting with both parents and players.

This is your first and most important opportunity to discuss your soccer coaching philosophy and codes of conduct and maybe your only chance to explain team rules in a non-confrontational setting (before any discipline is needed), and to recruit volunteers to help you with administrative tasks.

Skip this first meeting at your peril!! If the first time that some bossy parent has any contact with you is on Game Day when your team is getting pounded, and this parent tries to “help” you by yelling at the kids or standing beside you to offer “helpful” suggestions, you will be very sorry that you did not lay out your game-day ground rules early.

And when little Johnny doesn’t show up for 4 practices running, doesn’t call, and then appears on game-day without shin-pads and no kit (and Mum is furious that he’s on the subs bench), you will be very sorry that you had not given out team rules which covered mandatory equipment or your expectations on attendance.

We are not kidding when we suggest that this is probably the most important meeting which your team will have for the entire season. So, plan it carefully; get organized; and do your best to make an excellent first impression.

Where To Have The Meeting

You will need about 30-45 minutes to go over the items which you want to cover, so you want your “audience” to be comfortable. There are many places where you might consider holding your meeting. Libraries often have meeting rooms available. Churches also may make their meeting facilities open to outside groups. In addition, cafeterias often have meeting rooms, as do many family-oriented restaurants. Of course, your home is also an option if your team is not very large.

When To Have The Meeting

Families are always busy and it can be hard to find a time when everyone can attend. It’s hard to set out general rules: use your own judgement in trying to find a moment when most people are likely to be free. In some places, Sunday afternoon may be the only unclaimed time in the schedule of many families, so around 4pm on Sunday can be an excellent time to hold this type of meeting. Mondays and Tuesday evenings frequently are slow times for restaurants, and often may be less hectic for families.

Scheduling around 7 pm allows the family to eat first if they want, or to decide to eat at the restaurant. Try to avoid times when parents who also have other kids may need to take them to other activities.

What To Cover At The Meeting

Here is a sample agenda for a preseason meeting, which addresses the common topics to be covered in the meeting.

  • Introductions

First of all, introduce yourself and your assistants (if any) to the parents. Most parents like to hear something about your background and your philosophy of coaching, especially as it impinges on their own child, so you may want to say something about how much playing time each player can expect.

It’s also a good idea to go around the room and ask parents to introduce themselves and say which player they’re related to. Some of the parents may know one another well, others may not, and they’ll be seeing quite a bit of one another!

You may also want to pass around a sign-in sheet and ask people to put their name and phone number on it; this can be useful later to see who was present at the meeting and to check phone numbers.

  • Discussion of plans for the team
  • Need for every player to do soccer homework between practices.
  • Expectations for player development by end of season.
  • Expectations for win/loss record by end of season.
  • Need by team for volunteers (Calling trees, assistants, etc.).

You may want to set up a parent committee if there are matters such as fundraising or carpooling to be handled that are outside your jurisdiction. If possible, it’s a good idea for this committee to be appointed on the spot and meet for a few minutes to get to know one another.

  • Team Kits/Team Name
  • Any Equipment needs of team (nets, goals, etc.) and fundraisers needed to obtain these items.
  • Special Skills Clinics
  • Issue of medical consent forms or – better still – a handbook that contains all the forms a parent needs
  • Questions/Answers

Tips On Making The Meeting Run Smoothly

Many parents will want to go ahead and fill out the questionnaires at the meeting, so bring plenty of pencils/pens. Young players tend to get fidgety, so try to talk to them as much as you can. Bring a sack of candy or little treats (pencils, stickers, etc.), and start asking questions like “Why do you suppose that I want you to call me if you cannot come to practice?” – and toss a piece of candy to the people who answer correctly. Don’t hesitate to reward parents, as well – they will get a kick out of this.

If kits are to be purchased by the team, try to get some samples (for sizes) from your kit provider – and have a signup sheet for kits once you have selected which ones you want. Some coaches like to pick the team kit and name ahead of time – but kids enjoy this part so much that it really is a good idea to let them participate.

Some parents may be divorced, so bring extra questionnaires, rosters and game schedules to the meeting for the other parent. If you note that the parents are divorced, make a mental note to check with the parent attending the meeting with the child about custody problems (including who is allowed to pick up the child after practice). This can save a lot of arguments later.

Be sure to go over the Team Rules, and your expectations for parental behaviour (especially at games). While being friendly, be firm that you expect that parents will not yell at kids on the field or yell at referees – and that the ONLY talk that you want to see is positive (good try, nice save, etc.). Remind parents that children perform worse if distracted or harshly criticized, so you really need their cooperation. Also remind them that refs are usually inexperienced themselves at lower age groups, and often will make mistakes. However, if we yell at the refs, we can make the ref more rattled, or get the ref mad at the team, or even might convince the kids that the ref is against them, which tends to make players want to stop trying or say/do bad things to the refs themselves (which can get the kids in really hot water) – so you expect the parents to set a good example of sportsmanship for the team.

If you are going to take a long-term approach toward player development, and move players around (instead of locking players into single positions to increase your win/loss record), tell the parents why you have chosen this route. Explain how you define “winning”, and what your approach towards player development will be. Of course, there may be some parents who really want their child on a hyper-competitive team. By giving them early warning of your approach, this allows them to talk to the club about moving to a different team (which may be best for all concerned).

Some coaches haven’t done much public speaking, and may be nervous about talking (especially if they have never coached soccer before – and are not sure what they are doing). As an old college professor used to say, “There is a big difference between ignorance and stupidity – one is curable.” Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and to admit that you are learning by OJT. If you are trying hard, and doing your best to be fair and make learning fun, most kids and most parents will give you the benefit of the doubt. So, try to relax; get prepared for the meeting ahead of time; ask some questions yourself to get the kids/parents talking; and enjoy. It is going to be a fun year!