Getting your team together for the first time is always an exciting time, and one filled with excitement, anticipation and energy.
So make sure you cover all the bases during that very first team meeting.
Holding a season-starting team meeting is probably something you’ve done lots of times. That is, if you’ve been coaching a long time. But, whether you’re a coaching rookie, or a seasoned veteran, that very first team meeting sets the stage for your year. If you do it right, you’re able to avoid a lot of pitfalls and misunderstandings that can trip you up later on in the season.
When holding your first team meeting of the season it’s always best to invite all the members of your team. So depending on your level, it might mean players, parents and coaches. Or it could mean players, coaches and trainers if you’re a college team. Whatever your bigger “team” consists of is who should be at this meeting.
So let’s take a look at the main topics you need to cover when you hold that season-starting team meeting:
1. Team Objectives – Basically, this is where you tell everyone what is it you’re working for this season. Sure, you want to win, but get more specific. Do you want to win no matter what, if so then you need to let everyone know that only the best 9 players will play. Or, is your goal to help your players improve their skills which means that everyone will play every game. Your season goals will vary greatly depending on the age and skill level of your team. Don’t just assume that all the players on your team and all of their parents know what your vision for the season is. Lay it out for them in the team meeting so that anyone who isn’t on-board with your plan can have time to leave. This also gives everyone a clear sense of how the season will go regarding your decisions.
2. Team Rules – This will be the guts of your meeting, where you outline your expectations. You’ll want to have spent a lot of time before this meeting creating your policies and expectations, and also, what penalties you’ll assign to what behaviors. Be sure you’ve met with your assistants so that all of you are united in this area. Some of the things you’ll want to cover include the following:
- Missed Games (what’s allowable and what’s not)
- Missed Practices (in addition to what’s allowable vs not allowable you’ll want to include how many practices can be missed without a more severe penalty. If you coach a youth team you’ll want to take into account that your players can’t drive themselves and are therefore at the mercy of their parent’s schedule).
- Cell Phone Use (this is a big one! When can your players have their cells phones with them and on, and when are no cell phones allowed!).
- Behavior Standards (this includes how your players and parents behave during practice and games, as well as during school, on the bus, or during team travel. What do you expect and what are the penalties for violation).
- Grades (while this certainly applies to a school team, you might also talk about grades for a travel team. What are you asking of them – a certain grade point average in order to play, or no C’s or below? Whatever your policy make sure it works for all your players so you don’t back yourself into a corner you can’t get out of).
- Dress Standards – (how your team looks is always a representation of them, you and your team, so insist that they look appropriate – and that includes you and your coaching staff)
- Uniforms – shirts tucked in or not? What can they wear when they take off their cleats? Think about the details and have a plan for them.
- Practice gear – whether you provide it or not, have it spelled out what is acceptable and what is not.
- Travel clothes – if your team ever travels to play then make sure you outline what everyone is supposed to wear.
3. Team Schedule – While you’ve no doubt spent a ton of time creating your team’s schedule, it will be news to your players and parents, so spell things out so everyone can plan. Make sure you provide schedules for all the activities your team will be having, includingGames, Practices and Conditioning (if applicable).
4. Practice Location(s) – Where will the practices be held? In today’s smartphone/GPS world all you need to provide are addresses so everyone can make sure they find your practices and games.
5. Parent Involvement – Here’s where you can really help make the season more enjoyable, by laying out the acceptable and non-acceptable behavior and involvement for parents. Give lots of time and thought to what parents can and can’t do for each of the following:
- Road Trips
- Playing Questions
6. Expenses – How much is everything going to cost? Playing sports is expensive and not every family has the same ability to pay, so make sure you’ve thought about a Plan B for those kids whose families might be struggling – you still want that kid to be able to play.
7. Complaint Procedures – As much as we’d love to have a complaint-free season, we know that just doesn’t happen. So be sure to outline the process that players and parents can take if they disagree with a decision you’ve made – including what decisions are complain-able and which ones aren’t and how someone goes about having that discussion with you.
8. Other – Wrap up the meeting by taking questions so you can be sure everyone leaves feeling a part of the team instead of an inmate in your prison. I also know lots of coaches that actually tell the parents the signals during the team meeting. They insist on a vow of secrecy, but the main reason for this is to show the parents that you don’t have signals for “striking out with the bases loaded” , or “not swinging on a Hit & Run”, or “popping up a bunt”… that there is always a difference between strategy and execution.
Playing on a softball team is a big commitment. It takes a lot of time and attention over the course of months from the coaches, players and parents for a team to have a successful season. Starting off on the right foot is a great way to not only minimize problems down the road, but to lay the groundwork for everyone’s behaviors and expectations. People can’t read your mind about how you expect them to act and behave, so hold a great team meeting and don’t leave anything to chance!
For more help with this topic, check out the following:
- eClinics: ePackage 007 – Softball Excellence Coaching Certification Online Courses – Level 1 thru Level 7
- Book:The Ultimate Softball Practice Guide
- eBook: The Ultimate Softball Practice Guide
- eClinic: Everything You Need To Know About Holding a Great Tryout
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