By Teresa Burrows
Communication is vital to the success of every program. Conducting pre-season athletic parent/player meetings alleviates misunderstandings within the athletic department, parents, individual sports teams and coaches.
At Galena High School (Reno, Nevada), the athletic department conducts pre-season meetings for the three seasons and requires each individual program to conduct a parent meeting prior to the start of its season. This strategy has been effective for disseminating information with regard to the athletic department and individual sports teams. The meetings provide an opportunity to review athletic policies, procedures and expectations, and the roles of the coach, player and parent within the structure of the program.
The individual sports meetings cover topics that pertain to the respective sport – player conduct, behavior, language, safety procedures, team guidelines, lettering requirements, travel plans and rules, booster club participation, fund raising for the season, and expectations for the individual program for its season. These topics and more are covered in an individual sports program meeting with parents after the general meeting. All coaches are asked to reinforce the communication procedures, the drug/alcohol policy and sportsmanship.
The main objective of these meetings is to provide information and to be a resource for players and parents. We have a very supportive parent group within each of our individual programs, as well as the entire athletic department. The annual meetings reinforce the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA, the governing body of our state), school district and athletic department policies and regulations. In addition, the meetings provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together and start the season off in a professional manner with consistent and accurate information.
The first order of business is to discuss the roles of the system of athletics in the state. A brief description of each component within athletics for our state and their responsibilities within high school athletics is provided. State association rules, regulations and policies, as well as the district policies, are discussed. The majority of the meeting is spent on how those rules and policies apply to our school. Then the roles of all the stakeholders – players, parents, coaches, officials and the athletic administration – are reviewed.
The second point of emphasis is the communication procedure for players and parents. Communication is expected to be honest and respectful with the coach, student-athlete and parents. The communication steps are to first encourage the student-athlete to communicate with the coach regarding the issue. If the issue is not solved, then the second step is for the parents to communicate with the coach with the student-athlete present. The third step is for the athletic administration (administrator and director) to meet with the coach, player and parents to discuss the issue.
If these three steps have not resolved the issue, then the principal would be involved in the process, as well as the district coordinator of student activities. If the parent calls, the first question is “Has the coach been contacted?” The goal is to have the student-athlete advocate for his/her issue and to build communication skills, as well as character.
Safety is a No. 1 priority for any athletic program, so this is an important topic to discuss with parents. There is a requirement for every athlete to have a physical on file and renewed every two years. In addition, each athlete must have insurance coverage in order to play sports. All athletes also have an ImPact Baseline Concussion test prior to starting their athletic career.
The procedure for any athlete who suffers a concussion is also covered as well as the requirements for returning to action. We are fortunate to have an athletic trainer on campus during all varsity events. When the trainer is not available, the game manager is next in charge to implement the emergency plan to cover all injuries during sporting events. Our association requires each coach to be CPR- and first aid-certified in order to coach at any level for high school athletics.
Other topics covered at the meeting include academic requirements – what makes a student- athlete eligible and the monitoring of student-athletes during their season with three-week grade checks. All academic requirements are covered, from the minimum grade-point average to the number of courses required each semester, as well as the minimum amount of time a student-athlete must be in class prior to an athletic event.
Another topic that is reviewed is the NIAA Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Possession, Use, Abuse and Penalties Policies. These policies focus on the athlete adhering to the training rules and being able to perform at his or her top level without the interference of any type of substance. After showing the video, the first, second and third consequences of the policy and the education component are reviewed, followed by a time for questions from the parents.
The NIAA’s Citizenship Through Sports program, with an emphasis on sportsmanship and the “six pillars of character,” is reviewed with players and parents. The roles of the participants in an athletic contest are discussed. The expectation is to allow the player to play the game and understand that mistakes are going to be made. Coaches are there to coach the team and make adjustments as needed. Let the officials officiate and understand they are there to do a job, and the parent’s role is to support their child, the team and to enjoy the contest.
Student-athletes and their parents are also informed on the requirements of the NCAA Eligibility Center to assist those who believe they have the potential to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level. Useful links and resources that are available for their family are provided.
The last topic of the meeting is getting involved with the school-wide booster club, as well as for the individual teams that have an organized booster club. To help ensure the parents’ involvement in the athletic program, information is provided on the season-ticket policy for the year and how to purchase an athletic pass.
A well planned pre-season meeting accomplishes several goals. Making the contact with players, parents, coaches and the administration begins the relationship and helps foster cooperation. The meetings also provide the opportunity to distribute accurate information to all stakeholders and prevent a great deal of misunderstandings and conflicts during the season. Both the pre-season all sports and individual meetings have been a great way to educate our players and parents.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teresa Burrows is athletic director at Galena High School in Reno, Nevada.