Strategize for First Parent Meeting

November 12, 2014

By Scott Westfall

MSU Institute for the Study of Youth Sports 

Coaches often cite parents as one of the most uncontrollable and frustrating aspects of coaching. 

Let’s face it, when this relationship goes south, there can be pent-up frustration and hard feelings between the two parties which can result in a negative experience for everyone involved – especially the player who often is caught in the middle.

Establishing positive relationships with parents should happen from the moment you stand in front of them at your annual parent meeting. 

Throughout this meeting parents will be asking themselves: “Can I trust this coach with my child?” “Will this coach be fair in his/her decisions?” and “Will this coach always have my child’s best intentions in mind?” 

In order to put them at ease, you must do everything possible to establish yourself as a person of integrity who is altruistic and 100 percent trustworthy. Below is a coaching checklist that will help you establish trust and credibility with your team’s parents:

  • Transparency – Do things openly and share information as much as possible. If something bad happens on your team, be sure that you do not sweep it under the rug. Be open and consistent with your decisions, and always follow through on what you say you are going to do.

  • Demonstrate Respect – Be polite and sincere with parents and let your actions show that you care. Sometimes the little things you do will resonate louder than the big things.

  • List Expectations – Have high expectations for the conduct of both the players and parents in your program. List these expectations, distribute them, and then talk about them with the parents. Meanwhile, let them know what they can expect from you in return (proper dress attire, appropriate language, great sportsmanship, impeccable conduct, proper treatment of game officials, etc.).

  • Express Loyalty – As often as possible, be sure to praise your players, assistants, and the people associated with your program. Be sure that you never take credit for other people’s work, and remember to use the word “we” as often as possible.

  • Be Accountable – This means taking the blame for bad results– even when it wasn’t necessarily your mistake. Admitting when something goes wrong on your watch doesn’t mean that you are a bad coach or you’ve lost control of your program. True leaders are accountable for the mistakes that happen in their programs.

  • Deliver Results – This is not necessarily wins and losses. Instead, deliver results on the things that really matter, such as developing a respectable team, coaching players with all passing grades and having players who do not get into trouble or break the law.

No parent meeting would be complete without a healthy dose of paperwork. To make it easier for parents to keep these papers organized, try to color-coordinate the forms and go over them slowly one at a time. Below are the basic documents you should supply at the parent meeting (Note: Try to also have these documents accessible on your team’s website):

  • Coaching Philosophy – Drafting a coaching philosophy will allow parents to better understand who you are and the reasons why you coach. In this document, be sure to include your fundamental beliefs along with your personal approach to coaching. (Note: Be honest in this section – Do not advertise yourself as one type of coach, but then act like another.) Include a lot of “I statements” such as, “I coach for the purpose of teaching life lessons,” “I believe that student comes before athlete,” and, “I am demanding but never demeaning.” Developing and drafting a coaching philosophy not only gives parents insight into you and your program, but also gives you an opportunity to reflect upon why you do things the way you do.

  • Team Policies – This is perhaps the most important document you will distribute to your team’s parents. It should list all team rules pertaining to player conduct, grades, eligibility, attendance, discipline, communication, and of course playing time! Include statements such as, “Playing time is earned – not given,” “All decisions will be made based on what is best for the team,” and, “If you have a problem, please talk to the coach.” Inform parents that student-athletes will receive equal opportunities but not equal things. These opportunities include instruction, off-season strength and conditioning programs, and support for their classes. How well student-athletes take advantage of these opportunities (attendance, focus, effort, attitude, and self-discipline) often dictates their levels of success. (Note: Before distributing this document, make sure that your school’s administration/athletic director supports your team policies 100 percent).

  • Student-Athlete Character Contract – While many schools have had an athletic code of conduct in place for years, teams today are including an additional written set of norms for players to follow. A character contract outlines how players agree to conduct themselves as a person, student, and athlete. If you want to create more buy-in, consider drafting this contract each season with your players!

  • Parent Pledge Form – This document establishes the expectations you have for the parents in your program. Be sure that you include expectations for their conduct at games, having a positive disposition around the team, the treatment of players on your team along with the treatment of your opponents, letting the coaches coach, and how to act toward game officials.

  • Team Calendar – Be sure to include detailed information on the times and locations of all practices, team events, games, and places that players need to be. If changes are made to the team calendar throughout the course of the season, be sure you inform parents through several forms of communication (a printed note sent home, an announcement on the team website, email list, social media, etc.).

  • Athletic Physicals – While most doctors’ offices have a copy of these blank forms on hand, it is convenient for parents to have access to them through your school.

  • Athletic Fees (if you are in a “pay for play” district) – Some districts have a mandatory athletic participation fee, while other districts do not. Some districts have a waiver form for students who are on free/reduced lunch. In any of these cases, make sure that you are on top of this information so you can properly inform your team’s parents at the meeting.

  • Conflict Resolution – The occasional conflict is almost inevitable while working in an emotionally charged environment such as athletics. However, conflicts can often be avoided or at least more easily resolved through proper forms of communication.

1. Inform parents that you are always willing to listen to their concerns; let them know that you would prefer they address an issue with you, rather than taking their frustrations to the next game and venting to anybody in the bleachers who is willing to listen.

2. In in your team documents consider a statement such as, “The best tool we have in our relationship is an open line of communication. My door is always open, and so is my mind.”

3. Finally, be sure to let them know that if they are upset about something to not send it through email. Email is good for information, but not communication. Try to communicate and resolve conflicts in person as much as possible.

Once you have established trust and credibility with your team’s parents, you can start building the relationship. Caution: Building a relationship with your team’s parents is not developing close friendships with them. Becoming close friends with parents can actually lead to bigger problems as you open yourself to criticism of playing favorites. 

Instead, build working relationships, generated through mutual respect and understanding for each other’s position in the quest of helping the young individual become a successful student-athlete. These working relationships help parents understand their optimal level of involvement, such as where and how they can fit into your program. Below are some tips for building working relationships with parents:

  • Learn their names and where they work.

  • Learn what the family likes to do when they are outside of the school setting.

  • Invite them to a team event such as a team picnic, fundraiser, or team trip.

  • Ask parents for help with certain jobs. Many parents appreciate being asked to help with team functions as it gives them an opportunity to get to know other parents and makes them feel like they matter.

  • Call them at least once per season to say hello, report on their child’s progress, and ask if there is anything you can do to be of assistance.

  • Offer additional support for their child. Helping the student-athlete outside of coaching with things such as academics and typical teen issues shows that you care.

  • Offer support to the parents as well. If they are struggling to get a message across to their child, oftentimes a coach sending or reinforcing the same message makes all the difference. As a coach you hold a powerful platform with your student-athletes; use it to help with their development and maturity whenever possible.

Establishing yourself as a trustworthy and credible coach is the first step in getting parents to buy into your program. Meanwhile, providing parents with sufficient information will help them feel like you are keeping them informed and want them as a partner in your program. 

Creating working relationships with parents takes time, but will be the cornerstone in establishing a positive experience for the years their children are involved with your program. While some parents may have a different background or mindset, listing your expectations will help them better understand your team’s culture and how they can fit in. If done right, these positive working relationships should alleviate much of your coaching frustration and pay tremendous dividends in the future.

Scott Westfall previously spent 10 years as a teacher, coach, and athletic director in Fort Collins, Colo. He currently is working on his Doctorate at Michigan State University, with an emphasis in Sport Psychology and Athletic Administration, and assisting the MHSAA with its student leadership programs. Westfall is a former athlete who participated in football, wrestling, tennis and cross country at the high school level, and rugby at the collegiate level. He can be reached at [email protected]

2023 WISL Award Honoree Glass Continuing to Create Leaders On Court & Off

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 2, 2023

Hailing from one of Michigan’s smallest communities, Laurie Glass has made an impact that continues to connect all over Michigan.

But her impact on women’s athletics began long before a career that has seen the longtime Leland volleyball coach become one of the winningest in her sport in state history.

As a high school junior in 1976, she recruited seven classmates and a coach to form Leland’s first girls sports team – for basketball – and the same group then played volleyball that winter. She was a senior and major contributor when, during their second season, the Comets won the 1978 Class D volleyball championship.

More than four decades later, Glass is a Michigan legend in that sport – a winner of 1,218 matches with Leland and Traverse City Central and three Finals championships with the Comets. She’s also a nationally-recognized voice in volleyball and women’s athletics as a whole – and this year’s MHSAA Women in Sports Leadership honoree for those many and continuing contributions.

“Because I’m a teacher and coach, that’s my desire to help the youth be the best they could be. And if I can impact a coach or impact another district or program, that means I’m affecting more youth in a positive way,” Glass said. “So for me, it’s just the ripple effect; it gets a lot bigger when I’m starting little drops in other places. So I can affect the hundreds of kids that I’ve seen go through Leland, or I can impact the larger audience by impacting coaches or impacting kids in other places that can then impact other people. It allows me a wider audience for wanting to help young women to be their best young woman self in however way I can make that happen.”

Each year, the Representative Council considers the achievements of women coaches, officials and athletic administrators affiliated with the MHSAA who show exemplary leadership capabilities and positive contributions to athletics.

Leland finished 49-13 this past season and reached the Division 4 Quarterfinals. Glass has a record of 1,218-393-122 over more than three decades as a varsity volleyball coach, having led the Comets for a combined 29 seasons over three tenures, the first beginning with the 1989-90 winter season and later picking up with her most recent return for Fall 2010. She also coached Traverse City Central for four seasons beginning in 1991-92.

Glass passes the championship trophy to her team after the Comets won the 2015 Class D title.Glass led Leland to Class D Finals championships in 2002, 2006 and 2015, and runner-up finishes in Class D in 2014 and Division 4 in 2018 and 2019. She was named to the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) Hall of Fame in 2006, and selected as national Coach of the Year in volleyball in 2014 by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association. She’s a three-time MIVCA Coach of the Year and was named Michigan High School Coaches Association (MHSCA) Coach of the Year for volleyball in 2015. She also was a finalist for National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) national Coach of the Year in 2014. 

Glass has spoken multiple times at the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Conference and several times at the MIVCA Coaches Clinic, and among various other engagements was the featured speaker at the Nebraska Athletic Association Coaches Clinic. She will receive the Women In Sports Leadership Award during the MHSAA Division 1 Girls Basketball Final on March 18 at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

“Laurie Glass is recognized most on the statewide level for leading one of the most successful volleyball programs in state history. But she is known among her peers most for the way she teaches not only volleyball but life skills to her athletes,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Her leadership creates more leaders, be they the athletes who have the opportunity to play for her or the coaches who learn from her and receive her mentorship.”   

Glass’ roots are in one of the most accomplished athletic families in Michigan high school history.

Her father Larry Glass coached Northwestern University’s men’s basketball program from 1963-69, and later took over the Leland girls basketball program and led the Comets to a 388-110 record and three straight Class D Finals championships (1980-82) over two tenures from 1977-91 and 2000-05. Laurie’s sister Rebecca McKee played basketball at Leland and Michigan State University, and her brother Michael Glass played basketball at Lansing Community College before also becoming a high school and college coach.

Laurie also coached and parented arguably the most accomplished volleyball player – and perhaps top female athlete across all sports – in Michigan high school history. Her daughter Alisha Glass-Childress graduated from Leland in 2006 with national records for career kills, aces and blocks, and the first two still top those respective lists. Alisha, also an all-state basketball player, went on to star on the volleyball court at Penn State and as the U.S. Olympic team setter in 2016 in helping that team to the bronze medal.

Larry Glass’ lessons still ring true as Laurie passes them on to another generation. One of her favorite sayings from her father was “you can’t take money out of the bank until you put money in” – in essence, a coach can’t expect athletes to accept criticism or a hard ask if that coach first hasn’t invested in them. Another of her dad’s themes involved making sure players learned fundamentals at young ages and improved on them at all levels, whether they won games or not during those early years. As one of his middle school coaches, that stuck with her, and it remains a basic component of her coaching.

“I’ve always said that we compete with teams that are way more athletic, have all the things on paper that should beat us. And the fact that we know how to be a really good team is what allows us to beat people who on paper should be better than us,” Laurie Glass said. “I’ve always valued the time spent on culture and team because that’s the advantage we hold. We’re never going to be the tallest or most talented – Alisha being the anomaly, of course.”

Laurie Glass has served on the MIVCA Executive Board, including as president, and is a member of the MHSCA and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). Locally, her program annually hosts the Forever Dig Abby match in honor of former player Abby Gross, who died after a fight against cancer in 2015. Proceeds most years go to benefit another community member battling the disease, and this past season went to a fund for efforts related to ovarian cancer.  

Glass has served nearly 35 years in education and retired from her duties as a behavior intervention specialist and special education teacher in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District in 2019. She has returned to the school setting, however, and is in her second year as a behavior intervention specialist at Leland.

Glass earned a bachelor’s degree in special education with an endorsement in emotional impairment from Western Michigan University in 1988, and has done master-level coursework in education administration and technology. She also is a certified instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute. Glass first attended Grand Valley State University and played a season of volleyball before transferring. (NOTE: Glass also coached the Kalamazoo Central varsity for two seasons during the mid-1980s. Those records are unavailable currently but will be added to her overall record when research is complete.)

Past Women In Sports Leadership Award Winners

1990 – Carol Seavoy, L’Anse 
1991 – Diane Laffey, Harper Woods
1992 – Patricia Ashby, Scotts
1993 – Jo Lake, Grosse Pointe
1994 – Brenda Gatlin, Detroit
1995 – Jane Bennett, Ann Arbor
1996 – Cheryl Amos-Helmicki, Huntington Woods
1997 – Delores L. Elswick, Detroit
1998 – Karen S. Leinaar, Delton
1999 – Kathy McGee, Flint 
2000 – Pat Richardson, Grass Lake
2001 – Suzanne Martin, East Lansing
2002 – Susan Barthold, Kentwood
2003 – Nancy Clark, Flint
2004 – Kathy Vruggink Westdorp, Grand Rapids 
2005 – Barbara Redding, Capac
2006 – Melanie Miller, Lansing
2007 – Jan Sander, Warren Woods
2008 – Jane Bos, Grand Rapids
2009 – Gail Ganakas, Flint; Deb VanKuiken, Holly
2010 – Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2011 – Ellen Pugh, West Branch; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2012 – Janet Gillette, Comstock Park
2013 – Barbara Beckett, Traverse City
2014 – Teri Reyburn, DeWitt
2015 – Jean LaClair, Bronson
2016 – Betty Wroubel, Pontiac
2017 – Dottie Davis, Ann Arbor
2018 – Meg Seng, Ann Arbor
2019 – Kris Isom, Adrian
2020 – Nikki Norris, East Lansing
2021 – Dorene Ingalls, St. Ignace
2022 – Lori Hyman, Livonia

PHOTOS (Top) Leland coach Laurie Glass confers with one of her players during the 2019 Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Glass passes the championship trophy to her team after the Comets won the 2015 Class D title.