Dear Parents Of Kids In Organized Group Activities,

Hi! First let me say I did not say “organized sports” in the title of this entry because I spent four years with a kid active in a very high-budget high school theater program and all of this relates to those years as well. As a matter of fact, those years is when I learned the most about how parents of kids in activities behave, as I was the receiver of many of the complaints, so take my words from experience. Also? I’ve been a parent of a kid in organized group activities for 18 years now. I HAVE LEARNED A LOT.

NOTE: These are for typical experiences in public schools and recreation leagues. I have no idea what things are like in elite programs that either A) cost a lot of money or B) require “tryouts” to assure only the top skilled kids can participate.

  1. Most of the people you deal with in an organization are volunteers. Team Parents, Costumers, Concessions managers, sometimes even coaches are volunteers. I recommend sending ANY message that might hint of criticism to a volunteer by STARTING and ENDING with a “thank you for your service” type of message.
  2. The few in any organization that DO get paid are not getting paid ENOUGH for how many hours they are putting into this. Example, teachers in a high school do get paid, but they put in HUNDREDS of extra hours for performances that they are not paid extra for. Coaches who get paid usually get paid less than minimum wage if you break it down by the hours they actually put in. NOW – I know in some parts of the country high school football coaches are the exception to the rule – but in my experience no “paid” coach or teacher has ever made more than minimum wage if you factor in the hours they ACTUALLY put in outside of practices/rehearsals/games. So I recommend sending any message that might hint of criticism STARTING and ENDING with a “thank you for your service” type of message.
  3. Weather sucks. Especially if you are in the South where pop-up thunderstorms can’t be predicted. Please be aware that there is NEVER A TIME TO CANCEL PRACTICE OR GAMES THAT WILL MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY. I’ve been in Facebook groups with parents that complain if practice is canceled too early (“But it’s so early! It could clear off!”) and if practice had been canceled too late. (“I really wish you had canceled earlier so we wouldn’t have started heading over.”) So if you have an instinct to comment on that? Don’t. Just trust the people that you have put in charge of your children and if it sucks for your life that day? Just know if they had done it a different way it would have sucked for someone else.
  4. Everyone has different ideal ways to communicate. Some people like Facebook pages. Some people like texts. Some people like email. Some people like apps like GroupMe. PLEASE TRY TO AVOID SUGGESTING NEW WAYS IN THE MIDDLE OF A SEASON. Especially if you are on something HUGE like a swim team or a musical theater production. Our swim team did great at practice updates using email and Facebook. Even as someone who does not have Facebook on her phone or work at a desk where I have easy access to email, I just made sure to check it 20 minutes before practice or closer of the weather looked sketchy. AND YET…people are now insisting the group ALSO use GroupMe which is one EXTRA thing now the coaches and managers have to deal with that they already don’t have time to do. If you REALLY think something would be better, propose it as a discussion for the NEXT season. Trying to change things up or add new things in the middle of the season is such a headache. TRUST ME. I AM WATCHING THE HEADACHE UNFOLD RIGHT NOW. It is not a good time to troubleshoot a communication tool in the middle of a season.
  5. Make sure you have fulfilled your volunteer obligations before your criticize ANYTHING. I mean, ANYTHING. If you have a really good excuse NOT to volunteer, maybe ask a different family member to bring snacks to a game for you, or to wrangle a relay team, or to sew a costume. If you can not volunteer and can not send anyone in your place then know that your criticisms need to be balanced out with AT LEAST 10 compliments. As a parent who has been exhausted volunteering, it’s REALLY hard to hear criticisms by someone who does nothing. NO MATTER HOW GOOD THEIR EXCUSE IS. One time I had a Mom helping me do makeup at a show with the drainage bags attached to her from her double mastectomy. SHE HAD TO PAUSE TO EMPTY THEM. So, yeah, I have a hard time offering any excuse to not volunteer after that. But if you honestly can’t volunteer then make sure you thank/compliment the volunteers enough that when you DO have to complain, it will be taken better.
  6. Please keep your perspective if you don’t love your coach or director or leader. We’ve had a wide range of them over the 18 years we’ve parented kids in group activities. If you are doing affordable activities (We have never done more elite things like travel sports or excessively expensive activities like dance) then you’re going to get affordable staffing. That’s just the brunt of it. So if you have someone great…MAKE SURE YOU TELL THEM THAT 100 TIMES. If you have someone you think is bad? Well…let me give you our truly bad experience: We had a soccer coach who cursed regularly (our child was on a rec team for 10 year olds), who got kicked out of games by referees, got involved in a domestic incident during a game once, and eventually was kicked out of the ball park and banned indefinitely. KEEP YOUR PERSPECTIVES ACCORDINGLY. If you have someone bad? Ask yourself, “Is this coach still allowed at the ballpark?” and if your answer is, “Yes!” then you are better off than we were one season.
  7. Trust me on this: THESE PARENTS AND VOLUNTEERS AND COACHES AND DIRECTORS GET SO MANY COMPLAINTS. You may never hear it but every season they’ll hear from some parent who is upset about something regularly. Practice is too late, their kid is playing in the wrong position, they can’t check their email before events, they hate the uniforms, SOMETHING IS ALWAYS BEING COMPLAINED ABOUT. So before you join the chorus, really make sure your complaint is needed and that it is not just a reflex from a temporary frustration.
  8. This is the MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Every time you think something nice about someone working with your kid’s organization, TELL THEM. Tell them EVERY SINGLE TIME no matter how small. I sent an email this morning telling our swim team manager that I loved her emails. They’re formatted PERFECTLY. So I told her. If you like the uniforms, tell the person who chose them because they CERTAINLY heard from the parent who hated them. If you like that they have healthy stuff at the concessions TELL THEM! Because they’ve heard 100 complaints about what they DO NOT HAVE. If you love how your coach is with your kid? TELL THEM. Because at least one parent has told them them opposite. GIVE OUT COMPLIMENTS LIKE OPRAH GIVES OUT CARS…TO EVERYONE!

3 thoughts on “Dear Parents Of Kids In Organized Group Activities,”

  1. You are 100% spot on on this!Volunteers and coaches put in a lot of extra time. I happen to think that everyone can volunteer in some capacity. Offer to buy something, pick up the ribbons, pick out the shirts or suits, anything. Your kids learn so much from these activities that have nothing to do with sports, or dance or drama.

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