“You never get a second chance to make a first impression…”
We will host a “Meet the Coaches” parent meeting the night before we begin training camp. It is an opportunity for the parents of our players to meet and greet the men who will be working with their sons for the next several months. It is also a time for me to share some very important details of our program. If we are to create and sustain the Hilltopper culture, we need parents to buy in and support our tenants of character, leadership, and team before self. In much the same way we encourage our veteran players to welcome new teammates, I encourage veteran parents to welcome the parents of new players.
First order of business is to inform them that safety is our number one priority. We share that all of our coaches have USA Football certifications in Shoulder Tackling and Equipment Fitting, Concussions in Sports, Heat Illness Prevention, and Sudden Cardiac Arrest and that we have all successfully completed CPR and AED training. We explain our acclimatization policy that brings us from helmets, to uppers, to full gear over the first several days of Training Camp. We inform them that we have a full-time, certified athletic trainer at all practices and games who is also available to them before and after every practice.
Next, we share the Academy’s core covenants for athletics: Committed, Competitive, Classy. Parents and players both must understand all practices, meetings, strength training and video sessions are mandatory. We share our training camp calendar and game week schedule, clarifying and confirming the expectations of committing to this team. Family emergencies and academics are the only things that trump scheduled football sessions. Hilltopper teams are competitive and expected to practice and play with passion every day. While the spirit of competition and the thrill of victory fuel our efforts, we must demonstrate character and class on and off the field. We ask parents to reinforce competitiveness, but never at the cost of good sportsmanship.
Then we focus on the importance of communication and encourage parents to have their son come talk to me if he has any issues. For some young men conveying a personal issue to an authority figure like a head coach can be a daunting task. However, it’s also a life lesson and I believe our work as coaches should serve our players long after the last whistle of their football careers. To that end, we ask parents to prepare their kids for the path and not the path for their kids.
If a parent insists on meeting with me, there are two hard and fast rules:
- We will not discuss specifics of an individual’s playing time.
- We will not mention the name of another player for the purposes of comparisons.
During the Parents meeting, I explain my thought process around playing time, starting, traveling, and dressing for games. Each is a privilege to be earned. None are guaranteed.
The coaching staff works assiduously to field the combination of student-athletes we think gives us the best chance for victory. I tell parents their son is evaluated on a daily basis by their position coach, coordinator and me. We evaluate not only his athletic performance but perhaps, more importantly, his attitude and effort. Although all four grades (9th-12th) practice together, we do not dress everyone for home games and even fewer players will make the travel team for our away games.
This leads us to the conversation I call, “It’s Not Easy.” It is not easy to compete at the level we do. It is not easy to make the travel or dress list. It is not easy to get through one of our practices or strength training sessions. It is not easy to learn our offensive or defensive systems. It is not easy to play football. There will be failure and/or loss. We ask parents to let their child fail and encourage them to work harder to succeed. We believe athletics in general, and football in particular, serve to inoculate student-athletes against both the inevitable loss, failure, and fear they will experience and must overcome to be successful in life. Again…prepare your kids for the path, not the path for your kids.
I go out of my way emphasizing to parents training camp is the one right of passage associated with becoming a Hilltopper football player. Our program is planned, executed and supervised in detail. It is intentionally challenging and designed to deliver both success and failure in doses calculated to foster allegiance, loyalty, and reinforce the best of what being on a team can bring. I emphatically state our prohibitions to hazing or bullying. I ask parents to echo this message to their children and should anyone encounter or hear of such an incident to immediately report it.
Additionally, we share the importance of Training Camp detailed in my previous blog with one other important detail…Uniformity. We wear St Johnsbury Academy Football gear and accessories in Green, White, Black or Grey. We understand and appreciate the individual talents and perspectives each individual brings to our team, but as we shape this team, our culture, and mutual respect, we ask our players to set aside individual priorities and put the unity, focus, and interests of the team ahead of self. When team members are on our field, in our weight room or our meeting/video room their appearance, words, actions, and decisions must uniformly reflect our core values and culture.
We close our “Meet the Coaches” meeting with an open discussion of parents’ questions. Taking the time to clarify and confirm both understanding and expectations of a young man’s commitment to this team, and a parents’ support of their player’s endeavor sets the stage for future success.
Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!