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Your Most Important Meeting

There are only two times a season when a coach has complete control over the results. The first is the preseason meeting, the second is the postseason banquet. But only one of those has the potential to make or break your season.

Too many coaches overlook the importance of the preseason meeting. In a post on his website, Scott Rosberg explains offers tips for a successful and productive preseason meeting.

It starts with the planning. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Every other day of the season can come with that punch. But you’re safe on the preseason meeting night. There’s no opponent to counter your moves, no officials to rule against you. No bad bounce to derail your strategies. You’re calling the shots.

Don’t waste this opportunity by leaving the results to others. Plan out what you want to do, how long each portion should take, and who needs to be involved. Write it down, along with the points you want to cover when you’re speaking. You may even want to produce a short agenda for the participants so they know what to expect. Then follow what you’ve planned, knowing there’s no one forcing you to take a detour.

Rosberg suggests starting planning by considering the tone you want to set. His main two suggestions are to be excited and be passionate. You don’t want to try to be something you’re not, but you do want to show everyone in your own way that you’re excited for the season to come.

Next he says decide on a time frame. This will vary greatly based on sport, level, team size, and many other factors. He figures 20 minutes is probably a good minimum. At the other end he says if you think you need to go than an hour, plan for multiple meetings or a break between sessions.

Then it comes down to the nitty gritty, the information you want to go over. Again this will vary based on your circumstances, but he lists several areas that most coaches will want to consider.

Standards/values. This is the time to layout the key values that you want your team to live by. Explain them and why they’re important. He says having captains or other team leaders voice these values can have a larger impact than simply hearing them from the coach.

Philosophy. This is time to explain how you will approach the season. A common philosophical point is the balance between developing players and competing. At the highest levels it’s typically best to explain that the goal is to win and playing time will be based on the criteria. At other levels, player development plays a larger role so these teams may divvy up playing differently. Just make everyone knows what you plans are.

Goals. These can range from competitive goals such as winning the conference to process goals such as getting better everyday or always displaying good sportsmanship. This meeting is not the best time to determine these goals, but you still should go over them so everyone involved know what they are.

Expectations. Rosberg says this is one of the most important aspects of the meeting. Early in his career, Rosberg would go over what players could expect from the coaches and what the coaches expected from the players. Now, he also goes over the expectations of the parents.

“I was just following what I had seen from head coaches when I started out. Eventually, I realized that during the course of any season, I would have problems with the way some parents were handling themselves. I would be thinking, ‘Why don’t they get it? Why are they behaving that way?’

“Then it hit me. I had never told them how to behave in our program. I had never given them my expectations for their behavior. So how could I expect them to know better if I hadn’t told them? That’s when I added expectations for parents, and it has been a really good thing to have in there.”

Rules. He also includes team rules, with the caution that standards are probably a better way to guide behavior. He also suggests going over any criteria for earning a team letter to avoid postseason disappointments.

Schedules. Hand out schedules for at least the preseason practice slate if not for the whole season. You may also want to include information on where players and parents can look for updated schedule during the season.

Policy sheets. Rosberg shares that all the above information can be summed up into a policy sheet for players and parents to take with them. Some coaches even develop handbooks with detailed information that can be consulted or reviewed through the season. Whatever the format, make sure everyone know what to expect. The less time you have to spend during explaining where you’re trying to go means the more time you can spend on getting there.


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