An email guide for youth coaches and parents

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To: Youth Sports Coaches

From: Parents Everywhere

Re: Let's talk

Dear Coaches,

It has recently come to our attention that you may dislike interacting with us. (Really, we can tell when you're just hiding behind your Ray-Bans, pretending not to see us in the parking lot after practice.) However, as you know, some communication with parents is unavoidable. (Like when you find us standing right next to your parked car, waiting. Or whenever team fees are due.)

Today we're writing to ask you to commit to improving. We see that you've got raw talent, and with a positive mindset and some hard work, we're certain you can take your communication skills to the next level!

Let's start with a few email tips, shall we?

1. Respond when we contact you. We're not expecting a dissertation. Often all we need is a quick acknowledgement. Thanks, you got the message that our kid is sick. Yes, the uniform fitting is Friday at 3 p.m. No, you don't know the tournament dates yet.

2. Don't ignore a request for a phone call or meeting. We're busy people, too. If we're asking to schedule a talk, it's because we have something important on our minds, and we want to respect your time by giving you a heads up instead of ambushing you as you exit the Porta-John after the game. And even if the request comes from a parent who constantly hovers and hassles you about playing time, you had might as well deal with the latest demand up front -- because those people will just beat down the Honey Bucket door once they figure out you're hiding inside.

3. When you do decide to send us an email, avoid 1,000-word, free-flowing mind dumps about the team's performance at last weekend's tournament. Seriously, nobody reads that crap. OK, maybe the team manager and a couple of overeager dads dreaming of D-I scholarships, but the rest of us just don't have the stamina, especially when you go all "punctuation optional" on us.

4. Check up on the sick and injured kids once in a while. We know you work hard. Most of you are underpaid, if you're paid at all. (Though we did get you that nice gift certificate to Ruth's Chris last year, remember?) You don't get enough time with your own families. Really, we get it. But our kids get hurt, sometimes seriously, playing this game for you. A quick "What did the doctor say?" or "How'd the surgery go?" -- for the injured stars and the benchwarmers -- would go a long way toward making us feel like you care about our kids as people, not just players.

Thank you, coaches, for reading. (And if this message makes you mad, please don't take it out on the kids. They don't like it when we email you.)

Respectfully,

Parents Everywhere

******

To: Parents Everywhere

From: Youth Sports Coaches

Re: Your email

Dear Parents,

Thanks for your feedback. Your message was exactly what we needed after two losses, a forfeit, a threatening altercation with an incompetent ref and a fender bender in the stadium parking lot last weekend. You made some good points.

We agree. Communication is critical. In that spirit, please keep the following in mind when emailing us:

1. Send your kids to talk to us first before you get involved. You can't play for them, so why speak for them? Coaches don't want players who hang back in any capacity. And the kids can all email us right from those fancy smartphones you bought them.

2. If you must contact us, wait at least 24 hours after a game. Give game-day emotions a chance to cool. And don't write a missive at midnight after you've spent the whole evening obsessing over the game and downing vodka tonics. At the very least, edit while sober in the morning. Better yet, dump that angry email in the trash and save us the trouble.

3. We don't want to read your 1,000-word mind dumps, either. We know you love your kids, and we know you want them to succeed on the team, but if you feel so strongly about an issue that you're tempted to keep writing and writing to us about it, then let's talk about it in person, like adults. (Wait, did we really just say that? Make that briefly. Let's talk briefly. Because you're right -- I do kind of hate interacting with you. But only just a little bit.)

4. Stop coaching your kid from the sideline. OK, this actually has nothing to do with emailing, but who cares? Just stop it.

5. We appreciate proactive, appropriate communication, even if we fail to respond. Yes, we want to know about players' illnesses, absences, vacations and injuries! We try to get back to everyone in a timely manner, but we didn't become coaches so that we could spend our days typing. Or to collect team fees. We like to play the game, and we like to teach it to new players.

In conclusion, we want to say that we recognize that participating in youth sports demands time, money and dedication from the entire family. As coaches, we're focused on the players, but know that the door is always open for your concerns. (Except, of course, the Porta-John door. Don't even bother to knock. We'll come out when we're good and ready.)

Sincerely,

Your Coaches

Sharon Van Epps is the mother of two competitive soccer players and one competitive volleyball player. She can often be found writing essays about parenting on her laptop in a parking lot, waiting for practice to end.

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