A Highly Effective 1-3 Minute Pre-Game Parent Meeting
THE WHY BEHIND THE PRE-GAME HUDDLE
The moments before a game starts are potential high-stress times for sports parents. The Pre-Game Huddle works to ease this stress in a number of important ways:
Coaches who use the Pre-Game Huddle with their teams report very positive results and we encourage all coaches to use the Pre-Game Huddle.
HOW THE PRE-GAME HUDDLE WORKS
The Pre-Game Huddle is a 1-3 minute parent "huddle" a coach holds on the sideline during the team warm-up.
PLACE & TIME
Set a predetermined place and time for the Pre-Game Huddle that you can commit to for the season. For instance, 10 minutes before the game at the corner of the 18 and sideline. You should not have to wait for parents to gather, as you walk to the sideline, they should gather naturally.
It should be fast – 1 - 3 minutes maximum. Imagine a quick pre-game soundbite to a sideline reporter... that's what this should feel like.
No time for questions or comments from parents, just a quick message from the coach.
SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR A COACH TO COVER
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
No – that is not likely going to be a reality! Plan on it before each game, but realize there will be unforeseen issues that pop up in warmups and you'll likely do this before 80% of the games.
Really, this works for any age. That being said, we find parents of younger players are often the most stressed and distracting on the sidelines. If you coach a younger team, try to do a Pre-Game Huddle before each game. If you coach an older team, see how they go and what sort of response you have from the parents. For older teams, shoot for at least 50% of the time!
A well organized and structured warm up the players are familiar with is important to a prepare the players for a successful game. Choose a phase of the warm up the players can have some important autonomy over, and use that moment to hold your Pre-Game Huddle. We usually find the closer to game time the better – so parents have parked and arrived to the sidelines.
From the very first parent meeting when you explain you will be holding Pre-Game Huddles, be sure to set the boundaries for what it will look like. Explain it will be 1-3 minutes and a quick update and that there will not be time for questions from parents. This will help avoid this situation. If you do have a question from a parent, acknowledge it, and simply say you have to get back to the warmup but can address it after the game or in a private conversation later.
A Pre-Game Email is okay, but the Pre-Game Huddle is much better. Physically bringing the parents together is an important part of relieving any stress they may be feeling, establishing a sense of community and developing some solidarity amongst parents. Remember parents usually go from their car straight to their chair. Giving them a chance to interact with the parents after the Pre-Game Huddle is important. Plus, the face to face interaction between you and the parents is a fantastic parent engagement practice which will lead to higher levels of satisfaction, empathy and deeper understanding from parents.
Just like you need to perfect the 3 minute half-time talk, a Pre-Game Huddle requires some preparation and practice too! As you're setting your line up or your key coaching points for the game, jot down 2-3 key points for the Pre-Game Huddle too. Remember to end with a quick reminder about no Distracting or Hostile Behavior and you’ll be all set!
Sometimes a Post-Game Huddle is a great thing and we are all about encouraging you to interact with parents - but – well, check out the "I'd prefer to send an email" FAQ above… and also keep in mind families are busy. There may be another event to rush off to, a waiting sibling, a tired player, etc.
For tournament weekends with multiple games in one day, we suggest you at least do a Pre-Game Huddle the first game of the day. Parents showing signs of stress? Do it for all of them. Even just a quick check in from you will do wonders in calming them and creating an better sideline environment.