At the end of my son’s first season of soccer, writes Natasha Shaw, I’ve had time to reflect on what I learnt as team manager over those months. It’s was quite a journey, and mostly good I’m pleased to say. But there is definitely a smooth way to go about managing a team when you’re a parent of one of the kids – even at the U6s level – and so I’d like to share with other parents ‘new to managing’ a few helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way.
At the start of the season I was told, ‘Don’t do it. Parents can be brutal’ and ‘You’ll end up being really frustrated, as it’s like herding cats trying to organise everyone’. But when no other parent put up their hand for the task, I thought, ‘Why not?’. After all, it would mean that I would be involved in helping my son enjoy his new sport.
I was pretty lucky. The Wahroonga FC Tigers club (now merged with Bannockburn FC to form Turramurra United) is second to none, and I had a great team to look after – the U6 Eagles. We weren’t a team whereby a bunch of school friends got together to have fun (only two of the children knew each other), so it could have all gone horribly pear-shaped with personality clashes. Instead, many of the kids and parents have made lasting friendships, and all of us parents have reached the end of the season with our dignity intact.
Back at week one, I was floundering. Having never done this managing thing before, I was green, very green, and I had no idea where to begin, especially as I agreed to become manager after the initial club meeting to explain how things were done. Then a lovely new friend (who I’d only met a couple of weeks prior and happened to be managing a team for the second time) emailed me with some valuable pointers which got me up and running. And then it was all up to me. So here it is, a list of 12 things I’ve learnt throughout the season – and I’m sure I’ll learn even more the next time I manage. Yes, there could well be a next time… 🙂
TIPS FOR NEW TEAM MANAGERS
1. Join a web and mobile app
This is an excellent too that helps you to manage your kid’s sports team. I used TeamSnap, but I also know of other managers who are happy with Teamstuff, TeamMate and Teamer. It saves stacks of time and hassles, and you always know who is available to play, go to training etc, and help out on the day with things like reffing, scoring and bringing snacks. You can also email all of the parents directly from the site with any necessary info. There is a free version, or you can pay a small fee each month for some premium features.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
I inputted all of info for the games allocated by the club on TeamSnap so that parents could see when, where (with a map) and what time they had to be at a game. Parents would also receive a game reminder midweek, plus I would email them on Friday evenings with the two team allocations (U6’s need to be split into two four-person teams each week, plus subs. Both teams play on pitches side by side against the opposing split teams.
3. Be on top of team numbers
If you don’t have the minimum number of players for a game (three for each team), you may need to forfeit, and if you forfeit too late, your team receives a fine. Therefore, it’s important to encourage parents to always let you know of their child’s availability as early as they can. You can also ask the club for a an email list of other team mangers in your age group and the one above (you can play down a grade), to ask them if they have any spare players willing to help you out.
4. Delegate tasks
Each week the team needs one coach, one ref known as a ‘game leader’ for the little ones (the opposition also allocates a game leader as two matches are played simultaneously), two game scorers (one for each match), and someone to bring snacks (orange quarters and snakes or similar). We had three dads that rotated the reffing duties, and I left it up to the other parents to volunteer for scoring and snacks on the app (I usually scored one of the games). This worked ok for us, but another manager told me that she organised to have a second weekly trophy for her team – in this way, whoever’s child got one of the trophies that week, their parents either scored or brought snacks the following week. Given the trophies were evenly circulated throughout the team over the season, it took the place of organising a roster. Clever!
5. Organise the paperwork
Yep, there is a little paperwork, but not too much. I organised two hard A4 binders for the scorers to use each week. My scoring sheet consisted of all the kids names, and next to them scorers could either put an S for subbed (so we could tell how much game time a child had) or a ‘1’ if they scored a goal. There was also a total box to add up goals, plus a tally box to record the number of opposition goals. This worked well for us, as it was just the U6s, but you may want something a little more sophisticated for older teams. I also printed out an official match sheet from the association’s website to record the final total scores of each game against each club, which both myself and the other team signed after each game, so there would be no room for any argument later. Then it was just a matter of transferring these scores to the club’s website. The teams at U6 level are re-graded every five weeks so the teams are more evenly matched and we don’t see huge losses/wins for any team.
6. Be weather savvy
If it looks like it might rain on game day (or training), it’s up to the manager to notify the team of any cancellations. It’s simply a matter of checking your football association’s website or Facebook page for updated weather info (usually available the day before a game or by 7am the day of a game), and then emailing/messaging the team.
7. Arrive early to games/training
Set an example by always arriving at the time you ask others to arrive – usually 30 minutes before a game, and 15 minutes before training. You will also have the kit bag, which contains a ball for one of the games, a whistle for the ref, bibs (if needed), plus a pump and small first aid kit.
8. Learn everyone’s names
This means the names of the kids as well as the parents. Do so as soon as possible to help everyone feel valued and respected … and part of a team.
9. Encourage the kids
Sure, your child is playing, but it takes more than one child to make a team. If all of the parents praise good gameplay where it is due, even if it’s not towards their own child, then it will make it a more positive experience for all of the kids. Every team is also given a perpetual encouragement trophy or certificate to allocate each week. It’s important that all of the kids receive the award at least once by the end of the season. I gave this job to our wonderful team coach, Craig Delany, so that he could give it to the child who either played best that week, or who had most improved or who was just giving it a good hot go.
10. Instigate team bonding
As soon as you can, set up a date for the kids to get together for a play date. It’s very hard for anyone to play well as a team when they are strangers. This could be as simple as an hour at a local playground after a game or training, or a barbecue at someone’s house. You might want to repeat this throughout the season. The same goes for the parents. This season I organised drinks for the soccer mums and separate drinks for the soccer dads, but it would also be great to get all of the parents together. Getting to know everyone better makes the season much more pleasant.
11. Don’t be one of those parents
You know the ones I’m talking about. A parent who thinks their six-year-old is at EPL standard, or critiques their every move, or yells abuse at anyone and everyone, or runs onto the pitch to give the ref ‘advice’. Don’t ruffle feathers – the coach, the ref, the other parents, and especially the kids, don’t deserve it. You can read more about the personality traits of bad sideline parents, here.
12. Respect the club and other parents
The club secretary’s job is really tough – they’re dealing with all the staff and parents, and club funds and so on. They don’t need anyone being rude to them at any point in time. So be nice and keep the lines of communication open with them, and they’ll be more open to helping you out at any stage you need. Also, be respectful of the parents. Just because you are manager doesn’t mean that you can rule with an iron fist. Respect earns respect, and if you want parents to keep showing up at games and volunteer for game tasks, then you need to show them they are appreciated. They’ll, in turn, be grateful for all the work you are doing, too.
At the end of the day, being a team manager involves about 30 minutes each week of work (at the junior level), plus time spent at the games like any other parent. It’s not much. And the reward comes when you help to create a fantastic team vibe and your child is stoked that you are involved and interested in their sport in good and positive way. And that’s why I may just manage my son’s team again next year.
If you have any other tips for managing a child’s football team, please share them in the comments section below. All new managers need as much help as we can get!