Sorry about the heavy words on a Sunday, but...actually we are not sorry about discussing this topic since it needs constant refreshing. Working through these things is like having new swimmers join your team...you need to spend some time acclimating them to "the way things work around here."
Running a swim team efficiently and effectively...meaning each swimmer's needs are met concurrent with their level of effort, takes enormous energy on the part of the other swimmers, all parents and the entire coaching staff. Indeed, no team functions well without full cooperation of all three "branches" - swimmers, parents and coaches
Now don't misunderstand us here...rarely, and we mean for longer than a week or so, is a swim team meeting everyone's needs. Think of your team as a family. Some of you have 25-30 members in your family, others have hundreds. As with any family you also have the "in-laws, cousins, grandparents etc." On your swim team these roles are filled by the swimmers' parents. Think of yourself (and your staff) as the "head(s) of the table."
Each member of each branch - swimmer, parent, coach - has responsibilities and obligations if the whole is to operate in the best interests of all concerned.
Mutual cooperation is critical; without it your success is doomed. Look at any successful team and you will observe cooperation is a key to progress. This doesn't mean there is a lack of conflict. Indeed, just the opposite is normal since the team is a living, breathing and dynamic organism, always changing its members and therefore its needs.
One key component in our experience here at North Bay Aquatics is direct communication; when we have this we have mutual respect and progress; when it is lacking we go in the opposite direction.
From time to time our swimmers have "issues", no kidding! When they come up we proceed directly to discussing them, taking the "personally charged" items out and dealing with the underlying concerns that fueled the "issue" in the first place. It takes new comers a few takes to figure this process out but we think we spend a lot less time on this than many other organizations filled with teenage members.
Now and then our parents have issues as well, no kidding! We find out about them through the usual manner. Parents talk to parents about problems they see or are having, sometimes in the pick-up area outside practice but usually at meets. Sometimes these conversations happen away from the line of action but often not. Nothing is quite so destructive - in our judgment – as parents complaining while timing. First, they "infect" other team parents and more importantly, they lend an air of discontent to those from other teams with whom they are timing. Of course, each parent has a right to their views and opinions. They also have a responsibility and obligation to their team. We encourage parents with questions and concerns to talk with the coaches since the coaches - in our organization – make the policy about who swims where and at what time and in which group. Complaining about this is destructive. Discussing concerns with coaches is constructive. The former is distasteful, the later much more effective.
In the end, the parent(s) may not get what they seek but they will get a full explanation straight from the person who is responsible for their swimmer’s well-being – the coach. If they are not satisfied, they ultimately have the choice to seek a better situation, one that meets their needs better. No single swim team is able to meet every swimmer/family needs. That’s just the "nature of the beast."
Coaches have similar responsibilities and obligations. No coach is ever 100% happy, in our experience. Too bad...pick another profession – just be careful not to take your "stuff" with you or you will be similarly dissatisfied at your next stop. (Ever notice how the grass is always greener, until you get over there?)
As a coach for you to truly understand how to find the correct, best fit for you, you need to be able to write down on a piece of paper exactly what is your philosophy. Until you can do that you will have a challenging time finding the best situation for yourself. Once you know why you coach and what you expect to get in return for your energy and efforts it is rather easy to find a "sweet spot". And if you are not happy, talk directly to the person who can affect the change you believe you need. Don’t ever get caught complaining to others at a meet...now you are just like the parent who you ask not to do the same thing…or the swimmer who is promoting "drama".
We liked Pete Carroll’s three team rules when he was coaching football at USC.
1 – Be early
2 – No whining, no complaining, no excuses
3 – Support your teammates with your effort
Pete’s way of saying the same thing in three lines that just took us two pages…maybe that is why he gets 7 figures?
As Dave Krotiak would say, “Have an awesome week!”