Updated: May 24
I was the A.D./Head football coach at Lone Oak H.S. in Lone Oak, Texas, from 2004-2010. Our football teams had a combined record of 50-20 in those six seasons and made the playoffs the last five years. To this day, my time in Lone Oak is one of my favorite coaching stops. Still, after two of those seasons when we were defeated in the playoffs, I had two different parents (of seniors, of course) verbally assault me as I was leaving the field wanting to know why their child didn't play more.
We always tried to do the right thing with our players in terms of playing time. In 3A football, if your team is above average, there will be weeks where your opponent is out-matched and the outcome is rarely in doubt. In those weeks, we would allow a few seniors to start the game who would not otherwise vs. tougher competition.
Here is what I didn't do; communicate with the parents of these 'borderline players' our system of allowing them to play more certain weeks.
After the second year of being 'jumped,' I asked my mentor, Phil Blue, if he knew something I could do to prevent this from happening. Phil asked, "are you giving your players a role sheet before the season to take home and put on their refrigerator? You have to let your players and parents know where they stand."
The role sheet has helped tremendously. We now go over it with our players 3x a year: during fall camp - January - after spring ball heading into summer workouts. I communicate with our parents and tell them their child has been given one, so they know to ask for it.
Here is our system:
1. Our coaches and players both fill out a form and then meet one on one.
2. Both 'compare notes' and the position coach will give the player his copy to take home.
3. We make sure we speak to the players in 'hopeful terms'; "when you get stronger" - "when you become more physical" - "as you become more of a vocal leader." We never use phrases like "you aren't good enough." This way, the player has hope, and the ball is in his court, so to speak when possible. At times, we have to tell a player he may not be fast enough to play receiver or defensive back, but this should have been handled early on in his career.
Communication is key. Players need to know, and the parents need to know heading into a season where they stand and why. If an angry parent has ever met you after a game, I'm sure you will agree! :)