Ruly Ruth: How to Be an AWESOME Team Parent!

Ruly Ruth's son in action!

With kids’ sports events in full swing with the beginning of school, I wanted to share my method for performing Team Mom (or Team Dad) duties.

I have performed this job in 2 different states for a large variety of sports teams, and wanted to give you a brief run-down of what this position entails in the event you’d consider taking it on. It’s one of those jobs that’s not a constant business–but it’s feast or famine. When the game is rained out–often you need to call each player at a moment’s notice and give them the reschedule date. Stuff like that. Because I’ve done this for so long, I’ve decided the tips and tricks I’ve learned are easy and repeatable. So here’s how to be a Great Team Parent.

(P.S. I suggest you read through the entire list–since a few items can overlap…and also–the more information the better! Having a team on the same page is the first step to being successful!)

1) Get the team roster. At the first team meeting, the coach will give you–or coordinate for you to get–a copy of the team roster. Obviously this roster is ONLY to be used for the purposes of contacting the team members and their parents with information ONLY related to the team and its sport.

2) Confirm contact information for each player. Once you have this list–bring it to the next gathering–be it a practice or another team meeting–and have every parent check their contact information–and ask them how they prefer to be contacted. My last team, everyone wanted text messages. Years ago, it was via email. Some may still prefer a phone call. (I’ve never had anyone say don’t contact me, fyi!)

Note from Anne: Some groups might set up a Facebook page, blog or website and require that all parents join it and check for updates.

3) Send the first message. Your first message–however it is relayed–is to confirm practice days, times and locations and usually the uniform requirement restated. That’s it! Have everyone text/email/call you back so you know they received it. I have different color inks on a spreadsheet to know if someone didn’t contact me–like checkboxes. But however you do it–even if it’s pencil checkmarks you can erase and do over again each time you contact the parents, that’s fine. But ensuring people get the messages is critical. Conveying information is exactly what this position is all about!

By the way–I just found a GREAT messaging resource called Remind 101. It was originally made for teachers to be able to send quick text reminders to their classes–but I’m just now using it as a Team Mom to keep our team members and their parents apprised of upcoming events, changes, etc. Instead of mass text messages–this will send a typed message from your computer to all subscribed cell phones. IT’S FREE!! Create an account, create a “class”–mine is named Fall Baseball 2012–and they give you a text phone number to enter and a message to subscribe to the class’ messages–then it messages you back to enter a name. Super easy! And once I entered a message, I received it within 1.5 minutes–loving this program!

4) Copy and distribute the team game schedule.
If you’re not given copies–the team game schedule. I also add my name and phone number to the bottom of this, along with the coach(es) phone number(s). Write each kid’s name on the top of each copy. When you are at the next practice, distribute the schedules at the end of practice or to the parents during the practice. This way, with the kids’ names on the schedules, you’ll know if a kid was absent that they don’t have the copy of the schedule, and if a game is very soon, you’ll need to contact them to let them know and get the schedule to them as soon as you can. But you absolutely know who didn’t receive one–and that’s huge. Also–day before each game–call/email/text families to remind them of what time to meet at the fields/court etc.

5) Coordinate the snack schedule. Depending on the age group—-I’d say under 8 years old–the kids play because they get a snack after the game. If it’s a super hot sport–like football–where there’s lots of padding and playing in September in some places can still be brutal–a mid-game snack and an after snack are required. Mid-game is literally usually cut up oranges and a water bottle (both kept in a cooler with ice). After snacks are whatever you prefer–usually it’s a juice box of some kind or a Capri Sun and a packaged snack item–like cookies, crackers/chips. On the extreme end, one mom did Lunchables for each kid after the game. But this is over the top for most of us. 🙂

So with the snack requirement, becomes the snack schedule requirement. You will need to make a schedule–be it hand-written or on a spreadsheet–if it’s football, you’ll need mid-game and after snack, and have the parents sign up. The catch here is this is truly optional. Usually a few parents end up bringing the snack most of the time. I love the kids, it’s not a big deal to me. But it depends on your situation–if you can step up where others haven’t–if not–no worries–announce at each practice if you’re short a snack. 2-3 people can come together to split up the snack if that helps…once you have 80% of the snack places filled, what I do is again–copy the snack schedule, write each kids’ names whose parents have volunteered (some don’t due to so many kiddos in different sports they are unable to, or some financially just can’t or whatever–no big deal!) And distribute these so parents have a copy. Or if you have this before the game schedule is distributed, you can distribute this along with the game schedule. Now a few days before the game, I usually call/email/text the family whose turn it is to remind them to bring snack and to please contact me back so I know they got the message.

6) Coordinate scorekeeping. Not usually for tee ball or junior soccer–but especially in baseball this is huge. Ask early on for volunteers to keep score. Ask a coach to show people how so it’s not so intimidating. The more people willing to learn/do this–and mistakes are always made–don’t let that scare people away–we need scorekeepers. Often it’s the official book and the team book–it’s better when the organization itself provides an official scorekeeper and you only are responsible for the team book…but regardless like I said especially in baseball/softball, scorekeepers are important and the more you have willing to do it the better!!!! Again, if you’re able, you can have signups for score keeping for games on the snack schedule–or do it separately–and call/email/text to remind a day or 2 before the game.

7) Coordinate Pictures! Pictures are done so differently everywhere–it’s crazy! Most places the sports organization itself sets up the photographer and picture days. Teams where I am now require that each team is individually responsible for finding their own photographer and setting up a picture day. We’ve found what works best is before a game—like an hour or more before a game–the kids are dressed and ready in uniform, and they can meet usually at the fields. When setting up the photographer–or via the league–you usually receive packets for ordering pictures. Again, I place each kid’s name on a packet with date and time of photo shoot and distribute it a few weeks before pictures–so parents can see prices and decide in advance what photos to buy if they’re buying…the photographer always brings extras, so no worries if people forget theirs at home. It’s just a great planning tool.

Again–call/email/text families the day before to remind them of this!! Even if they don’t order, the kids love having a complete team picture!

8 ) Coordinate team party and coach thank you gifts. The end-of-season get-together and a small thank-you gift for the coaches falls under your direction. I highly suggest that price be taken into serious consideration here! The cheaper, the better for everyone and the more participation you’ll get, regardless what area you live in. Cici’s Pizza is a very inexpensive pizza place where a lot of our teams meet. The kids just love hanging out together–that’s the whole point! So you can consult with a few of your core parents and decide on a place and time–obviously check with the coaches as well! One of our favorite coach gifts is a framed 8×10 picture of the team with a mat the kids can individually sign, so the coach can hang it on his/her wall. Very fun reminder! If you’re going to do this–research it early because you can find coupons for Michael’s to buy the frame, or search around–Walmart may be cheaper–and divide up the cost between the kids. I usually add a few dollars cushion because not every kid can pay–and we’re not talking loads of $–I try to keep it under $10. Once I have the cost, I have the small bill-paying envelopes–I write each kid’s name on an envelope and the dollar amount. So for example “Joe Taylor $5”–and I distribute this at the practice. Any extra money we usually buy a coffee card or something. Keep in mind the $ amount especially if you have multiple coaches! That you share the love, I mean! So when kids/parents turn it in, you can track from whom you have received the money. Once I have about 3 families left, I send out an email/text and remind those families that money is due…like I said, some can’t/won’t pay–it’s just how it goes! But worth a shot anyway. And some will be more than generous…overall and over the years, it all works out!

With the envelope, I staple a piece of paper to it stating the team party get-together time and location. Once in a while, an amazing family will step up and offer their house/pool–but usually plan for an inexpensive local restaurant, or meet at the fields/courts. The kids LOVE to play kids vs. adults–they think this is awesome!! So if you need an activity and are doing a picnic setting–keep that in mind!

If you do all of this, you’ll be an amazing Team Parent! I promise!! It’s a ton of communication during the season–but good communication means everyone knows when/where to be. If they know that, then you’ve done your job well!!