We’re kicking off our new parent series today talking about what you can do as a new (or returning) dance team parent to make this year the best yet! This is strictly an opinion piece, a fun chance for me to share how it would be in my perfect world. Of course, check in with your own coaches to see how they want things done, every team is different.
Parents come in more shapes and sizes than the girls do, or so it seems, and while you need to be yourself and parent the way you know best – there are some things you can do to make a coach’s job so much easier. You may not see the value immediately in doing all of these things, but keep in mind, you are paying this person to teach your daughter to dance, to build life skills, to make the best competitive group, and the like. Nowhere in there did that list of priorities include bookkeeper, seamstress, secretary, and babysitter. You can help your coaches by making those “anyone can do this” jobs easy so they can focus on the hard parts that require their full attention.
Be organized. Keep your dancer organized.
Not kidding, I have never once had every girl on a team of mine turn in their forms, checks, or permission slips all on time and without issue. Even if you have given your daughter her form or check, keep asking if she’s turned it in, follow up if there is a problem, and certainly don’t be the forgetful one yourself. The additional time tracking down paperwork and money is a huge time waster for coaches. Better yet, get booster parents to handle this end of it and take it off coaches all together.
Respond to your emails. Even to say no.
Coaches have to send lots of email nowadays to get teams to sign up for events, get volunteers, or ask questions to the entire team. This is especially true for off season time. Always check your team emails and be sure to get back to the sender, even if you are saying no to a project. No response at all just means someone has to call you and find out if you’re getting the email.
Money shouldn’t be a surprise.
Dance team is expensive. There are participation fees and more gear to buy than most sports. Every year there are parents who are surprised by costs or when they might be due. If money might be an issue – be proactive. Save in earlier budgets, or have discussions about what extras you will or will not be buying this year in advance. Don’t wait for the checkbooks to be out to decide you can’t buy a new warmup this year. Hopefully your coaches let you know costs in advance, but don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know! Don’t forget about assistance programs too. Many schools reduce fees for those eligible. If you are fortunate enough to be allowed a payment plan, don’t take it lightly; be sure to pay on time.
If you want to help – then follow through and follow your coaches lead
Helpers and booster clubs are a great thing, except when they aren’t. My personal style is to assign over projects in their entirety – and let you run. I don’t really care if we use paper or plastic at the pot luck. The group running it can decide and not check with me. Certainly, don’t stop me in the hallway at state to ask what I’d prefer for banquet napkins. I’m busy. But other coaches may want a full status report on those items. Find out how your coach wants things to run – and then always stick to that. Going around your coach isn’t helpful, but if you don’t make any moves on your own it’s not much better than just doing it ourselves. If you say you’re going to help get the costumes cleaned by a certain date – then you really need to make sure that happens on time, and as you said it would.
Communicate issues before they’re issues
I can’t tell you the number of times a parent has left me in the dark about health, school, or wellness issues. Don’t assume your daughter told me she has a major physical issue, even on her health form. Follow up on those things. Just because it’s normal to you, doesn’t mean coaches know what to do with it or how to address it. If you’re unsure there might be a grades, eating, health, or other issue, just come forward about it rather than wait. I love being informed about a “non-issue” so I can keep an eye out too. Coaches and parents should be a team on these important issues.
We coaches can’t please everyone. Keep in mind what our job really is at that moment, how much we are compensated for this enormous responsibility (less than minimum wage), and the fact that we have our own jobs and families too that need to be respected. Dance team is very important, but it can’t be the most important thing in a healthy life. Coaches make decisions that are in the best interest of the team, not just your dancer. If you feel the coach is making decisions that are consistently not in the best interest of the whole team, then follow the proper channels with your school to discuss it and be respectful of how impossible this job really is some days. Speaking respectfully from the heart with a touch of logic and forethought thrown in there will get you far. Yelling, anger, lashing out, passive/aggressive maneuvers and talking about someone else’s kid will not.
Parents are a huge asset to the success of a team – make sure you are promoting a positive and encouraging environment for your coaches – they are a valuable resource you cannot do without!