25 Communication Ideas for Swim Coaches/Swim Clubs
By John Leonard
The major item that constantly comes up with swim team parents and swimming coaches is “we need better communications.” That is undoubtedly a standard condition of the modern world. With that thought in mind, here are 25 useful ideas/reminders for coaches to improve your communications to your swim team families.
1. Bulletin Boards – They are almost as good as TV sets. Post information regularly, where parents and swimmers can read it. Keep it current. Keep it interesting. People will read the bulletin board if it is current.
2. TV Sets – While we are on the topic…use a home video system for the head coach to do a “Live” weekly update and put it on a recycle video to play in an area where parents wait for children. More interesting and faster delivery of information.
3. Feature membership diversity. Where do your people come from? Where did they learn to swim? What have their past experiences been in swimming? People are interested in other people. Use the diversity of your club to your advantage in creating interest.
4. Ask your Board of Directors to conduct informal mini-meetings with groups of parents to answer questions/field comments and ideas; etc. Make sure the Board has some training in what questions they can answer and which ones have to go directly to the coach.
5. Ask your Board to appoint an official “thank you person” who puts notes on good club stationary to anyone who helps the club do anything. Get your name all over town, and use the thank you’s with your own club members. Be very generous in saying thank you. Some will end up framed on walls for all to see.
6. Re-cycle good ideas. If you do a good talk to your team, or any group, use it again as an article or the base for an article that you print. Make sure lots of people know how you positively have an influence on the lives of the young people you coach.
7. Develop a quarterly newsletter that you send to the media in your club area. Make it interesting, and if it doesn’t get immediate play, don’t be discouraged. At least they will learn your name, and will be ready and up to speed when you DO have a story they can use.
8. Keep most of your club communications to one page. Brevity is key in today’s fast-paced world. If you want it read, keep it short and to the point.
9. Put your club newsletter on the Internet. You never know who is reading, or what will excite them.
10. Provide a book/video library of your choosing, about swimming, that parents, swimmers can borrow from, to help educate themselves.
11. Talk (not write or phone) about anything that will have an emotional content. If you don’t, your message may be interpreted differently than you intend.
12. Do informal member surveys to find out what they like and don’t like. Control it yourself, as coach. Don’t allow it to be done by your Board. Stay one jump ahead of any problem by knowing about it first!
13. Use charts and graphs when showing what your team delivers for its membership dollars. C&G are easier for most people to grasp quickly.
14. Photos of behavior you like (Team Spirit) is much more powerful a delivery mechanism than any thousand words you can write on it.
15. Trade advertisements about your organization with other youth newsletters or similar. If you run a great program and they run a great program, you’ll re-shuffle the young people into the organization they belong in most. And if you run a better organization, you’ll have a positive impact on your numbers.
16. Don’t ASSUME that new members know who you are, what your coaching background is, etc. Have a simple piece you hand out to tell them. Don’t be too modest. People pay for your expertise. Brag on it a little.
17. Do an annual report to your membership. Do this even if your Board does not. He who reports is often seen as the leader. The power of the written word is enormous.
18. Incorporate your central theme into everything you do. (Don’t recognize your Central Theme? A problem….see ASCA Level 4 Administration School.)
19. Have a message machine….and call back promptly. And, update your message…make sure it is not a month old!
20. Develop a Parents Lounge area at your pool. Make them comfortable. Winter – consider providing coffee, summer – iced tea. Leave club brochures, newsletters, and bulletin board nearby. Passive Parental Education.
21. Make sure last minute one page reminders of all details needed by parents go home a few days before each swim meet. Don’t expect them to remember what you said in the newsletter, or save the map you sent home a month ago.
22. Develop a history of your program to spotlight your history and highlight how the team has grown and evolved. If you have a spotty history, admit it, don’t dwell on it, and point out that the team is now on a big upswing!
23. Create an awards program for everyone…. swimmers, parents, non-parental volunteers, and staff members. Make recognition a major piece of your organization. If you do it with a Banquet, do a GREAT one.
24. Famous words: Seek First to Understand, then to be understood.
25. No person or organization is ever perfect at communication. Every one of us gets spoiled with what we have. Don’t expect praise for your communications efforts. The reward is in smooth operation. You measure success by the type of criticism you get about communication. When it gets pretty trivial, you’re ahead of the curve.