Tips for Team Moms, Coach and Parent Liaisons
On any given weekend, Triangle area fields and gyms are alive with kids. Parents line up in folding chairs or squeeze on bleachers, cheering kids who handle everything from pigskins to pompoms. Plenty of (well-deserved) attention goes to the kids' coaches, too, but just like in most families, someone plays a key position without a lot of pomp and circumstance — the team mom.
A team mom acts as liaison between coach and parents. Depending on the sport or activity, this can mean juggling communication with parents of up to 30 kids. They're the "parents' coaches," walking the sidelines or holding the sheaf of papers in the parking lot. They make sure things run as smoothly as possible, funneling information from the coach to parents and back again.
"The role will vary depending on the coach," says Karen Kemp, a Durham mom who managed her son's travel soccer team for several years. "Talk with the coach at the beginning of the season to get some clarity about how proactive he wants you to be and how they see your role."
To help new team parents learn the ropes — and for an inside peek at what these hard-working unsung team players take on — we asked area team moms for a glimpse inside their tried-and-true playbooks.
Getting to know you
Sometimes teammates know each other from school or previous sports before the first practice. But often they're all new faces, and most of the time the parents don't know Sue from Sarah.
Cary mom Teresa Howard has a solution. As team mom for both basketball and baseball, she knows the team is closer-knit when parents are familiar with the other kids, too. After she gets the roster, she makes up cards — about credit-card size — with the players' names and numbers on one side. She laminates them and hands them out for parents to keep in their wallets.
"Kids love it when they hear their name being called out when they're making a play," Howard explains. "So rather than parents yelling out, 'Way to go, Number Five!' they can call out the player's name instead."
She also puts the parents' names on the flip side. "That way, they know who they're talking to when they're watching the game or practice," she says.
Taking care of business
Parents know that extra expenses pop up with youth sports. Team mom Shannon Rowland, in Fuquay-Varina, plans in advance for her son's football team. "At the beginning of the year, I estimate for snacks, and collect about $10 or $15 from everyone immediately," she says. "It's important to get it all at once instead of as you go through the season, or you could end up not getting it all."
Rowland has found that if she collects enough at the start of the season, she'll have enough left over at the end to pay for a gratitude gift to present to the coach from the team. "If I get enough initially, I don't have to ask parents to shell out more money a second time," she says. "It's easier for me and for them."
If your child is past the junior leagues and into a travel team that requires more expense, be sure parents have clear expectations of when they need to pay. "At the beginning of the season, give parents a payment schedule so they're not surprised and you're not hitting them up for things all the time," Kemp suggests.
Opening lines of communication
There's only one head coach, and dozens of parents. When coaches need information distributed, that's where the team mom steps in, sending out practice reminders, rainy day notices or other last-minute items. And information flows the other way, too.
"I'm usually the point of contact for the team," Howard says. She receives e-mails from parents and either handles the situation or forwards them on to the coach.
If you're the designated team mom, make sure everyone has your contact info (e-mail address, phone number — including mobile) and respond quickly. That way, the coach doesn't get inundated with queries like, "Are we wearing home or away jerseys tonight?" Team moms field those types of questions and may even help coordinate a ride to practice if a player's parent is working late.
"The more you communicate with the parents, the smoother things go during the season," Rowland says.
Stepping up to the plate
Most team moms are quick to praise players' parents, with hardly any mention of trouble spots. But being a team mom consumes a lot of time.
"I'm usually at every practice, three times a week for two hours each time," Rowland says. "For the games on Saturday, I show up about an hour or two early, so that's another four hours. Then I do a couple hours of time e-mailing between the coach and parents during the week."
To keep the role manageable, team moms agree: Don't try to carry the load entirely yourself. Enlist the help of other parents.
"I'll usually get another mom to be in charge of the snack schedule," Howard says. "She'll pass out the schedule and everyone will sign up for a snack." The schedule is put on a calendar so parents aren't caught unprepared.
As a cheerleading coach in Holly Springs, Felicia Bush counts on the other moms to help keep everything running smoothly from practice to game day. As a single mom of three busy kids, Bush is grateful when everyone pitches in to create a positive experience for all the girls.
"One mom will take care of the spirit sticks to give to the crowd," she says. "Another mom coordinates snack schedule, and a team mom will help out during competitions. She'll make sure everyone's makeup is good and see if the parents have any concerns."
Sometimes team moms have to lean just a bit on reluctant volunteers. "Since it's a volunteer organization, it's great when parents will actively pitch in," Rowland says. "We need someone every week to move the chains at the games, for instance. If no one volunteers, I have to go and just designate someone. We can always use parents' help!"
Kathleen M. Reilly is a Triangle mom of two football players.