Picture this: the exhilaration of a new season; spotless uniforms, equipment just out of the box, clipboards jammed with fresh paper...boundless enthusiasm and cooperation. It's the euphoric honeymoon phase of youth sports. Now, "fast forward" a few months. The honeymoon is long since over and conflicts among and between the players, coaches and parents have inevitably emerged. How well everyone copes with the conflicts may depend on whether they can refer to a team charter, a team-generated set of guidelines for the interaction of parents, players and coaches.
If you have ever attended an initial parents meeting, you know that parents and coaches don't always share the same expectations, attitudes and philosophies about youth sports in general or the upcoming season in particular. Some parents have tight budgets; others don't. Some expect lots of out- of- town meets or tournaments; others want less travel and more time spent at home on skills development. There are the "play through pain" adherents and those who expect decisions on sitting a player due to injury to be based on credible medical advice. Coaches may have a "give everyone lots of playing time" philosophy, while some parents are thinking "a championship this year or never," even if means that some players will be spending a lot of time riding the bench. Some players joined the team for fun and camaraderie; others may have their sights set on record books and college careers. The problem is not that these different viewpoints exist, but that, generally, they do not surface until there is a crisis. By then, emotional intensity and crippled communication have destroyed the opportunity to find reasonable solutions. By agreeing before the first practice to a team charter, your team can take some conflict-prevention measures -- anticipating challenges and determining in advance how to handle them. Working as a group, you can reach a common understanding of everyone's expectations, agree on principles that will build stability and confidences, and iron out differences before any actual problems arise.