Whether you are brand new to the swimming world or a long time veteran, staying informed of what’s going on with your team is a must. Good teams are fast paced and always have something going on. Whether it’s pictures, meets sign ups, social events, practice changes, t-shirt sales, meet results, there is always something parents need to know. It is the responsibility of the team to provide you with well organized predictable ways you can access this information, and it’s your job as parents to use those tools to keep yourself informed. So here are some tips for both newbies and team leaders on how to keep everyone in the communication loop.
Most teams have websites which have announcements, documents, meet info, and parent info. Some website even allow for on-line meet entry, escrow account management, and volunteer scheduling which are valuable tools for both parents and team leaders. If your team has a site make sure you visit it often and learn all it has to offer. Don’t be shy, dig into these resources and use them to make everyone’s life easier. Remember most websites have more than just a front page!
Our team sends out a weekly email that goes over major points of interest for the team. All of the info is typically available on the website too, but the email is a nice way to remind people what’s going on in a more personalized fashion. It also gives parents an opportunity to hit the reply button and ask questions about anything they maybe confused or concerned about. Email is also important if you have any last minute emergency announcements to send out like practice cancellations.
For my more advanced swim parents out there who might be involved with helping your team’s leadership…. Our team started using a free mail list service a few years ago called MailChimp, and it is fantastic! It has some amazing features such as the ability to import whole lists of email addresses with just a few clicks, people can manage their own accounts, and you can set up sub-lists that people can subscribe to. This is sublist option is how we were able to start my “New Parent Emails”. Best of all you can see who is reading your emails and who isn’t. I highly recommend teams look into this free service!
Speaking of people who don’t read emails…. A few years ago I ran into an Ingrid Idunno, and while she was freaking out about missing the info on yet another team event, she explained that while she did have a computer at home with internet access, she only used it for school related purposes and didn’t have the time or desire to visit team websites or read emails. She suggested that perhaps we should just post things on bulletin boards and pass out fliers in mailboxes to announce events. After checking my calendar to confirm that the current year did start with a 2… and that this wasn’t likely the computer she was using…I explained that in this day and age such things are ineffective at best. I mean really, the internet does not charge per click, and as for time…if Ingrid spent any 5 of the many minutes she spent complaining about not knowing what was going on each week to actually look at the tools given to her…well not only would she save many hours every season but she’d…you know…know what’s going on! So yeah, I strongly encourage all swim parents to join us in the 21st century and don’t be an Ingrid Idunno…read your emails and websites!
A lot of teams also use accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. These are cool because you can have fun things like sharing photos, stories, encouragement, as well as team information. You do need to be careful though because these should not attempt to replace traditional websites or emails because they do have some limitations. Aside from the obvious problem of not everyone uses social media, you also have logistical problems. For example, Facebook orders their posts by how much activity they get, rather than chronologically or by level of importance, so it’s easy for people to miss things. Plus the more places you post informational things the more likely it is mistakes will be made. But, used properly Social Media can do great things to enhance your team’s communication and team spirit.
Our team also has a mailbox system. Each family has a slot in a container at one of our practice facilities and things like ribbons, medals, picture forms, and other materials that can’t easily be transmitted over the internet get placed there. Our coaches and Booster members also have their own boxes so that things can be left from parents too like checks, completed forms, and other things that need to be turned in periodically.
Every team is a little different in how they handle communicating with parents, so it is important to figure out what your team’s policies are and follow them. If you are still confused talk to your team’s leaders and make sure you are on the same page.
Swim parent veterans…what communication methods do you find work best for your team?