Written By: Ashley Graves
Depending on where families took swim lessons they will be coming to your team with different levels of experiences and skill sets. Lesson parents will be used to certain things from the swim lesson experience that don’t always transfer to the swim team experience. Keep these 3 things in mind when communicating and onboarding them this season!
1. Communication. This is the biggest one. They are used to instructor feedback on what their child is doing well, what their child needs to work on at home, and having face to face interaction with an instructor at every lesson. When they move into the swim team environment they don’t receive that anymore on a daily basis in most cases. Communication changes to email, social media, text alerts, team meetings and so on. Yes, you will interact with swim parents but it won’t be daily in most cases. There is a carpool line or drop off / pick up area. Communicate about this change so it doesn’t feel abrupt or they feel you don’t take interest in their child's development, explain the swim team environment shift so they understand.
Easy ways to do this:
Send a team email on what to expect the first week of practice.
What communication looks like for your team, how coaches can be contacted, and how they can expect to receive updates on team events, news, and more.
Ask group coaches to send an email to every new family in their group introducing themselves and opening the direct line of communication.
2. Extra Costs. They are used to the monthly swim lesson tuition but everything else was provided. Now they have all the extra costs of team suits, registration, t-shirts, meets, and training equipment. That’s a big financial shift for families, especially in today’s economy. Be patient, not every family can do everything all at once.
Easy ways to do this:
Let families add one piece of equipment to their mesh bag per month so all the purchases don’t hit at once.
Spread out year one meet requirements so families don’t have a travel bill every month or keep the first year pretty local.
Encourage lead group coaches to communicate about upcoming costs with their team parents in advance for optimal attendance and participation by giving families time to acclimate.
3. Inclusion. This world is not the same as it used to be. Parents, especially those of younger children, have to think a lot more about safe places and are less likely to leave their children at activities alone as they used to do. Swim lesson parents are used to being at every swim lesson with their child or watching it from nearby. Creating spaces for them to be present is important. A lot of parents want to be involved in their children's activities and it’s critical for parents to feel welcomed and included. What that balance is looks different in every team environment. Requiring them to time at a meet but excluding them from everything else isn’t the experience most families want anymore.
Easy ways to do this:
Teams always need volunteers. Find ways to offer parent rotation at age group practices. Maybe bringing snacks each Friday or planning a group outing.
Have a team parent that is more experienced in each group to greet new families. Having someone to talk to about questions also takes a load off of you as a coach. The new families feel welcomed and start getting to know other parents in the group. This strengthens team bonds and nurtures friendships!
Make a point to have an interface with families once a week. Maybe for some that’s office hours, for some that may be emails to families to brag on how awesome Susie is doing on flip turns, and for others it might be a phone call.
All in all, families are excited to be a part of your team. Building quality relationships with swim families and not just swimmers is essential for a great onboarding experience!
Check out: Swim With Streamline Teams for more ideas! Follow us: @swimwithstreamlineteams
Ashley began her coaching journey at the age of nineteen years old. She became the youngest female head coach in the country of a club team and combined high school program in 2014. Ashley has continued to work in the swim community in a variety of roles but is most well known for her work at Streamline Teams where she is the Founder & CEO. In her community she runs a summer swim lesson school serving both local and military families.