Does this sound familiar?
A child has joined your group because her friend is already in the class. She is super physical, always touching her friend, running away from the group, struggling to listen to instructors and making unsafe choices... You know you have to talk with the parents, but WHAT DO YOU SAY?
These conversations are intimidating for coaches. Luckily, there is a holistic approach... by incorporating character conversations into your class regularly, and even using safe choices as a part of the structure, coaches can find it easy to correct behavior with kids AND breeze through character conversations with parents.
For Ninja Monkeys at Gemini Gymnastics we use a very simple tool. They are called THE RULES, and at the beginning of every class coaches take one to two minutes to quickly review them:
RESPECT YOUR COACH
Follow my instructions. That's how I keep you safe.
RESPECT YOUR FRIENDS Hands to yourself. That's how you keep your friends safe.
RESPECT GEMINI (our gym) Stay with your group. That's how we keep everyone else in the gym safe.
Every character correction moment in class can always be tied back to one of these three rules. In speaking with kids who are making poor choices, I always talk about safety and the rules. This makes it clear and consistent. For example:
COACH: “Molly, what’s rule number two?” MOLLY: “Respect your friends.” COACH: “Correct. Please don’t push your friends in line. Hands to yourself so you can stay safe. Do you understand?” MOLLY: “Yes, Ninja Coach.”
BUT WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE PARENT!?!
Parents can be so sensitive about their little ones, their twenty karat diamonds… so what’s the best way to have a BRIEF conversation about what happened in class?
Easy. You just use the rules as your guide and make it all about safety.
“Hi, Mrs. Smith, I’m Coach Tony. Molly is growing in every class and this group is a great fit for her. She was a little physical with her friends today. At the beginning of class, we go over the rules and one of them is Respect your Friends. We ask the kids to keep their hands to themselves, even if it’s their friends or siblings. That’s how we keep everyone in the gym as safe as we can. We go through this every class, and there's no cause for concern, just wanted to let you know what's up and how we're working on it together. Let's check in after next week's class to chat about how it went!”
Using the rules as your guidelines also allows you to be consistent when having these conversations, which is a key factor in good culture communication. It's best to approach these chats with warmth and to always be clear and controlled.
Remember: If it's all about safety, you're never wrong!