Face to Face Q & A
October 19, 2011 | Categories: Blog
After spending 4 months getting the club up and running and making the foundational decisions about how we would operate, it was time to present our club in person to the general public in the form of a parent informational meeting.
In Lexington, our middle school and high school matches occur on different nights, so I decided to hold two separate meetings to accommodate both groups. The meetings would be held at KBA (the basketball facility we are using as our home base) on a Monday and Thursday night in late September.
To advertise the meetings, I posted the days and times on the club website and Facebook page, and sent numerous email blasts to every high school and middle school coach within 50 miles of Lexington. Up to this point, I had released very little specific information about the program structure and cost of the club, so these meetings would be the parents' first chance to hear for themselves the specifics of Lexington United. Obviously, the first parent meeting in a club's history is extremely important and can either create a ton of excitement and momentum or be a big flop.
First impressions are so important in every aspect of life, but maybe even more so when parents are trying to decide if this activity is where they want to invest money for their child. Lexington club volleyball had experienced a very inconsistent history with no club really lasting longer than a few years. Organizational issues, coaching problems, charges of politics in picking teams, and finding adequate practice space were some of the issues that plagued previous attempts to bring a big tent club idea to Lexington.
The parents in town were obviously going to be somewhat cynical and possibly even skeptical at my new attempt to create a long-lasting club that could meet the needs of every family. I knew I had one chance to make a great first impression and create a buzz and excitement that would create momentum moving forward. Being organized and completely prepared with my presentation would be the key to success. I wanted to present the club's details, followed by a long question and answer session. I was determined to be so prepared as to be able to answer any or all questions that might be asked, no matter how obscure.
Using Munciana's long history with parent meetings as a template, I prepared a five-page handout that would detail the following topics: Tryout dates and times, registration procedure, age-group classifications, competitive programs offered, participation fees, coaches/transportation fees, when and how teams will be selected, where and when will teams practice, apparel packages, coaches and travel distances.
With these subject areas as topics, I needed to make sure I was ironclad organizationally. While creating the handout, it actually forced me to finalize a lot of loose ends in the club structure and at the completion and printing of the handouts, I felt more than ready to go. A couple of areas I knew would be of most concern for parents were: how much is this going to cost, how many teams will you have, and who will coach them? Using the Munciana brain-trust as advisors regarding cost structure and pricing was incredibly valuable for me. I knew how much Lexington parents had paid for club volleyball in the past, so I certainly did not want to set a price that would be met with scorn or the appearance of price-gouging. After much haggling, we came to a fee structure that we felt was adequate for us to meet our expenses, and hopefully was fair and affordable for our parents. Our fees were also set much lower than other elite clubs in Kentucky and the near Midwest.
As far as the coaching staff, the best part of being able to unite the club situation in Lexington is that it allowed me to have access to all the best coaches, and being able to present that fact to the parents was very reassuring. The other fact about the coaches was that I would be coaching the coaches: mentoring the younger ones, and designing a training system and fundamental teaching style that would be consistently coached throughout the club and with each individual team. Coaching accountability would be a huge part of what our club was about. I went to the printing company and had 300 copies of my handout made and at the time, thought that would be way too many, but decided it would be good to have extra copies on-hand.
The night of the first meeting arrived and at about 7:45 pm, approximately 40 people were seated and I was getting a bit nervous that our turnout would be a lot less than what I had envisioned. That quickly changed as a late arriving crowd pushed the total number of potential players to over 170. I had all the parents sign in and we began the meeting. In my time as a head collegiate coach I had been in front of big crowds before and done numerous presentations at clinics and camps, so I felt very comfortable, enthusiastic and engaged with my parent crowd.
As I reached the time to talk pricing, I tried to notice any squirming, bad facial expressions and/or negative body language that would lead me to believe we had missed our mark. To my great relief, however, I didn't see any of those things and as the presentation continued I felt more and more positive energy in the room. Following the handout material, I offered time for any questions and I spent the next 45 minutes answering what I thought, were excellent questions regarding everything from tryout logistics to fundraising options.
At the conclusion of the Q & A session, I ended the meeting and spent another hour meeting individually with parents who had additional, more specific questions. I left the facility feeling great about the turnout, the positive energy, the questions and response from parents. The middle school meeting that Thursday brought in about 130 more people, and so to my huge surprise, I actually ran out of my 300 copies of handouts. It was a great problem to have and made me even more excited about the potential for long-term club volleyball in Central Kentucky. The parent meetings had been a success, the specific information about the club was out in the open and the word of mouth was excited and positive and I felt great about the direction Lexington United was headed.