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Let's talk about how to handle keyboard cowboys! No matter how long you've coached, be it your rookie year or your 30th year of coaching you're going to face keyboard cowboys at some point in the year.Keyboard cowboys are those parents who love to send emails, messages or posts on what you're doing wrong and why their son deserves more playing time.
I'll never forget facing my first keyboard cowboy. It was in my first year of being a head football coach. This keyboard cowboy was the father of a player who thought his son was the best receiver on the team. In actuality his son was about fifth or sixth best receiver on the team.
This kid could do no wrong in the eyes of his father, and obviously he was the most athletically gifted football player we had in the program. I got an email one day, from dad, that was about two pages in length, single spaced.
He went on and on and on about how great his son was and how we were losing football games because his son was not in there at the starting position. Mind you we were a Wing-T football team! The wide receiver position in our offense and scheme was not that big of a deal, it was not a very productive position no matter who played. Jerry Rice could have been our wide receiver and it wouldn't have made much of a difference for that football team.
You'll get keyboard cowboy emails, keyboard cowboy direct messages, keyboard cowboy and/or Facebook messages at some point. Here are some steps on how to deal with the keyboard cowboy.
• First, do not get in a war of words on the keyboard with them. About five or six years ago in my own leadership management style I started to make phone calls when i got emails like that, either with parents or with co-workers. If I knew were there was an angry person on the other side of the keyboard or there was some kind of misunderstanding I just started picking up the phone to call them.I think it's important to address head on, with a phone call. Not enough people are calling anybody anymore. Picking up the phone allows you to have a direct line of communication and put problems behind you very quickly.
If you get into a war of words on the keyboard with Mr. or Mrs. Keyboard Cowboy, it might not ever end. You'll email them back, they will then email you back, you will email them, and it just goes nowhere. That's been my experience at least.
• Second, if you get an anonymous email, do not address it period. And let your parents know at the beginning of the year that you're not going to address anonymous emails. "I do not read them." If I were you, I would briefly quickly look through it make sure it's not a safety or security issue with any of your players or anything like that, and then just hit delete.
Usually those anonymous emails turn into some type of personal attack. Just delete the email, that's what I've learned to do over the years. You've got to grow a thick skin as an athletic leader.
• Lastly, if you get keyboard cowboy email from a parent, one of the things you're going to want to do is spread that email around to your coaching staff. "Look what I got; look what this idiot thinks!" I suggest youdon't do that. I know that early on in my coaching career that is one of the first things I wanted to do. We want to do that to make ourselves feel better, to get support from our assistant coaches, to find that security in their voice but all it does is make things worse for that kid, it does not solve any issues. I suggest keeping those emails to yourself so as not to inflame the situation.
Lastly, if an email keyboard cowboy persists, you may want to take it up the ladder to the administration. Go make a meeting with your administrator, let them know what's going on so they can step in and address the parent and support you as well. I've had to do that as an athletic director, step in to mediate things between a parent and a coach. You may feel like you don't want that help, or you don't need that help comma, and you might not. But that's not the point, the point is to get support so that the emails stop.
Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from
Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through
his business Eight Laces Consulting.