Engaging with Parents of the Sailors in your Youth Programs

A Q&A with Todd Fedyszyn and Jessica Koenig

US Sailing reached out to Jessica Koenig, executive director of Charleston Community Sailing (S.C.), and Todd Fedyszyn, race director/head coach at St. Petersburg Yacht Club (Fla.), for insight and advice on how to best engage with parents of sailors in your youth programs.

US Sailing: How do you communicate with parents regarding information about your programming? Email, social media, phone, in-person, print handouts, all of the above?

Jessica Koenig: We communicate with parents through a variety of platforms. These include emails (announcements about programming, special events, reminders, program rules, etc.), social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn), a monthly newsletter, phone calls, hand-outs, and more recently, text messaging. Our staff makes an effort to communicate with parents upon drop off and pick up to inform them of how their child is doing and what we did that day.

At the beginning of every program we include a list of what to bring, directions to the facility, our policies, rules, expectations. We share information about new programs, upcoming events, fundraisers, volunteer opportunities, news from current programs, and how people can help support our organization. We ask our members, participants and community members how we can serve them better or what they want, by completing surveys and pulling together focus groups. Through social media, we try to post daily images of what is happening and then share these images on Facebook and Instagram. Images are a great way to show people day to day activities.

Todd Fedyszyn: Our primary source of communication is through email and in-person communication. General team schedules, updates, regatta planning, etc. are handled through email, however if there are any important announcements or issues that need to be addressed we will always have an in-person meeting to ensure that questions are answered and everyone is well informed.

We use social media for fun stuff, however not as a means to communicate important information to the team. We also use text message groups to communicate information regarding practice or at regattas. This is the quickest way to get information out to a large group.

I tend to be very straightforward and to the point to prevent any misunderstandings or rumors. We are working with upwards of 70 sailing families, so I am always sure to make sure everything is very easy to understand.

US Sailing: How can you better assist non-sailor parents with their children’s sailing activities?

Todd Fedyszyn: I think having an approachable and knowledgeable staff is definitely key. We are proud to have a high-level program with a very strong team of coaches, and all coaches are there to share their knowledge of the sport with the kids in the program as well as the parents associated with each sailor.

We have a very comprehensive packet that each family gets at the start of the sailing season and answers most questions that anyone might have. We go through the packet at our ‘start of the year’ meeting and are sure to answer any questions anyone might have in our team meeting or afterwards if anyone is not comfortable asking in a public setting.

Jessica Koenig: Providing daily feedback for your sailors’ parents of both non-sailors and sailors is crucial. They want to know what is happening while you have their kids, their progress and what the next steps would be. Get the parents involved in your organization with special events, volunteer opportunities and maybe encourage them to take an adult class.