At this point in the season, you have no doubt been inundated with team emails. And as you have probably discovered, people have varying degrees of communication and email skills. Administrators, coaches and team managers really appreciate the convenience of email and want you to read every single word so that you know what’s going on. Unfortunately, sometimes they make that impossible because of scenarios such as:
- The subject line “IMPORTANT!!!!” got the email flagged as spam and you didn’t find that IMPORTANT message until the next day.
- They announced a change of plans by doing reply all on an unrelated email that you decided to read later because you were rushing out of the house.
- They combined a lot of important details into a single stream-of-consciousness email.
- Conversely, they spread key details out of over multiple emails.
If you’re nodding along right now, you may be the person who showed up at the wrong rink or missed the team dinner. Or maybe you’re that person who can’t keep up on her own job because of the constant stream of email from your three players’ teams. While we all appreciate the volunteers who help keep our teams running, those volunteers can make everyone’s lives easier—including their own—by improving their communication skills. A few ideas include:
- Control the Frequency: Consider sending “Monday Mail” with a preview of the week to come along with any details on fundraising, tournaments, etc. to come. If you have information that can wait, save it for Mondays when the team expects to hear from you. When you’re planning a fundraiser or tournament, it’s common for information to dribble in from various sources. This does not necessarily mean that you need to disseminate the information in the same way. If a situation is not time-sensitive, see if you can collect all the information over a day or two and send it all at once.
- Use a Strong Subject Line: Use a unique subject line that matches the content of the email for those who like to search and sort. In addition, use title case (Capitalize the Key Words) rather than pretending you are e e cummings with all lowercase or a mortgage broker with NEWS!!
- Change the Subject Line When Necessary: Be sure to change the subject line if the content of an email thread is changing. For example, if you sent out a reminder about a team dinner, and then had to change the location, do not use reply all on the original reminder. Instead, change the subject line to something like “New Location for Team Dinner” or start a new email.
- Write Clearly: Editors like to tell writers that “periods are free—use them.” Essentially, this means that two clear, concise sentences are better than one long cumbersome one. For email, you can expand this thought to “paragraph returns are free” because you have no space restrictions. See the do’s and dont’s example below.
- Discourage Reply All: If possible, use an email group so team members cannot see all the addresses or reply all in the first place. In addition, if you need a response from each person, ask specifically that they reply only to you.
- Use a Sign-off: It never hurts to end each email with your name and contact information. You never know when it’s going to get printed out and handed off to grandma and grandpa to take a player to a game. If something goes wrong, they’ll know who to call.
Do’s and Don’ts Sample
As you can see below, the “Do” version is not only clearer for a busy hockey parent to read and follow up on, but it’s a heck of a lot easier for the volunteer to write.
Do: To take the ice for the first practice, please bring the following:
– Copy of your birth certificate
– USA Hockey paperwork
– Jersey size and preferred number
– Check for $300
For the first practice, be sure to bring your birth certificate, that check the treasurer asked for, jersey size, the number your player wants, and don’t forget your USA Hockey paperwork. If you don’t bring this stuff, you can’t skate.
For those of you doing the thankless job of team manager, remember that these tips are meant to make your life easier—not to criticize as you. As Mark Twain once said: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Anton, Executive Editor of Grow the Game, for this tip.