Play it Forward: Recapping Episode Five with Forza1 Volleyball’s Dana Burkholder

Podcast Burkholder

We launched the Play It Forward podcast to highlight leading youth and local sports leaders across the country. In this edition, we welcomed Dana Burkholder to the program to discuss how elite organizations interact with parents. 


Burkholder, a former two-time All-American at the University of Arizona, is the co-founder and Director of Forza1 Volleyball—currently the largest volleyball organization in Southern California. Burkholder has been coaching for over a decade at the youth level. In 2019, she was the head coach of the 18UA team, which finished in first place in the region (out of 148 teams) and ninth overall nationally, including a fifth-place finish at USA Nationals. Needless to say, when she speaks the volleyball world listens. Now you can too! 


Click here to access the full episode, and scroll down to read some of the main takeaways from the interview. 


Burkholder’s Three Tips For Making Parents Feel Like Well-Serviced Customers


Tip #1: Communicate Clearly and Set Expectations

Parents want their children to succeed—and at the highest levels of youth sports, that means playing time and a lot of it. Burkholder has found that clearly communicating, face to face, with parents—helping them understand why one player may see more time on the court than another—is the best way to build good relationships with families and avoid any hurt feelings. To hear Burkholder tell it, clear communication at the beginning of the season can lead to some great outcomes with her parents:


I try to redefine competition as striving for excellence instead of just wanting playing time and feeling like they deserved it. I really explain, in detail, to the parents what we are using to determine playing time. The player’s commitment, their attendance, their attention, what kind of contribution the player’s making and on what level… this is how we determine things. And so when it comes to playing time, it is “how excellent is your kid in these categories? How much can they contribute to the team and the success of the team?” And so parents can kind of sit back a little bit and relax and go, oh, okay. Dana Burkholder


Tip #2: Feedback Loops & An Open Door

When parents have a way to provide feedback, and your organization makes it clear that they value that feedback and will take action where appropriate, your customers are going to feel more fulfilled. Burkholder believes in surveys (“the shorter the better”) and puts an emphasis on face-to-face interactions. “I’m just available. Whether it’s myself or my director of operations, we’re there for our customers. I think they appreciate that we’re present, whether we’re in the gym or we’re taking calls and just trying to be responsive.” And then people know that we’re responsive, so they engage with us further,” noted Burkholder. 


Tip #3: Greet Angry Customers With Open Arms

Skillfully handling an angry customer can quickly turn a detractor into an ally. The key, according to Burkholder, is being open and empathetic. “I think people’s problems are real for them. Their kid’s crying, their kid’s unhappy. They don’t like the coach, whatever it is, that’s real for them. And I understand them, I have been doing this long enough to know that there’s value in their complaint. And so if I just do a good enough job of listening and being open to whatever is being brought to my attention and I can help them stand outside that nightmare a little bit, I’ll be able to get some perspective and actually provide a voice of reason. Once we do that together we almost always find some way to move forward, even if it’s not a complete solution, it’s at least a step in that in that direction,” said Burkholder. 


If you’d like to learn more from Burkholder and how she built Forza1 into one of the nation’s best youth volleyball organizations, click here for the full podcast recording.






This piece was written by a member of the LeagueApps content team.