February 8, 2013
Coaching Your Own Children by Mike Jacobs
There are a number of reasons that a parent should coach their own children in sports, and it is important that both the parent and their child have a good understanding of their relationship and roles.
Youth and school sports rely on volunteer coaches that are in most cases parents of a participating player. A parent volunteer is most apt to participate if one of their own children are playing – giving that parent the opportunity to be involved in an activity with their child while also being able to watch their child participate.
A major challenge with being a parent coach is balancing the responsibilities of wearing the hat of a coach during a practice or game, and then taking that hat off and replacing it with the hat of a parent for their own child. Here are some important tips to consider when coaching your own children in sports-
Keep the focus on the process – the two most important reasons that parents should encourage their children to participate in sports at the recreational, youth and school levels are to have fun and to learn valuable life lessons.
Whether the parent coach has a practical level of experience as either a player or a coach, it is important to keep a perspective of why they had enjoyed playing that sport when they were their child’s age. Keeping the game fun and fostering a level of enthusiasm for the sport is a lot more important than learning how to dribble or to shoot. The more enthusiastic your child and their teammates are about the game, the more apt they are to retain coaching points and to improve. Also, the child of the parent coach wants to enjoy the time they have with their parent – creating an environment that is not enjoyable on the playing field could potentially transfer over to their setting at home, too.
I feel strongly that sports offer an experience and lessons that transcend what happens between the lines of a ball field, and that it is a coach’s responsibility to make sure that their players learn those valuable lessons that they can apply to life after sport. That’s probably the coach’s primary role – even more than winning games. As a parent coach, you should take pride in teaching your own child and their teammates lessons about teamwork, discipline, working with others, and dealing with adversity. No one will win at everything they do, and no one gets to be ‘the star’ all the time – sharing these lessons with your own child and their teammates can potentially expand and enrich your own relationship with your child.
Be equitable – when a parent takes on the responsibility of coaching their own child, it is a natural reaction for other parents to question the equity within the team: does the coach’s child get preferential treatment? The best way to provide an environment of equity is for the parent coach to treat their own child as they would any of the other members of that team. Playing their child less or more than other players on the team doesn’t prove a level of equity. The best parent coaches hold their own child as accountable as any of the other players on the team, and rewards or penalizes their child in the same fashion.
‘Players worry less about how much you know, and more about how much you care’ – I was told that saying when I first got involved in coaching years ago, and it applies as much with coaching your own children as anywhere else in sports. Make sure that your own children know that the primary reason you are a parent coach is to spend more time with them, and that winning and losing are secondary items.
Be honest with your own intentions – if a parent is coaching their own child, it should be for the reasons that I previously mentioned. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to win games or championships, but that should not be the primary focus. Parent/child relationships in sports most commonly get fractured when a parent coach is more motivated to participate than their own child. It is important for the parent coach and their own child to make sure that they share the same desires and motivation to participate. If there is a common goal, both parent coach and player will be put in the best possible position to succeed.
Perception is reality – as a parent coach or a spectator, whether you realize it or not, your own children are taking inventory of you. They are measuring the level of support you provide for them; the forms of feedback you give them before, during or after the game; how you carry yourself and represent them while you are attending their game. Ask your child how they perceive your behavior on game day, and ask them how they want you to represent them during their game. I have heard youth players comment about how embarrassed they were about their parent’s behavior – be it as a spectator or as a coach – and these are the kind of things that can fracture a relationship at home as well.
I have had the opportunity to serve as both a coach and spectator for my own children at different times, and both can be rewarding when the primary focus is to provide support and encouragement. Nothing is more rewarding than getting to share in your own children’s interests, and when structured properly, to be able to participate in those events with them as well.
Check back again for another great coaching article.