Sports Parents FAQ – part 3 – Coaching

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Another theme we are approached about by parents has to do with their child’s coach.  How players interact and communicate with their coaches (and vice versa) is obviously an enormous factor in the enjoyment, motivation, development and success in sports.  Part of the job of being a good sports parent is to help your athlete as they experience different team environments, coaching styles, and coaching decisions along the way.

Q: What are your opinions on coaching your own kid?

Brian: Coaching your own child in sports can be a hugely rewarding experience, and most recreational sports organizations depend on parent coaches.  There are some things to watch out for, however, and knowing when to pass your child on to the next coach is crucial. At SPINw, we have had several cases where the parent/coach-player relationship caused a lot of stress for everyone involved, and hurt the performance and development of the player. In my experience in youth soccer, the general rule of thumb is for a coach to work with a team for 2 years and then move them on.  This is a seemingly good rule of thumb for other sports we have worked with, as well. 

The most important thing for a parent-coach to keep in mind is this: separate the two jobs!  When it’s time for practice or game, be the coach.  Once practice/game is over, be dad or mom.  Financial guru Dave Ramsey has a funny story about a man who hired his son to work at his company.  Unfortunately, the son was a terrible employee and the dad had the uneviable task of having to fire his son.  So he bought 2 hats – one said “DAD”  and the other said “BOSS.”  He asked his son to coffee and put on his “BOSS” hat:  “Unfortunately, John, your work has been subpar for a while now, so I have to let you go.”  Then he put on his “DAD” had and followed with:  “Son, I heard you got fired. I’m really sorry to hear that – let’s talk about what we can do about it.”   For a parent-coach, remember that you wear 2 hats – you will look silly trying to wear them both at the same time.

Q: My daughter’s coach is a ‘yeller’ and it’s not her style – what can I do about it?

Brian:  First and foremost, be a supportive parent. Make sure that the ‘yelling’ coach is doing so out of motivation and not intimidation.  Getting to know your athlete’s coach before the season and communicating expectations early on will go a long way (see answer below to the next question).  Let your child know that they are loved and supported and try to help them see that the coach is trying to help them, that the coach would only push a player who they see potential in.  As an adult, you know that the athlete will experience others in positions of authority like this later in life (bosses, police officers, etc.)  Help the player understand that learning to deal with and thrive under different leadership styles is an important part of life.

Q: Should I speak to the coach if my son or daughter is having a hard time?

Jimmy: You should encourage your children to communicate effectively for themselves.   Empowering a player to articulate their concerns, whether it revolves around playing time, identifying skills that need improving, or something else, encourages self-confidence because it provides the athlete with a strong sense of pride and ownership.  The only time a parent should consult a coach about a sport related issues is when the player has repeatedly attempted to speak with the coach and does not feel that the issues has been resolved.

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