Coaching Your Own Child

From Little League baseball and basketball right through high school and college sports, parents exist who yearn to remain in coaching long enough to have their own child on the team. Based on experience I must confess that few matters are more difficult than putting father and son/mother and daughter or any combination into such a trying position.
Yes, there are advantages to coaching your child. Foremost, if you are an excellent, well-rounded, and brilliant coach, your child will be rewarded with exceptional guidance as fundamentals will be practiced to perfection and skills will be honed to high quality. This is of great value, regardless of the parent/child relationship since athletes that are taught well are able to maximize their talents and be proud of their performance.
With a parent coaching the child can most often be assured of a starting position on the team. No languishing on the bench when Dad is in charge. For building confidence, this can be beneficial, especially if the child has worked hard and has the performance skills necessary plus has earned the opportunity through effort, dedication, and team play. The fret over playing time can disappear.
As the coach you also select the team so you can be certain that the “best” players are yours. Best can include moral, physical, social, and mental attributes that enhance the worth of the team. The riffraff and ne’er-do-wells can be sucked up by another outfit. Oh, these last two paragraphs have taken on a caustic tone when there really are advantages to coaching your own child.
Working together with your child under the intensity of a sport can build positive relationships. Coaching automatically boosts extra time together performing an activity that hopefully both parties love. My son started playing basketball as soon as he could walk and lug that enormous ball around the court and football came right behind; his Dad is a dedicated coach of both games with an acute eye for recognizing and then developing fundamental skills and individual talent. Father and son worked well together throughout childhood, junior high, and into high school. Dad always worked to avoid playing favorites with his team as he also maneuvered to remove himself from coaching altogether when son hit the varsity level of play. In a small town this was not easy because extra coaches are not always available and so he remained his son’s head football and assistant basketball coach.
Fortunately, Son loved both sports, practiced hard, and played harder. But regardless of the Father/Son attitude and belief in the team, jealousy pocked the season. Whether your son is a starter, a star, or simply an average team member, “someone and his Dad” are never pleased. Riding this out and staying positive while moving the team forward in skill and success is not easy and often some of the fun of the game is extracted. Imagine the problems that arise when the coach is ill-prepared and the child forced to play in a position where his skills do not mesh and growling dissension abounds.
Another interesting phenomenon arose in the Father/Son coaching and playing situation I mentioned. During football the two could sit down each evening and discuss the game around the dinner table covering the plays, the expectations, the next rival, virtually every aspect of the sport. With exuberant voices they drew illustrations on napkins and jumped up to grab each other to demonstrate tackling form. It was not only a team-building but relationship-building experience. Then came basketball season.
Even though Dad was an assistant and always honored the head coach and his plans for the team, intensity brewed any time the round-ball subject rolled into the dining room. The previously composed football discussions transformed into screaming matches about guarding, rotation, and shooting form in basketball. Same Father and Son sharing insight on a sport changed from learning format to angry foment. While both played on and survived based on the strength of their familial bonds, it was tough. Neither dislike nor resentment resulted in these wild harangues but it was interesting to observe the quite different attitudes and actions.
So are you ready to coach your own son or daughter (or niece, cousin, or best friend’s children). It is a complex task to remain open-minded and fair when pressure to win is piled on top of life in general. While many kids still play a sport for the love of a game, often their parents are the folks who have been the driving force behind participation as they dream of glory, college scholarships, and professional jobs. While some athletes do exceed the standard and sign multi-million dollar contracts, most end their careers with junior varsity and varsity play. With too much sight on the future and not enough focus on the present, much of the fun of game vanishes. I really thought that was a primary purpose of sports.
Evaluate your reasons for coaching and check that they include: helping all athletes succeed, building sportsmanship and positive competitive drive; honing skills and raising competence; creating memories of fun, connectedness, and confidence that carry over into lifelong fulfillment. These are the basis for developing fine citizens of a community and nation.
A horror story: I coached my daughter in junior high track. Sports at this level are great fun because for many children this is their first shot at competition and being on a team plus the season is short and not too intense. My goals included fun and a ribbon for each competitor at each meet. At practice one day, with the temperature hovering at 90*, my daughter came to me complaining of a headache and not feeling well. In my most collected voice I explained to her that she had to complete our long run of the day and participate fully in practice because I was not going to play favorites by releasing her from duty. And so she ran, practiced, and did as told for the next two hours.
When practice ended I noticed her cheeks were quite brightly lit with flames of red and her face carried streaks of exhaustion. It was at this point that I hugged her and was burned by her fever. I loaded her into the car, got her home, poked the thermometer into her mouth to have it peak at 104*. In my futile attempt to be fair, I had put my daughter at great risk. Sometimes fair is an elusive thing.
If coaching your child remains a dream, one that also can become a reality, remember, it is not easy, it is not always beneficial, and it does not always turn out as planned. There are advantages to playing the role of pent-up, wound-up, nerved-up parent in the stands, the parent who is there to support his/her child, not relive or promote personal grandeur. There are also reasons to coach. Weigh all angles.

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