6 steps to coaching your own child

By Janis Meredith | Posted 6/23/2014

When you become a parent, you've accepted the hardest job on Earth. Combine that with coaching your child, and you've got a challenge that can cause friction at home, drama on the team and conflict with other parents.

Before you even accept the job, ask yourself, "Can I treat my own child the same as I intend to treat everyone else on the team? Accepting the job with this understanding will not, however, guarantee a conflict-free season. Think about these suggestions to prepare for challenges that will come.

Listen to your assistant coaches. Get objective opinions about each child's abilities.

"I had a bit of trouble judging where my kids' abilities stood on the team depth chart," one coach-parent told me. "So I asked the opinions of my assistants."

Not only will you get unbiased feedback, you will have the support of fellow coaches if and when parents complain that you are favoring your own child.

Give fair treatment to all.

Not only does this mean that you shouldn't treat your kids better than team members, it also means you don't treat them worse. You may be tempted to be harder on your children to see if they can hold their own or make them prove that they deserve their position. Ask your assistant coaches if you seem harder on your own children because you may do it unknowingly.

On the job as a coach-parent, you must look at your kid as just another player, while inside you remain his or her biggest cheerleader. Not an easy task.

Do not coach at home.

That is, unless your child brings it up. This is your way of saying this is the team and this is our family. When you get home, take off your coach's hat and be a parent. Leave the coaching for the field or court.

Prepare your kids for peer pressure. 

This may not be much of an issue when your children are young, but it gets sticky in middle and high school. Your child may get punished for some of the decisions you make as a coach. Beware:

  • Your child's teammates may complain to your child because they don't like something you did.
  • Teammates may ask your child to discuss his or her problems with you instead of confronting you themselves. When this happens, have your child tell the teammate to come talk to you and leave him or her out of it.
  • Your child might be taunted by peers who claim he or she is being favored because of being a coach's kid. This happened often to my three kids in high school. My husband was a coach in their high school, and kids and parents often claimed that my kids were favored even if he wasn't coaching their sport. Just the fact that he was a teacher and coach at their high school was enough to draw critical comments. This is unfair to coaches' kids and often very hurtful but comes with the my-dad-is-a-coach territory.

Remind your kids that you are their coach on the field. 

No "oh-dad-do-we-have-to" comments are allowed. I knew one high school coach who would make the entire team run when his daughter made a comment like that. It's OK for them to call you "Dad" but not OK for them appeal to you as a Dad.

Be an unconditional coach.

Throughout 28 years of being a coach's wife, I've seen numerous parents agree to coach a sport — with strings attached. At first, it seems they are totally supportive of the program and willing to help with no ulterior motives, but when their children don't play the position they want or get the playing time they want, they may undermine the other coaches.

If you are going to volunteer to help coach your child's team, commit yourself to doing what's best for the entire team, not just your child. If you can't do that, don't coach.

Parent coaches perform a valuable service. Many teams and leagues wouldn't exist if parents didn't volunteer. It also is an opportunity for you as a parent to solidify the parent-child bond, nurture a shared interest and shape your child's character development in positive ways.

Janis  B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Check out her Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series with survival guides for football, softball, basketball and volleyball moms.