When you become a parent, you’ve been given the hardest job on earth. When you combine that with coaching your child’s team in youth sports, you’ve got a challenge that can cause tension at home, drama on the team, and conflict with other parents.
Although you will never totally eradicate all athlete/parent coach conflicts, here are 6 tips to cut down on the friction.
1. Ask yourself a very important question
Before you accept the job of coaching your child’s team, you must honestly ask yourself one very important question: Can you treat your own child the same as you intend to treat everyone else on the team?
I don’t believe it’s possible for parent coaches to ever feel totally objective when it comes to their children. But that does not mean you can’t handle situations in an objective manner. It’s OK to recognize your biased feelings and then put them aside while you strive to do what’s best for each person on the team.
Being able to recognize your bias and make an objective decision takes practice and discipline, and there will be days when it’s downright hard on you emotionally. But if you can’t commit to doing that, it would be best to let someone take the job.
2. Don’t be a lone ranger
One of the downsides of coaching your own child is that you will be accused of favoritism, even when it’s not true. It may be that your child is the best one for the pitching or quarterbacking spot, but that won’t keep some parents from trying to accuse you of playing favorites.
One way to safeguard yourself from unfounded criticism and from giving your child special treatment without realizing it is to have one or two assistant coaches who can be objective. Concur with them on every player position, and even better, let them place your child in the spot that’s best for the team.
In order to do this, you must have an honest conversation with your assistant coaches and agree that every decision made will be based on what’s best for the team.
3. In practice and games, you’re a coach first
I’ve seen how hard it is to coach your own child. My husband has done it numerous times over the past 22 years of being a sports parent. You will never be able to totally disassociate yourself from your parenting role, but you can learn to be a coach first.
Let your child know that you are a coach first at practice, then a parent. Don’t let your child display any sort of entitlement attitude just because you happen to be their parent.
4. Know when to take off the coaching hat
Once practice is over, it’s time to take off the coaching hat and be the parent again. Refrain from coaching, unless your child specifically asks for help. Don’t treat your children like another coach and start discussing their teammates or the other coaches with them, letting them in on information they probably shouldn’t know.
5. Check your motives for coaching
If you are coaching your child’s team just so that you can showcase your child’s abilities, then it’s probably better that you don’t coach.
If you are projecting your own dreams and ambitions on your child as you coach, then it’s absolutely better that you don’t coach.
If you desire to give kids a positive, growing experience and feel you can be fair to everyone – and that’s your only motive – then go be a coach! Don’t let feeling “unqualified” stop you. There are plenty of resources to help you.
6. Prepare your child for the trash talk
A coach’s kids are often targets. Maybe not so much when your kids are little, but it gets sticky in middle and high school.
Your child’s teammates may complain to your child because they don’t like something you did.
Teammates may ask your children to discuss their problems with your parent instead of confronting the coach themselves.
Your children might be taunted by peers who claim they are being favored because of being a coach’s kid.
No doubt, this treatment is unfair to coaches’ kids and often very hurtful, but unfortunately comes with the my-dad-is-a-coach territory.
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 is a life coach for sports parents. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about how she can help parents have Less Stress and More Fun in Youth Sports.