Some sports parents would jump at the chance to coach their own youth athletes. After all, they spend plenty of time playing catch or tossing balls for batting practice in the backyard and are at every game already, how much harder is it to be the actual coach? But before you dive headfirst into the world of parent-coaches here are four questions you should ask yourself.
Are you sure you won’t be biased?
A lot of parents decide to become parent-coaches because it’s a great way to spend more time with their youth athlete. Any sports parent can tell you that athletics takes up a huge chunk of their child’s free time so if you can’t beat ‘em, coach ‘em! But it’s important to remember that you aren’t just coaching your own child—you’ve got a dozen other kids to look out for as well. You need to make sure that every player is getting the attention they need to learn the fundamental skills of the sport and succeed as individuals and as a team. Just because you’re the coach that doesn’t automatically mean your child is the center of the team!
It’s also important to make sure that you don’t let your own player get away with behavior that their teammates would get called out for. If missing a practice means losing playing time that rule has to apply to everyone—including the coach’s kid.
Will you expect perfection?
On the other side of things—in an attempt to make sure they aren’t unduly favoring their own child, some parent-coaches put extra pressure on their own youth athlete to excel and be perfect on the field/court. While it’s important you don’t let your own player get preferential treatment, it’s easy to swing too far in the other direction as well. Some players might thrive as the “coach’s kid” because they want to be a leader on their team but others might feel like you are unfairly singling them out or expecting more from them than their teammates. Just because you’re the coach that doesn’t automatically mean you child is going to be a superstar athlete and it isn’t fair to expect them to turn into one overnight just because you decided to take over as coach.
Can you “turn off” your coach mentality?
As a parent-coach it’s important to remember that you are equal parts parent and coach. When you go home after a disappointing game are you going to strategize like a coach and run a play-by-play of everything that went wrong or are you going to put your parent hat back on and let it go? Think about some of the crazy coaches you had in your own sports career—would you have wanted to live with them?! A good parent-coach needs to be able to switch back and forth between the two roles as needed.
Do you actually know the rules of the game?
Most youth sports organizations are always on the hunt for volunteers and while enthusiasm can take you a long way a little knowledge can’t hurt either! Typically the best youth sports coaches are going to be the ones that understand the rules and fundamentals of the game so they can actually coach their team! Remember, you aren’t just coaching your own child—you’re responsible for the athletic development of a dozen or so other kids! It’s a big responsibility and an important factor to consider.
Becoming a parent-coach can change the dynamics between you and your youth athlete dramatically, so before you sign up to coach your daughter’s soccer team or your son’s lacrosse team it’s probably worth talking to them about it. Are they going to be comfortable with you as their coach? Your 5 year old probably won’t care but as your kids get older and they start to take sports more seriously their opinion should count for something.