Coaching can be tough at any level. There are pressures and factors that can make it a difficult job, and that even applies to youth coaching and coaching your own child.
But coaching can also be extremely rewarding and a great experience if you just take the right approach.
However, what does the right approach mean?
It can mean a lot of different things to different coaches, but at the heart of the matter is remembering why you volunteered in the first place. Often it's because it enables you to share the time and experience with your child. It’s a great way to connect with your kids while passing along family history and imparting some wisdom and lessons, as well as sharing a love for a particular sport.
When you actually make it to the field or court, remember, your child might not be the best player on the team, and that’s perfectly OK. As long as they are learning, having fun and improving, then they are getting exactly what they need out of the experience. That hard work and enthusiasm will lead to better performance, and that holds true not only in sports but also in the classroom and out in the “real world."
Try to also remember to praise the effort your child gives before praising anything about the result. The main thing with youth sports isn’t winning. Of course, we all like to win; it’s human nature, and competing with the goal to win is not a bad thing. But before you can have any winning, at any level, you have to foster a great effort because ultimately that’s what achieves the desired results. And if you can get great effort from your kid as well as the rest of the team, then you are doing a great job as a coach whether you win or lose.
Try not to single out your child, and that can go two ways. You definitely shouldn’t give your own child preferential treatment. It’s not fair to the other members of the team. But you also shouldn’t go overboard in making an example of your child. That’s not fair to your child either, and the goal of coaching your child’s team is to bond and have a fun experience, not drive a wedge between the two of you.
Remember to be a parent too, and not just a coach. Spend some time with your child away from the team just the two of you. Whether it’s having a catch, kicking the ball around or shooting down at the courts, you don’t have to stop spending time together doing what you used to love just because you’re now a coach.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to coach all three of my children in different sports over the years, and I still do. I have always tried to have one goal for all the teams I have coached: if you give your all in everything that you do, you will find what you love. As a coach, I can only really encourage enjoyment and expect effort; in the end they'll hopefully discover that they owe that to themselves.
My last piece of advice would be to not get caught up in the politics and pressure to win; just enjoy the experience, because it doesn’t last forever. My oldest is a year out of high school, and while I will enjoy seeing him take his game to the high school level, part of me will miss playing the role of his coach.