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What to Know About Coaching Your Own Kids

When parents decide to take the plunge and commit to becoming a parent/coach, they focus on the obvious advantage such an opportunity brings: spending more time with their kids, and sharing a love of sports. 

But many fail to see the pitfalls of such a decision until it’s too late. Resentment from other parents and coaches, accusations of playing favorites, and constantly switching the mindset from coach to parent are just some of the pressures such coaches face.

So is it possible to coach your child’s team successfully? Yes, says Craig Haworth, who has coached his own son in several sports. “I’ve seen it work at every level,” said Haworth, who runs a website and hosts a weekly podcast devoted to creating a positive youth sports culture.

Haworth wanted his son, Gavin, now a high school lacrosse player, to have a better youth sports experience. He couldn’t help but notice the ratio of coaches to players was extremely low. While the head coach worked with one group of players, the rest of the team would be standing around.

Coaches Toolkit by GameChanger

If you’re serious about becoming a parent/coach, there are ways to make the experience a positive one for you, your child, and the team.

Talk to your son or daughter first. Determine whether he or she would be comfortable with you as the coach, along with being a parent. Make sure you aren’t basing the decision on purely selfish reasons. If your child shows signs of being hesitant or uncomfortable, don’t do it.

Address favoritism concerns early. Hold separate meetings with players and their parents at the beginning of the season, and be direct. Assure everyone you intend to treat your son or daughter the same as any other player. This might not completely eliminate resentment, but at least you’ve made your intentions clear from the beginning.

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“Don’t shy away from (the issue),” Haworth said. “Players and parents have that in the back of their mind, hoping it’s not going to be a problem.”

Do what’s best for everyone, not just your kid. Resist the temptation to allow any biases as a parent to control your thinking. Haworth recommends making a conscious effort to follow a simple rule of thumb: do what’s best for every player on the team, not just for your child. If another player hits a home run, celebrate the same way you would if it were your son. Handle correction the same way; don’t let your child get by with the same thing you just disciplined his teammate about.

Don’t be afraid to play your child regularly. If your son is the best shortstop, or your daughter is the ace pitcher on the softball team, they deserve to be in the lineup. “If the best thing for your team is to play your kid, you’ve gotta do it,” Haworth said. “You have to have thick skin and be ready to take on any challenges.”

Hold yourself accountable. If you are fortunate enough to have an assistant coach, use him or her as a filter for any decisions, especially those that may cause resentment among players or parents. Having another pair of eyes can help you see sides of an issue you may not think about.

Go home as the parent, not the coach. To avoid arguments about the game on the ride home, Haworth suggests verbal cues you can give to let your child know you’re back to being Dad, not Coach. Ask something like, “Do you have any other questions for Coach?” If they say no, go through the physical motions of taking off your coach’s hat and say, “all right; I’m Dad again. Let’s talk about other things besides the game.”

Don’t bash coaches or other players. This is particularly important if you’re an assistant or volunteer coach. Avoid criticizing the head coach in front of your child; save those conversations for your spouse or a trusted friend.

If you’re prepared for the challenges, coaching your child’s team can be a rewarding experience. Spending quality time, teaching life lessons, and creating positive memories are just some of the benefits.

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.

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Baseball, Softball

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