By Rob Roe
Imagine a group of kids who not only choose to go to class two to three times per week, but actually look forward to class. Imagine they are there to listen and learn. Imagine that they look up to you as their teacher and are hoping you will teach them something new every time they see you. Imagine you can teach them intellectual and leadership skills that will help them through life.
You just imagined the awesomeness of coaching youth sports. It is one of the most rewarding volunteer jobs you will ever encounter.
I coach youth basketball. I love it. I’ve coached 18 teams. I’ve coached girls and boys. I’ve coached championship teams. I’ve coached teams where the kids tie their shoes more often in a game than they score baskets. Winning or losing, I’ve loved every single minute.
Now take that wonderful scene of sports tranquility and throw in one kid who won’t listen. Just one. One kid who thinks he knows more than you. One kid who has an attitude toward you. One kid who you don’t have patience for. It messes up the entire dynamic of the perfect scene we imagined above.
If you are a parent coach, then more likely than not, that one bad apple is your son or daughter. Most parent coaches never master the most difficult job in youth sports: coaching your own kid. Youth sports coaches are usually parent volunteers who are coaching their own kids. The benefits are endless. You get to hang out with your kid and his friends. You get to impart your athletic knowledge, be physically active, and teach kids about life through competitive sports.
There are a few pitfalls to watch out for when coaching your own kid. I won’t address playing time (accusations of too much from other parents OR the coach plays his own kid less in an effort to appear fair). Playing time issues are best resolved through communication. Without communication, the issues will fester and grow worse.
The most common pitfall I see is the curse of high expectations. Most parent coaches expect their kid to set the standard on the team for behavior, leadership and sportsmanship. Parent coaches want their own kids to listen astutely, learn quickly and to perform to their maximum potential. Rarely does that happen. Usually, the coach’s kid behaves like most of the other players on the team: like a kid.
The coach’s kid shouldn’t have the burden of being the best at listening, learning, hustling, and winning. If the coach’s kid feels the pressure from the top to be the best, then he will also bear the greatest burden for the team’s failures or losses. In a team sport, the team shares the glory of the win and the team shares the despair of defeat.
So, what is the secret to coaching your own kid? Park your parenting at the entrance to the gym. This is easier said than done, but it is imperative for you, your child, and your team. Do not bring any issues from home to the court. Do not bring any issues from the court to your car after practice or home after a game.
Let your kid have fun with his teammates. Understand that he won’t be listening 100% of the time while you are his coach (just like he probably doesn’t when you are in the role of parent). Understand that he is proud to have you there and that he is already trying to do his best to please you. Giving him some space to be his own person will allow him to develop a thousand times faster than if you micromanage his every action.
I encourage all parents to find a way to coach youth sports (or music, or math, or anything involving your kids and their friends). You will have a blast. Your kids will be proud of you. You will be proud of your kids. You will both learn lessons in interpersonal relationships, sportsmanship, and leadership.