Most of us, I’ll wager, began coaching youth sports because our kids were involved and the team needed parents to volunteer to coach the team. In fact, in all the years and all the sports my kids have played, there was only one team that wasn’t coached by a parent of a player. I coached both my sons in various sports and also watched from the bleachers sometimes too. No doubt a lot of readers have done the same.
So we’re familiar with the challenges of coaching our own kids. It’s one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences a parent can have, and if you haven’t had the pleasure, I recommend it. But it’s not without its difficulties.
No matter how hard you try, as a parent you can’t be completely objective about your own kid’s place on the team. It’s natural – even unavoidable – to pay closer attention to his or her performance. For me, the key always has been to keep those feelings to yourself. You cannot ‘show’ any kind of favoritism.
Because even if you don’t, you might have a few parents who believe that you are giving special treatment to your own kid. If you hear from them, be honest with yourself and review your actions. They might be right. On the other hand, if your soul-searching doesn’t reveal any biased actions, then ignore the comments. Some parents are predisposed to believe that any coach is playing favorites. The situation is tricky enough without taking on their personal issues.
I’ve certainly worked with coaches who are guilty of it. On the other hand, I’ve worked with a few coaches who swung their pendulum too far in the other direction. Fearing that they might appear to be biased they were more critical of their own kid than any other player on the team. In one case, it got to the point that I had to talk to the coach, telling him privately that he was frequently singling out his son for criticism. At first he denied it but then said he didn’t want to be accused of showing favoritism.
We need to strike – and maintain – a delicate balance. The most important key is communicating with your son or daughter. Even if you love sports and love coaching, the main reason you’re doing it is for them. That shared experience is the goal and the true value of your time together.
But it, too, can be emotionally complicated, which is why it’s important that there’s open communication. Just as you are subject to comments about showing favoritism, your son or daughter can be seen as “the coach’s kid.” Not always a fun role to play. It puts pressure on them to prove they deserve whatever they get – from playing time to position they play.
Through the years I’ve thought a lot about this tricky yet very fulfilling situation. Today I found this Associated Press article that offers some useful insights on the subject, and it’s well worth taking a few minutes to read it.
I’d love to hear your observations on your experiences coaching your son or daughter. It’s one of the special times in a parent’s life and in a kid’s life too. Not the easiest one by a long shot but one of the best.