“Coaching my own kid is driving both him and me crazy” High school baseball coach
DR. G’S COMMENTS:
Coaching your own kid, while deceivingly very difficult to do is very commonly done. Many parents get into coaching their kids because they end up spending so much time at the sport between driving the child to practice and games and then waiting around endlessly. Similarly many children first get involved with a sport because their parents are involved as the coach when they are younger. Having said that I can tell you that pulling off being a parent and a coach at the same time is most often a very difficult, if not near impossible (depending on the kid), juggling act. It is confusing for both parent and child. Children need their parents to be parents. They need their mom or dad to be in the role of safe, support person, of “child’s best fan.” They need unconditional love and acceptance. Being the coach often times presents a major role conflict because a coach needs to not only be impartial and fair, but also needs to put himself in the role of pushing a child outside of his/her comfort zone. In addition, coaches regularly need to offer criticism and negative feedback. A normal preadolescent and adolescent athlete is trying to do what is natural in his family, which is to begin to emotionally and physically experiment with separating from his mother and father. In adolescence, this is a critical development task. The child with the parent as coach finds himself in a dilemma with his dad- coach. It becomes very difficult for him to see and deal with dad as “coach” and not dad. Most kids respond to this dilemma by coming across as sullen, oppositional, tough to coach, etc. However, this would not be a fair assessment because even the most coachable kid will have problems talking instructions from a parent. The situation is further complicated on the parent-coach’s part. The parent-coach, not wanting to be seen as anything but impartial as he coaches his own child will oftentimes come down too hard on him/her. He may have too many expectations for, and tend to be more critical of his child than the other players on the team. His child will then experience this one-sided treatment as grossly unfair, further straining an already difficult relationship. The bottom line is that our kids need us as parents to “love em”, not “shove em” and a coaches job is very much a “shove em” kind of thing.
The best advice I would have for any parent who ends up having to coach their own child is to sit down before all the practices or games start and talk openly about the situation. Talk about all the pitfalls and the confusion with roles. Let your child know that it will be difficult and that you will need to work together to make it work. Ask you child what he or she would need to make the relationship work better. Part of this “better working” involves trying to keep the parent and coach role as separate and clean as possible. This means that you say to your child, “when I am on the field or court with you I have my “coach hat” on and when we’re done with the practice or game I know have my “parent hat” on. What this may mean for you as a parent is that outside of practice you can’t be pushing your child to practice extra, talk about her technique, or criticize the things that she may have done wrong in practice or the game. If your child wants to bring the sport up fine, but as the parent-coach, you must not do this.