What We Need to Remember About Coaching Our Own Children
Author: Hunter Golden
– Vice President/General Manager at Valley Blue Sox; ESPN Sweet Spot Network Editor
People get involved in coaching for a lot of reasons – for the love of the game, a long playing background, a desire to give something back… sometimes you’re just the unlucky guy who gets caught hiding in the back of your legion hall and conscripted into service without your consent.
For some – it’s because they want to coach their own children. The sub-reasons for that are just as numerous (if not more) than the other reasons we listed above. What I will say is this – regardless of your motivation, if you’re coaching because you think your kid is going to be the next Derek Jeter or Hank Aaron, then you need to stop yourself immediately. You’re doing it for the wrong reasons and more likely than not – you’ll damage your relationship with your child.
Others, however- want to spend quality time with their kids doing something they enjoy and helping to fill a community need. As parents – we want our kids to be as successful as they can be in all walks of life- and the baseball diamond is no different. In fact, as coach of your child’s team – you actually share the same aspirations of every other parent in the stands with the only difference between you and them being the role that you play.
It’s important to remember – as a coach we have taken on a different role with our child and that role of coaching children doesn’t always fit squarely with our other role of supportive parent. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself a few questions before you take the plunge:
• Does your child behave well for you?
• Does your child listen to you when you give them instruction at home?
• Do they really enjoy playing the game?
• Do you think your child has the emotional maturity it takes to separate Dad from Coach.
My advice would be that if the answer is ‘no’ to two or more of those questions – then you’ll likely be in for a pretty significant challenge. If you get mostly ‘yes’ answers then, well – you’ll have some things to think about.
Chances are, you’re here because you’ve already made up your mind and you’re already in the game. I’ve coached kids for years – and while most years went well – there were some challenges along the way. Here are some quick tips on how to make things go a bit more smoothly when you’re coaching your kid:
Only coach your kid when you’re coaching the team. Sure – we all want to help our kids on the side and I wouldn’t say ‘no, that’s bad if you do’ but before that happens – make sure it’s something you child wants and not something you want. If they don’t push for it, then don’t do it. Often times, it can draw that invisible line in the sand that helps your kids distinguish between coach and dad.
Leave coaching at the field. A lot of kids dread the ride home after games when their Dad isn’t the coach, never mind when they are. This is a good time to transition from ‘coach’ to ‘Dad.’ If your kid has a tough game, don’t worry about going over the mistakes until the next practice. Instead, be a supportive parent and let them know that you really enjoy watching them play instead of what they’re doing right or wrong.
Align your expectations
This one is as much for you as it is for them. Sports gives us the opportunity to learn many lessons. One of them is being clear about what your expectations are for your son – as a player on his team – but also as your child. Don’t worry about nuts and bolts baseball. Don’t worry about ‘I expect you to hit the cutoff man and hit .400.” Focus more on things like:
• Positive thinking
• Respecting the game
• Respecting the people who make it happen – other players, coaches, umpires and the rules.
• Have fun
• Be a good teammate
This list might be different depending on your style – but this is a way for you to keep the pressure off your child – and more importantly – something that you can align with the approach you take towards the rest of your team.
So take the time, think a lot and remember – baseball is something that should bind you together. If you decide to coach your own child, then make sure that’s priority #1.
Valley Blue Sox, the New England Collegiate Baseball League is one of three summer collegiate baseball leagues funded in part by Major League Baseball. The 12-team league has franchises located throughout the New England region and features the top collegiate talent in the United States. The league utilizes a Minor League business model of providing fun, affordable family entertainment.