Coaching Your Own Child

  • March 08, 2018


Thoughts from Jim Thompson’s book: The Power of Double-Goal Coaching

Historically, young people have apprenticed with their parents’ business. My father talked with great joy about going to work in the fields of the family farm with my grandfather at the age of 12. Today there is little opportunity for this, but coaching your own child can be a wonderful experience in working together. Many parents and children look back on their times together on a sports team as some of the best moments of their lives. Here are some tips for making that shared experience a positive one.

  • Ask your child. “How would you feel about me coaching your team this season?” If he has reservations, it’s good to know that up front. If they are strong ones, you may want to choose to be a supportive sports parent, not “coach,” this season.
  • Recognize that you wear two hats. Tell your child you need to treat her like everyone else on the team when you wear your coach’s hat. It helps when your child calls you “coach” during practices and games, not mom or dad. But when you put your parent hat on, she is the most important person in your life (along with other family members). Some parent-coaches even wear a special coaching cap. After a game or practice, they make a point of changing hats: “I’m taking my coach hat off and putting my dad hat on.”
  • Be sensitive to favouring or penalizing your child. Many coaches give their child advantages (like starting games or playing favoured positions) the child hasn’t “earned” by effort or talent. Few things poison the well with other parents and players like a coach unfairly favouring his own child. However, many coaches are harder on their own children. It’s difficult to be objective about our own child, so you may find it useful to ask another person (perhaps an assistant coach) to let you know if you are treating your own child fairly compared to other players on your team.
  • If you have an assistant coach, you might find it useful to regularly have him or her give instruction and feedback to your child while you return the favour.
  • Don’t talk about other players on the team with your child. This places him in a complicated situation and may colour his relationships with other players. He is a member of the team, not your co-coach.
  • Avoid sports overload with your child by doing non-sport family activities during the season. If doing sports at home, focus on having fun rather than on drills designed to make your child better. This way she will be fresh for practice rather than feeling she gets no respite from sports. […]

Your time coaching your child will pass by very quickly. Whatever happens, I encourage you to stay in the moment and enjoy this special time.

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Coach Responses

Do you coach your own child?

What are some great ideas for making it a positive experience for everyone involved?

Share your tips and best practices!

Raj Venugopal – Judo – Ottawa

“…I have coached my three children in Judo. It has been a wonderful experience so far. My kids are 18, 15, and 9 years of age. At times it is a great experience, and at other times it has caused me to doubt my ability as a coach… and as a father! When our interaction on the mat is poor, I try (and sometimes fail) to keep negative thoughts from affecting our home life. In my head, I try to leave what happens on the mat. I also try to not bring our personal and private home life on to the mat. Certain private family matters should stay private. And to make things fun, I try to ask my kids about what games or teaching strategies we can use in class. Lastly, I understand that there is a tendency (especially with young kids) to mistakenly equate their parent coach’s knowledge as their own. When that behaviour shows itself, I try to correct the behaviour on the spot, but not in an embarrassing way. Great discussion topic, and a touchy one for sure!”

Coach Conrad – Basketball – Durham – 10 years

“…I’ve coached my son’s 14U Basketball team for approx 3 years now, and one of the things I try to do is treat all the players as though they are all my child. Both myself and my co Coach have son’s on the team, and we play off each other, and we are unified with how we treat/teach the kids”

Roy Summers – Nordic Skiing – Thunder Bay – 6 years

“…I have involved my child in helping to prepare a lesson at home prior to going to a practice or lesson. While this is not a regular occurrence, it helped my child to understand the effort I put into coaching to ensure a fun and quality experience for all the kids (she also had some really great ideas). It really helped to change my child’s attitude and understanding of sport – now she wants to ensure everyone has a fun time and enjoys coming out to participate. It also led her to understands she has a responsibility to be coached and not parented during the lesson. It was a real win-win for everyone.”

Christina W – Swimming – Hamilton – 5 years

“…My dad was my first coach. Working with family can be very frustrating. It was his passion and the sparkle in his eye when he talked about the sport of swimming and how much it meant to him to be apart of something that he loves so much that inspired me to keep going.”

Lisa Burton – Figure Skating, Hockey and Lacrosse – Northern Ontario – 30+ years

“…WOW, I can not believe this is the topic for discussion.

I have to say both my husband and I have coached both of our children and different times in their lives – 3 years to even now (my daughter is 24). The two children are completely different and we had to take that into account. We had one group of children one season we were coaching Initiation hockey program over 50 skaters on the ice and well it was only at the Christmas party that most of the parents even realized that we had two children of our own on the ice with everyone else. Every child deserves to learn and be challenged, it doesn’t matter if it is your own or not. At the rink for figure skating though my daughter and I did have to learn to separate home, Mom and daughter. So at the rink, she called me “Lisa” this way it did help her more than me when skaters were around that they didn’t feel I was giving her special preferences etc. Looking back on it, I was harder on her so she would know how to work hard, sacrifice and be a leader. Well, she is a Figure Skating coach now too and has thanked me on countless occasions for directing her training the way I did. For our son who we also coached for many years, he has now told us that he didn’t really enjoy any time in sport unless we were coaching him. He saw us giving all Fair Play, teaching new skills, getting the players to excel farther than they could have on their own and in having fun.”

Ken Anstruther ChPC – Taekwondo – Brampton – 30+ years

“…Not all parents should coach their children. It should be dependent on the nature of the relationship and the age of the child and the experience of the coach. If the child experiences, “You don’t love me”, rather than, “you need to rotate your hips”, then better to have another voice express the corrections. The child has lived with the parent and has a powerful emotional connection. The tone of voice, expression, posture and so on could negatively impact the psychological development of the child both as athletes and outside of sport. As coaches, I feel strongly that we have to take a holistic view of our athletes.”

Mike Miller – Soccer – Milton – 25+ years

“…I coached both of my children, as well as drove them to other events, such as officiating. My wife would come when they were little, but when they were 8 and up, it was Dad’s job and it was a way for my wife to get a break and have some alone time. It was also a way for me to get to spend some one-on-one time with my kids without rehashing sports things. The only privilege that they received for having me as their coach was to be able to choose their jersey number before anyone else.”

Coach Marko – Soccer and Basketball – Toronto – 15 years

“…Like parenting, there is no magic formula that works in every situation. Each circumstance is unique and must be treated for what it is. I’ve been coaching my son’s soccer team for 4 years and my daughter’s basketball team for 3. The same message I say to some kids on the team doesn’t necessarily resonate the same with my own kids. It’s important to know who they are and how to manage that relationship. Quite often, not knowing the personality, can lead to unwanted tension on the ride home, to the fault of nobody but circumstance. I encourage coach parents to be involved, but be fair and set boundaries. Have open and clear conversation as a coach and parent with your kid(s) so they know that you care no matter what role you take. My final advice does not allow your personal relationship to cloud your decisions as a coach, or unfairly use coaching to deal with parenting problems. This can have an adverse strain on relationships. Meaning to say do not use “I’m your dad so you will…..” when coaching. They are different things altogether and should be treated independently. Not to say you can’t discipline as a parent, but don’t threaten or use sports as a mechanism for life learning as this can be interpreted as unfair by your kid and will only serve to destroy the relationship as a parent and coach. Always be fair, always stay within the guidelines of a coach or parent, do not mix the two. Engage your kid in conversation about how they feel they performed and then ask if they want feedback from a coach or parent. Always, always, always, tell your kid you love them no matter what.”

Chris Caunce – Basketball – Burlington – 25+ years

“…A very important thing I learned coaching my own children (too bad it was number 3 by the time I figured it out) was to stop being coach once you live the gym. When I coached my son I would still be a coach on the ride home and I would point out things he could have done differently to improve. While I was only trying to help my son become a better player, I realized I was really taking the fun out of the game and he could not wait for the ride to end. Coaching my daughter has been a very different approach as taking off my coaching hat as we leave the gym and although I would like to help her and tell her what she could do to get better I simply ask, “did you have fun?”. As she has become older we may have a discussion about the game or practise on her initiative and I make sure to keep my dad hat on to support and help her.”

Coach Manny – Fastpitch – Ontario – 16 years

“…Have another team coach give her instructions even if you are the one who notices and asks the coach to tell her. You are her parent first but treat her like every other player when doing team activities. On the car ride home only talk to her about the game if she brings it up and stays positive. Negative talk will only put stress on your relationship.”

Jesse P – Speed Skating – Ottawa – 9 years

“…I am not a parent coach myself, but I work with mostly parent coaches. I often see kids respond negatively with their parent coaches. When I see this, I speak with the participants and let them know that I am available for them to talk to if they want someone other than their parents. However, I have yet to have any kids take me up on this. I think the problem is that kids think they will be in trouble if they want that space from their parents at practice. I am working to limit interaction between parent coaches and their own kids during practice, but as everyone is a volunteer, it is difficult. I am actually very interested in hearing more about this topic.”

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