A large number of parents become their child’s sports coach at some point in time, some through choice and some who simply fall into the role. We champion the sports parent coach as without the work of these parents many sports programmes would not exist.
It is a wonderful opportunity for parent and child to bond further, an opportunity for the parent to be actively involved in their child’s life and most importantly a chance to create great memories for the years to come.
I remember fondly the time my own father spent coaching me ‘mini rugby’ when I was between the ages of 6 and 8 and I can still picture him now kitted out in his tracksuit smiling and encouraging all that wanted to participate in the game.
“The major positive aspect includes being able to spend quality time together. Additionally, your child perceives that he/she gets special attention, praise, and perks, such as being on familiar terms with the coach. In the child’s perception, having you as a parent as a coach is an opportunity to receive motivation and technical instruction that others on the team do not get. In the perspective of the parent, being both coach and parent provides the opportunity to teach values and skills, the opportunity to see how your child interact with friends, and the ability to see your child’s accomplishments and take pride in them.” – Weiss & Fretwell 2005.
However, in making the decision to coach your own children there are a number of things that need to be considered.
Here are a few helpful tips to ensure that the shared experience is a positive one.
• Before you think of volunteering have a discussion with your child about how they feel about you potentially being their coach and your wider family network to see how they feel about you taking on the role.
If you decide that the coaching role may not be right for you at this point in time, revisit it at a later date and offer to help in other ways that are not quite as obvious if you would like to play a greater role and volunteer your time.
• Ensure there is a difference between you being the parent and the coach. In other words, are you able to separate the ‘Two Hats?’
Your child will need to know that when you are the coach you need to treat all players equally but as soon as you become the parent again you need to make sure your child knows that you care about them the most. Work hard not to muddy the waters on this and have some strategies in place.
• Try to strike the right balance on praising and penalising your child.
I found this very tough as a coach and was probably too tough on my own child and did not give out enough praise for the right things. Many coaches that we have spoken to find this extremely demanding and worry about how they are perceived by other parents and athletes.
• Think about your conversations with your own child. Try not to discuss other parents and other athletes with your child particularly in a negative vane. It makes things really tricky for a young child who is probably very good friends with other athletes and whose parents you may be criticising. The child needs to make his own mind up about the other players and you should not be looking to form a coaching alliance. At this stage they are not your assistant and our children will often take their lead from what we say and what we do.
• Work hard to be the ultimate role model. You are in a privileged role!
We can never be perfect all the time, but we are in such a privileged role when coaching young people and our own children. Try to act in a way that would make your son or daughter proud to have you as a parent and a coach. Particularly on the side-line when you may feel under the most pressure, try to remember that your child is not the only one that’s performing during the event. You will set the tone for those all around you with your demeanour and behaviour.
• Don’t let the coaching role take over the rest of your life. Try not to spend the rest of the week practising further at home and talking about last week’s event or game the whole time and the so called ‘big match’ coming up. It is too much and too much overload for a child and for the rest of the family. Do other things as a family away from the sport. That way everyone stays fresh and does not resent the huge commitment that you have taken on.
I’ll finish by saying enjoy the experience and without parent coaches we would have no game and most teams wouldn’t even exist.
My advice is don’t coach your own child forever. Experiencing other coaches and other environments is so important for all children particularly if you start in this role with your child at the youngest ages and whilst they may be positive about you taking on the role initially, their views may change as they get older.
Keep checking in and keep the conversation lines open to discuss if it is working for everyone.
I would suggest that you devote some of your time to just being a dad or mum (supporting from the side-lines) and if it’s time to let go (as the coach), let them go.
“When they get to a certain stage and they are keen to progress, hand them over to a qualified coach and let them do their job without interference. Support from afar!” – David Leadbetter, World Leading Golf Coach.
Don’t forget to check out our brand new product Two Hats featuring advice, support and encouragement for all parent coaches including 23 interviews across 14 sports from leading figures in the sporting world. Pre-Order your copy today.
“It is a great privilege to be part of this project alongside so many leading figures from across the sporting world covering such a wide range of sports. It is certainly enlightening seeing so many similarities across sports in terms of coaching your own child as well as some of the uniqueness that each sporting environment can provide.” – Harry Redknapp.
Gordon MacLelland is the CEO and founder of Working with Parents in Sport, which supports parents and coaches in working together to provide children with the best possible sporting experiences. To find out more about their work please visit www.parentsinsport.co.uk.