My husband has fond memories of the years that his father spent coaching his little league team.
He has several of their team photos on display in his home office, including the year that they won the championship. His memories of the time he and his dad spent on the baseball diamond are some of the most vivid of his childhood and it's part of the reason he chose to coach our own children’s sports teams.
Being a parent coach offers an opportunity to spend time with your child in a special way. But it can also be challenging. A parent coach may have trouble separating the coach and parent roles while a child may feel extra pressure when their parent is the coach.
If you're thinking about coaching your child's sports team, there are several ways to help ensure it is a positive experience for you and your child.
Ask your child first
Some kids enjoy having their parent as coach. Others do not. Make sure your child is comfortable with you coaching before you take on this role. If they are not onboard, consider volunteering for another team that doesn’t have a coach or taking on a different role for the team such as photographer or snack coordinator.
Evaluate your reasons and commitment
Most parents volunteer to coach to spend time with their child and while that is a good motivation, it isn’t enough. As a parent coach, you're responsible for all the kids on the team, not just your own. The idea is to make playing sports a good experience for your child and their teammates.
Remember, being a parent coach is a commitment. Only volunteer if you have the time to run practices, handle administrative duties and attend games.
Parent coaches also need the right knowledge and temperament. A good understanding of game rules and patience to instruct and motivate young athletes are critical components of being a parent coach.
This can be hard to do, but equal treatment of all team members is imperative. In general, parent coaches tend to go too easy or too hard on their own child. Don’t give your child more praise or more playing time than other players on the team. Remain impartial; don’t expect more from your child just because you are the coach.
Remember your role
Only coach if you are in fact the assigned coach. If you are on the sidelines as a spectator, offer positive encouragement but no instructions. The athletes need to focus on the game and listen to the instructions from their coach. Coaching from the bleachers is both inappropriate and counterproductive.
After the game, take off the coaching cap and be a parent
When the game is over, be Mom or Dad. Kids want to ride home from a game with their parent, an encouraging and supportive fan and not a coach who critiques how they played.
Make it fun
Most importantly, keep the focus on fun. More competitive leagues usually hire a paid professional coach. Teams that have parent coaches tend to be more focused on making sure kids are playing safe, learning new skills, getting exercise and spending time with peers. While it’s always nice to win, if your child and his teammates are having a good time, you're doing your job.