Ask The Experts
Walking the coach-parent tightrope
Q: My 10-year-old daughter will start her second season of soccer soon, and I will be her coach. I decided to coach to be more involved in her experience with sports. I played soccer throughout my childhood and teen years, and have even coached other kids before. I am worried about balancing my role as parent to my daughter with my role as her coach, as well as the coach of all the other kids on the team. Do you have any pointers?
A: First, thank you for being a parent who wants to participate in your child’s experience and for stepping up to do a job many parents won’t accept.
Coaching your own child’s team is not an easy assignment. The first question you must ask yourself is, can I treat my daughter the same as the other kids on the team?
The second question is, does my daughter understand this?
Even with that understanding, problems will still crop up. Consider these suggestions when they do:
Listen to your assistant coaches. Get objective opinions about each child's abilities. Not only will you get unbiased feedback, you will have the support of fellow coaches if, and when, parents complain that you are favoring your own child.
Give fair treatment to all. On one hand, you may favor her; on the other, you may feel you need to be harder on her to prove that she deserves her playing time or position. Outwardly, treat her as a member of the team player. Inwardly, be her biggest cheerleader.
Do not coach at home, unless your child asks. When you get home, take off your coach's hat and be a parent. Leave the coaching for the field.
Prepare your kids for complainers. Teammates may complain to your child because they don't like something you did or peers who claim she is being favored because she is the coach’s kid might taunt your child. This is unfair to a coach’s kid and often very hurtful, but comes with the territory of being a coach’s child.
Remind your kids that you are their coach on the field. No “Oh, mom do we have to” comments are allowed. It's OK for her to call you Mom but not OK for her to appeal to you as her mom.
As a coach, if you can commit yourself to doing what's best for the entire team and not just your child, you should have a great season!
Janis B. Meredith is a sports mom and coach's wife who writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has a podcasting series for sports parents.
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