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Tips for Parents Who Coach

Should you coach your child's sport? Advice for parents who coach

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Updated August 31, 2013

Coaching a child in sports is not for every parent. In fact, it's not for most parents. While some parents and children enjoy the relationship that develops playing and practicing sports together, many children struggle needlessly with the challenges this situation presents.

Pros and Cons of Coaching Your Kids

One survey of fathers and sons in a parent-as-coach situation found a variety of perceived benefits, but just as many potential problems of this arrangement:

The Pros
The sons reported that they received more praise and more technical instruction, and they felt their fathers had a better understanding of their abilities than other coaches. They also liked spending quality time with their dads during games and practices.

The fathers reported pride in their sons' achievements and enjoyed positive social interactions with the team and other parents. They enjoyed the opportunity to teach skills and values while spending quality time with their sons.

The Cons
On the other hand, the kids reported many negative emotional responses, including added pressure and expectations to win, and greater conflict at home. They also reported a lack of understanding and empathy from their fathers, more criticism for mistakes, and unfair behavior compared with that directed toward their teammates.

Amongst the negatives the fathers reported was the inability to easily separate being a coach from being a dad. They often placed greater expectations and pressure on their sons to succeed and said they showed favoritism toward their sons.

Tips for Parents Who Coach

Separate the Parent From the Coach
One of the biggest challenges a parent-coach faces is the inability to separate those two roles from one another. This can create confusion for the child. To master these roles, and live them independently, start by using environment as a cue for your behavior. You are a coach when on the field, and a parent when you are at home.

As a parent, your job is to provide unconditional love and support. Leave critiques of things that happened in practices and games behind, and try to talk about things other than the sport, such as school, friends, and hobbies.

Treat Your Child Fairly
When acting as the coach, it's imperative to become more objective. Be fair and realistic about your child's abilities, and avoid showing favoritism. In trying to do this, some parents go too far the other way and are overly tough on their children, which ultimately backfires. Unnecessarily pressuring any child can result in negative outcomes, including angry outbursts and hidden emotional turmoil.

Talk Openly With Your Child
Consider talking to your son or daughter about your interest in coaching the team. How does he or she feel about it? You may find that an open, honest conversation will make the coaching experience more rewarding for both of you.

Establish Rules of Conduct
About.com's own "Dr. Rich" knows first hand how setting some expectations regarding conduct can make game days less stressful for kids and their parents. He used the following strategy during five years of coaching baseball for his son's teams. "My rule was that any child whose parent yelled at an umpire would be benched for the rest of the game. I never had a parent scream at an umpire more than once a season. (It also kept me from saying anything to umpires even as a coach, since my son didn't want to be benched, either.)"

Also See: Do's and Don'ts for Parents of Athletes

Source:

Kay Porter, Ph.D. The Mental Athlete, Human Kinetics, 2003

Weiss, M. R., & Fretwell, S. D. (2005). The parent-coach/child-athlete relationship in youth sport: Cordial, contentious, or conundrum? Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76 (3), 286-305.

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