BY DODI KINDSFIELD, TECHNICAL SERVICES SUPERVISOR, FREELANCE WRITER AND AUTHOR
If your town is small like ours, the success of your local recreational sports program depends on volunteers, particularly for the coaching. Most adults don’t consider coaching until their own child is playing a sport such as basketball, baseball, soccer or softball. And coaching your own child’s team is a delicate dance of authority and teaching. If you are considering signing up as a parent coach or are new to the coaching scene, here are a few words of wisdom from experienced coaches and parents that can help you cope with this new role in your life.
Should you coach your own child’s team? Parents volunteer as coaches for a number of different reasons. Some just love the game or sport, others want to spend more time with their kids, and some want a way to know their kid’s friends and peer group. There are a few personality traits that help when considering the coaching job: being able to deal with a dozen kids at once without getting easily overwhelmed, knowing when you need to be a parent and not a coach or visa versa, and having a thick skin because there will be a lot of critics of your coaching and/or parenting style. One good way to find out if you have what it takes to coach without making the commitment to take over and be in charge is starting out as a referee or assistant coach.
Should you treat your child differently from other team members? It’s hard not to treat your child differently, it’s only natural, but it’s important to find that balance. Pay attention to how much play or field time your child has (everyone should be equal), don’t play favorite positions, but also don’t be harder on your child than the other team members. The normal methods used at home to get your child’s attention won’t work out on the ball field when surrounded by teammates.
What are the best ways to be fair and not show favorites? Be consistent with everyone. Pitch the same number of balls to everyone, have everyone run the same number of laps, give everyone the chance to be goalie, and try out team members in different positions to see who is best at what. Do everything as a team and try not to single out individual players. Having a game plan with a consistent set of play
rules that are communicated to team members as well as parents helps set the expectation for the game and the coach with their players. Sometimes it means your best player or even your own child may have to sit out the game, but everyone will know you are a fair coach.
How can you keep the respect of your child as well as the team? Tell your child that while you are the parent, you are also the coach. Some kids might even put your child in the middle, so it’s important to let them know you are the coach and their friendship with your daughter get them no perks. Follow through as a coach is an important step in keeping your team’s respect and use your assistant coaches to your advantage. Get their opinions, comments and ideas and implement them. The team is a better team when coached by a team and not an individual. And when you are upset with your own child on the field, let your assistant handle it and keep your temper in check. Keep the parent and child interactions for the ride home from the game and stick to coaching while on the field.
How do you always pick what’s right for the team? By taking an honest look at your kids during practice, not for who they are, but for the talents they bring to the game and basing your decisions on that instead of personal feelings. Just because a kid wants to be a goalie and knows what to do, doesn’t always mean that they are good at it.
Be honest with yourself and with the kids you are coaching. Know when to say no and be honest when explaining why you aren’t placing them as pitcher but putting them in as shortstop. Maybe they don’t have a strong throwing arm, but are excellent at catching pop flies. Make the best choice for the team, and they will appreciate it in the long run.
How do you coach and make everyone happy? Everyone is going to have an opinion, whether it’s the coach, assistant coach, umpire, parents, or the team itself and everyone’s has different coaching styles as well as learning styles. Keep this in mind when developing your coaching plan, but also remember to stick to a few basic rules: keep everyone engaged in the game, have a coaching plan and divvy up the coaching responsibilities, don’t use intimidation techniques like yelling and belittling, give praise when deserved and be constructive with your feedback, celebrate successes, don’t alienate the parents and communicate, communicate, communicate. Always make fun and safety the top priorities by promising that you will teach them how to play the game, how to have fun at it, and maybe you can too with a few
games along the way.
Should you coach 4-year-old boys and teenage girls using the same methods?
Many kids have never played the sport before, so you have to remember to start with the basics. Don’t assume that everyone has the same level of knowledge as you do. Little kids have shorter attention spans, so keep them active and on task. Take the time to explain why you have them doing something specific, like holding the bat a certain way or leaning forward when they throw a ball. Children always like to know why. Young girls have emotional fluctuations and may be more awkward or less cooperative and require different approaches to coaching.
As kids get older, you can change your coaching style and be a bit more firm or strict with them because they should already know the game they are playing. Know your team and what makes them tick. They are more likely to respond to you as a coach and it will definitely help you be a better parent too.
Dodi Kingsfield, Technical Services Supervisor, Freelance Writer and Author. Dodi is employed as a Technical Supervisor for a large food manufacturer in Dunkirk, writes childrens and young adult books and does freelance writing for the web and magazines. Married for more than 20 years and a full-time mother of five, Dodi enjoys yoga, organic gardening and telling tall tales. She can be reached through her e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org.