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Coaching Your Own Child: Attitude, Objectivity and Preparation Are Keys

Congratulations! Your child is on a team! Triumphant soccer coach with daughter on shoulders

Whether it is soccer, baseball, basketball, or the chess team, you have a golden opportunity to make a difference. Being your child's coach, assistant coach, referee, or Team Parent lets you contribute to the quality experience your child will enjoy. But like many opportunities, it can be a double-edged sword.

Sport teams in particular put parents in the hot seat. We all recognize we spend most of our time watching our child play (the rest of the team is there, but heck, our kid is the best). Humbly, we know we are biased, but when the adrenalin flows and our natural instincts as parents get turbo charged, we can say and do embarrassing things, things we never knew we could do, or even imagine doing. One dad who was an assistant coach even went onto the field and tackled a 12-year-old kid who made a late tackle on his son!

Forewarned is forearmed: Know you are vulnerable and you become less vulnerable. It is called an attitude inoculation. As John Wooden says, being prepared is preparing to succeed. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Coaching Your Own Child: Three Keys

Now that you know that your biases are itching to come out, get ready to implement a simple 3-step strategy:

  1. Recognize your own bias. Just like every other parent, you see your child's actions with a rosy glow of pride. While useful, these rose-colored lenses lead you (and every other parent) to think your child is the most talented or has the most potential.
  2. Train yourself to watch and make decisions objectively. Observe every child's playing behavior on your team. Give quality, equal advice based on observable actions. Make fair decisions based on team goals, not your goals as your child's parent. Some parents as coaches favor their own child while others are too hard on their child. Finding the balance is the hardest task you will have! Balance. Not too much attention, not too little attention; just the right amount. Your child will thank you.
  3. Prepare your child by describing your job as a coach. Explain to your child that you will do your very best to treat all the players equally, giving praise, guidance, and play time fairly to all. That is your job if the team is to have a quality team coach!

The "Two Hat" Trick

One coach told me a trick he used when coaching his daughter, Kimberly, on a varsity high school volleyball team. He explained that as he was driving her home from the game he would say, "O.K., I am going to take off my Coach Hat now and talk to you wearing my Dad Hat. You played great. I loved the way you...." and he would go on to tell her about specific things she did - this amazing pass or getting to a speeding jump served ball in the last minute. He said he often had fun with it and would refer to himself in the third person, telling her that her "coach was really nuts to take (her) out after (she) missed a serve, but heck, he was the coach... it was his decision."

The amazing coach who gave me that advice was Jesse Quiroz of Harvard-Westlake High School in North Hollywood, California. No wonder Coach Quiroz took his team to the California state championships twice and won both times (2001, 2002)!

So, Mom or Dad, congratulations again for taking the opportunity to support your child's team in whatever role you can.

If you are a little intimidated about your own athletic training, be consoled. The top NCAA Division-1 athletic coaches say the #1 thing they look for in a young athlete who is a real winner is one who Loves to Play. So start your job as Coach, Assistant Coach, Referee, and/or Team Parent with the goal of helping all kids learn to Love to Play!

Updated August 16, 2011



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