Great rewards, but with occasional pitfalls too
At grassroots level, thanks to all the help given by wonderful parent volunteers, there is the scenario that the parent may end up being responsible and coaching their own child as part of a team. It is a wonderful opportunity for parent and child to bond further, an opportunity for the parent to be actively involved in their child’s life and most importantly, a chance to create great memories for the years to come.
I remember fondly the time my own father spent coaching me ‘mini rugby’ when I was between the ages of 6 and 8 and I can still picture him now kitted out in his tracksuit smiling and encouraging all that wanted to participate in the game. Unfortunately coaching your own child is not always a positive experience. We are here with a few helpful tips to ensure that the shared experience is a positive one.
- Before you think of volunteering have a discussion with your child about how they feel about you potentially being their coach. If they really are apprehensive then perhaps it is best that you remain the most supportive you can be from the sidelines both for them and the coach. Offer to help in other ways that aren't as obvious if you would like to play a greater role and volunteer your time.
- Ensure there is a difference between you being the parent and the coach. Your child will need to know that when you are the coach you need to treat all players equally but as soon as you become the parent again you need to make sure your child knows that you care about them the most. Work hard not to muddy the waters on this. Being coach all week can only have negative implications!
- Strike the right balance on praising and penalising your child. I found this very tough as a coach and was probably too tough on my own child and did not give out enough praise for the right things. The reason I did this, is that there is no worse way of poisoning an environment for other players and other parents than when a coach leans too much in favour of their own child. As you can see the problem is you can go too much the other way. If you have an assistant or a friend, check in with them to see they perceive you are striking the correct balance?
- Don't discuss other parents and other players with your child particularly in a negative vane. It makes things really tricky for a young child who is probably very good friends with the player and whose parents you may be criticising. The child needs to make his own mind up about the other players and you should not be looking to form a coaching alliance with your own child.
- Try to act on the sidelines in a way that would make your son or daughter proud. Remember, your child is not the only one thats performing during the game (don't follow them around with a spotlight over their head). You are also a performer and the quality of their experience is firmly in your hands. Conduct yourself in such a way that you clearly communicate to your child and those around you that this is just a recreational game for children, played by children because it's FUN.
- Don't get sucked into the whole week revolving around training and matches for you and your child. Try not to spend the rest of the week practising further at home and talking about last weeks game the whole time and the so called big match coming up.
It is too much and too much overload for a child and for the rest of the family. Do other things as a group away from the sport that way. That way everyone stays fresh and does not resent the huge commitment that you have taken on.
The major positive aspect includes being able to spend quality time together. Additionally, your child perceives that he/she gets special attention, praise, and perks, such as being on familiar terms with the coach. In the child’s perception, having you as a parent as a coach is an opportunity to receive motivation and technical instruction that others on the team do not get. In the perspective of the parent, being both coach and parent provides the opportunity to teach values and skills, the opportunity to see how your child interact with friends, and the ability to see your child’s accomplishments and take pride in them – Weiss & Fretwell 2005.
I’ll finish by saying enjoy the experience and without parent coaches we would have no game and most teams wouldn’t even exist. My advice is don’t coach your own child forever. It’s great at the younger ages but there is a time to step away and just watch them play. I would suggest that you devote some of your time to just being a Dad or Mum (supporting from the sidelines) and when it’s time to let go (as the coach), let them go.
You can find more great information from Working With Parents in Sport by visiting their website here.