Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coaching your own child. Smart? Crazy?

Somebody said something to me once that I will never forget: "Everybody watches two kids during a game; their own and the coach's"

How true.

I have always enjoyed coaching my children, but there are a lot of potential issues accompanying the role of parent-coach.

Is it fair to you?  Is it fair to your child?  There is a cold hard fact that nobody can escape ... the coach's child is NEVER good enough or TOO strong.  Not even the greatest parent coach ever, Walter Gretzky, could escape the pressures that eventually caused his son Wayne to move to Toronto at the tender age of 14.
"Everybody watches two kids during a game; their own and the coach's"
Coaching when your son is not on the team is much easier to handle than when he is on the team.  That's a gimme.  And the juggling act you do with playing time, tryouts, etc is an art form that few have mastered.

But there is a great joy in coaching your child.  With all three of my sons, at one point or another, I was able to work with them and their friends to make them all better players and hopefully enjoy the game.  I took 21 boys to Europe in 2009 (including my 2 oldest sons) , as well as organized many weekend tournaments over the years.  I tried to attend those events as a "coach" and not a father.

For my sons, hopefully they have had a moment or two or more where they know or heard their friends enjoyed playing when I coached.

For me, I get to see my sons interact with their friends and play and, hopefully, I was able to leave my "dad" hat at home for that short time.

There is a reality and that is people who enjoy coaching and have children playing may not have the time to coach unless it is their child's team.  For a few years I coached 2 teams (district and club) while all three of my boys played travel soccer.  I am still standing (and married) but it wasn't easy.  I still coach programs where my children are not involved over and above my son's club duties.

There are things you expose yourself to when you coach your child:
  • Your spouse having to hear grief in the cheering section.
  • The possibility that your child may not belong in the group.
  • Keep an even emotion when dealing with injuries or dirty play when your injured player may or may not be your child.
  • Setting a terrible example for the kids, and embarrassing your child in the process.
  • Discipline issues where your child is involved with other players.
  • Your child being the one not working hard at training.
  • Cutting your child's friends during tryouts.
In 24 years of coaching, only two players have ever quit my team after being signed.  One was my oldest son.  That was at U12.  He still played travel soccer (rec level) at U17.  For a few years I was coaching the first team in his age group and he was playing on the second.  When my youngest told me he was thinking of not playing I told him to ask his older brother how many times I tried to convince him to come back to which he quickly replied "zero".  They all know that I will continue coaching and there is no pressure on them to play if they don't want to.

Coaching my children has been a very positive experience for me.   The "you and your son" card has only been thrown at me a few times but I find ways to move on.  I coached before my boys started playing and will continue after they are done, but for the short time in my coaching career when they passed through the system I am glad I was on the bench for some of those years.