As a parent, you are your child's biggest cheerleader and advocate. You've seen them grow and develop, and now you want to support them in pursuing their passions and reaching their full potential. One way to do this is by volunteering for the role of their coach. Coaching your own child can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it also comes with unique challenges.
In this blog post, we will explore some practical tips and strategies to help you navigate the world of coaching and foster a positive and productive environment for your child's growth.
We'll start by saying enjoy the experience and without parent coaches volunteering we would have no youth sports and most teams wouldn’t even exist (helping volunteers like you is why we created our company!)
Understanding the Dynamics
Before diving into the specifics of coaching, it's important to understand the dynamics at play when you take on this dual role. As a parent, you naturally have a deep emotional investment in your child's success. However, as a coach, you need to maintain objectivity and focus on their development and not solely on their outcomes. Balancing these roles can be challenging, but it's essential to cultivate a healthy and constructive environment for your child.
Building a Foundation of Trust and Communication
Effective coaching begins with a strong foundation of trust and open communication. Start by having an honest conversation with your child about their goals and aspirations. Check they're okay with you being the coach. Listen attentively, and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings about the coaching relationship. This open dialogue will help you both gain clarity on expectations and set the stage for a positive coaching experience.
Setting Clear Boundaries
To avoid potential conflicts and maintain a healthy parent-child relationship, it's crucial to establish clear boundaries. Define specific times and spaces dedicated to coaching, ensuring that these sessions are distinct from regular family interactions. At home, the coaching hat comes off! By creating this separation, you can focus on coaching without blurring the lines between parent and coach.
Coach Garrison's Story
Here's what youth soccer coach David Garrison told us about the challenge of volunteer-coaching his own child.
"The biggest lesson I learned from coaching my kids came from my son when he was about 8 years old," says David. "He loved soccer so much he wanted to play it all the time so if we weren't at practice or a game, he wanted to be in the yard or down at the park kicking the ball around."
"One Saturday morning we were at the park. I was playing goalie and he was taking shots at me. I went into coach mode and started saying things like 'Kick more with your left foot' and 'Practice running from the right but kicking back to the left' and things like that."
"He let me know he just wanted to take shots to see if I could block them. I told him he needed to practice these other things if he ever wanted to get better. He looked up at me and said 'Can you just be my coach at practice and let me have fun with my dad today?' I damn near burst into tears."
The moral of the story according to David:
"So know when to go into coach mode and be able to switch it back to parent mode real quick."
Tailoring Coaching Techniques to Your Child's Needs
Every child is unique, and their learning styles and motivations may vary. As a coach, it's important to understand your child's individual needs - and adapt your coaching techniques accordingly. This is true for all the kids. So, try not to treat everyone in the team the same, but treat every individual fairly. Some children may respond well to direct instruction, while others may thrive with a more collaborative and exploratory approach. By tailoring your coaching techniques to the child's preferences, you can create an environment that maximizes their growth and enjoyment.
Nurturing a Growth Mindset
One of the most valuable lessons you can impart as a coach is the power of a growth mindset. Encourage your child to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles. Teach them to embrace failure as a stepping stone toward improvement and to persist in the face of setbacks. By fostering a growth mindset, you will empower your child to develop resilience and a lifelong love for learning - in and out of sport!
Celebrating Progress and Effort
While it's natural to celebrate achievements, it's equally important to recognize and appreciate your child's progress and effort along the way. Regularly acknowledge their hard work, dedication, and small victories. This positive reinforcement will not only boost their confidence but also help them develop a healthy attitude toward success and failure.
Seeking External Support
Coaching your own child can be a fulfilling experience, but it's essential to recognize when external support may be beneficial. Consider enlisting the help of other coaches or mentors who can provide valuable guidance and expertise outside of your personal relationship. These outside influences - from your club or organization - can offer a fresh perspective on how well you're navigating the tricky role of volunteer coach-parent, which will in turn enhancing your child's overall development.
The Car Ride Home
The car ride home after a game is an important ritual, requiring delicate handling.
"I wouldn't say 'never' talk about the game because sometimes it's fun to," says Coach Garrison. "But never criticize your child in the car or at home."
Instead, when driving your son or daughter home from sports games, repeat these five magic words, regardless of their performance or the end result:
I love watching you play.
“'I love watching you play' just tells your kid that your love for them is not dependent on how they perform in sport. Which it should not ever be!” explains youth coach and author John O'Sullivan.
Volunteer coaching your own child is a unique opportunity to contribute to their growth and help them reach their potential. By establishing clear boundaries, fostering open communication, and tailoring your coaching techniques to their individual needs, you can create a nurturing and supportive environment. Remember to celebrate their progress and seek external support when necessary. With your guidance and encouragement, your child will not only develop as an athlete but also as a resilient and confident individual ready to take on life's challenges. But in the team environment, remember: coaching your child really shouldn't be any different than coaching anyone else's child.