I recently asked my brother if he wanted to coach my four-year-old son’s basketball team. Since my brother John has played basketball all his life (starting from age five, through high school, into college and he still plays the occasional pickup game with friends), I thought he would jump at the opportunity to help young children learn a sport he loves while at the same time bonding with his nephew (and godson).
So I was shocked at his quick, but honest, response, “I don’t think I have patience for the younger kids, but definitely when he’s older.”
I started to think that it takes a special person to coach soccer, basketball, or cheerleading teams for kids – especially at the age when it can still feel more like a babysitting job than a coaching job.
Why would I think that my single brother, who has no experience with kids, would make a good coach for a bunch of pre-schoolers?
My husband was the assistant coach for our son’s T-ball team last spring, and he really enjoyed being up close to help Nicholas along the way during his first season. However, he definitely struggled a little to find the right balance between helping our son play his best while giving the same amount of attention to the other kids on the team. So before we volunteer our husbands, or brothers or even ourselves to coach our kid’s team… let’s consider whether we have what it takes, before we pick up that whistle!
Ask Your Kids
Youth sports are not the place for us to relive our missed opportunities! Our kids are the ones who wanted to sign up for soccer, football or cheerleading, so why don’t you ask your child if they would like mom or dad coaching their team? Trust me, you’ll be able to tell right away from their response.
If you feel like your child is hesitant, don’t push it. Sometimes our children want independence from us. (I am the first to admit that I’m a smothering mother!) And a little independence is a good thing. If you really want to be involved, consider signing up to be the team mom/dad or the assistant coach, rather than the head coach, so you’re not the one in total control.
If your kid is excited for you to coach their team, make sure you take it seriously, but don’t forget to enjoy the bonding time you will have with your child and their teammates!
If your husband decides to coach your son’s football team, don’t assume that you’re off the hook. Like every other aspect of parenting, working together as a team will really help make the season go smoothly.
In the years and years that my father-in-law coached his three boys and one girl in everything from football and baseball to lacrosse and softball, my mother-in-law also learned a lot. “Let your husband be the coach and you be the parent,” is great advice for any coaches’ wife!
If another player’s parent from the team approach you with concerns about the way your husband is running the team, stay out of it and refer their concerns to the coach. That way, you aren’t undermining his authority as the team leader, and it will help you stay focused on your own children and their individual needs while your husband is handling the larger concerns of the team.
Don’t Go Sports-Crazy
No matter how hard we try to keep them recreational, youth sports are competitive, and they only get more intense as our children grow older. “Good” coaches are graded on their WINS, and in order to run a successful team, they have to deal with all that goes into coaching: play books, getting the kids in the right positions, dealing with the parents, and scheduling practices. It can be hard for a coach who is also a parent not to take everything home at the end of the game.
But the most important role for any parent is to keep a balance between sports, school and family in our childrens’ lives. Student athletes need to be reminded to do their homework, study for their test, and let’s not forget about the chores around the house. We need to continue to help our children learn to prioritize their lives when they are younger by teaching them how to balance their responsibilities – instead of focusing on sports all the time!
If you do coach your child, remember not take it too seriously. Every team wants to win, and every kid wants to do their best, so try to keep that in mind and not push too hard!
I had the best volleyball coach in high school, Mr. Brown. I should mention that even though I love watching sports, I am not a super-competitive athlete. I went to a small private school where everybody made the team. In fact, I remember freshmen year, joining the team because I wanted to make new friends. Mr. Brown grew up loving volleyball: his daughter was a great volleyball player and she was on our team. I don’t know how he had the patience for us, because while there were some girls on the team (maybe three) who were really there to play, the rest of us just wanted something to do after school together.
Mr. Brown always said that there is strength in every player. He said he enjoyed coaching his daughter as much as he did us and he proved that as he continued to coach after his daughter graduated. My friends and I had a great four years playing volleyball with Mr. Brown – and after we graduated, he finally got a group of girls who were great volleyball players to help him win some games!
A great coach is just as important to a child’s development as a great school teacher and parent. Finding the balance of being a parent and a coach can be a little tricky, but if you take the time and think everything over before signing up, it can be a very rewarding experience.
Just remember to take a little time to consider it before suiting up!