Putting on my Steve Stone, “for-all-you-young-coaches-out-there” voice
Brian Reid of Rebeldad, blogging at the Washington Post’s On Parenting site, is asking for answer to the following questions as he investigates following in his own father’s footsteps as a youth sports coach:
At what point do kids turn rabidly competitive? Does that happen before or after the parents make the transition? And what happens when you coach your own kid (or what happens when the mom or dad around the block coaches their kid)?
Here is how I answered his questions:
I’ve coached two of my kids in multiple sports and am working on my third (T-ball this spring), so I’ll take a crack at this:
At what point do kids turn rabidly competitive?
I would say age two, when someone tries to take their toy. Seriously, some care about winning, some don’t, some care about making sure they’re the best player out there, some don’t. You can’t make a kid who doesn’t care, care. However, you can make a kid who cares funnel that energy in the right direction so he or she doesn’t make his or her teammates miserable.
Does that happen before or after the parents make the transition?
We shouldn’t be shocked that parents are competitive because, at a minimum, they want to see their child succeed, or at least feel like they’re not wasting their and their child’s time. But it’s like the kids — some parents care, some don’t, and the challenge is funneling the energy of the parents who care in the right direction, i.e., staying positive.
And what happens when you coach your own kid (or what happens when the mom or dad around the block coaches their kid)?
I tell my kids before each season that once we hit the field/court, I’m speaking to them as their coach, and that I will treat them equally as other kids. I do that so they don’t expect special treatment (which I’m not sure they do), but moreso that if I critique their play they know I’m speaking as a coach trying to help them, not their father trying to be a jerk. My 11-year-old son is so well-trained on this, the moment we step out of the car for a practice or game, he stops calling me “Dad” and calls me “Coach.”
As far as other parents coaching their kids, you do have some who blatantly favor their own children — often to the child’s detriment. I’ve seen serious meltdowns when a coach kept putting his or her child in nominal position to be the star, but the child instead struggled mightily. It’s hard enough on a kid when he or she struggles, but the pressure is even greater when he or she feels he or she is letting down not just a coach, but a parent.