Whether you are a seasoned coach or a first-timer, you notice a common theme among youth soccer coaches. Many of them are coaching their children. Recreational and youth leagues are in dire need of coaches, and many parents are needed to step up onto the pitch. Many leagues wouldn’t exist without the volunteering of parents. But the question still remains, should you be the one to coach your kid’s team?
Typically, you can decide whether you should be your child’s coach by considering a few questions.
- Does your child want you to coach?
- Do you feel you can develop your child’s and teams’ skills better than the other available options?
- Can you be objective and fair?
- Does the setup work for the entire team?
- Do you truly want to coach?
If you answer yes to all these questions, coaching youth soccer might be in your near future. Coaching your child can be an extremely rewarding experience. As with everything, beware of the pitfalls. Some parents do it for all the wrong reasons, taking away a good experience from everyone.
Let’s continue a bit deeper to cover all these questions and more.
Questions to Ask
The decision to become a youth coach requires input from many different people. Start with great questions to flesh out all the consequences upfront. After this process, the hard part is over. The answer will emerge.
Do you really want to coach?
This should be the first question you ask yourself. If the answer is no, then the rest is irrelevant. Unless there are no other coaches available. Follow your intuition here. No one can answer this for you. Is this how you want to spend your time? Coaching requires a few hours a week commitment – planning practice sessions, practice, and games. A lot of the time it is volunteer work.
Does your child want you to coach?
This should be the first conversation you have. If the answer is no, then there isn’t much left to discuss. When your child is younger, this might be more difficult. A five-year-old might not understand the question. As your kids grow, check in with them before and during the season. They might not want you to be a coach this year, and that is okay. Another way to gauge their interest is how they act when you are coaching. If they don’t take your direction or ignore your adjustments, it might be time to let someone else decide to take control.
Do you feel you can develop your child and team?
Ask yourself what you bring to the table in terms of coaching. What if there is another parent that wants to coach? What the best coaching style for my child to thrive? Determine if your skillset is best suited for the development of your child and their team. Be honest with yourself. With young kids, this is less important. But, as your kids grow older, coaches are required to bring more to the pitch. If you didn’t play soccer competitively, you might not be the best option for the team.
Can you be objective and fair?
How do you figure out playing time for your child? What if your child is the best on the team? Will you be harder on your kid than you will be on other players? All these questions should be asked. You should treat your kid like all the others. The role of a coach requires a different mindset than a parent, and you have plenty of people watching to make sure you follow through.
Does the setup work for the team?
In some cases, regardless of what you do, the players will feel some resentment towards your kid because you are the coach. Make sure the players and parents are on the same page and are okay with the situation. If not, step down as coach and let someone else take the position.
The Advantages of Coaching Your Child
Let’s start with the positive! Coaching your kid can be one of the most memorable parts of their childhood. You drive together to practice and games. You spend time together playing sports and make memories. Quality connection time is irreplaceable. This gives you the opportunity to spend many hours a week with them.
If you love the game of soccer, coaching allows you to mold the soccer environment the way you want. You can introduce the game you love to your child! Few things beat sharing your passion to someone else. One way to ensure your kid has a good foundation is to be the teacher. You can introduce them to the game in a way that might ignite the same passion you have for it.
Life can be busy especially with multiple kids at home. Every weekend, events pull you in a million different directions. As your child’s coach, you can guarantee you will never miss a game. Once you accept the obligation, you are forced to make it work. Everything else has to wait. When I was growing up, my dad missed games due to work. These are moments he can never get back.
The Disadvantages of Coaching Your Child
As your child gets older, competition increases. Parents will be more demanding of your role as a coach including fighting the perception of favoritism. As a parent of a player on the team, other parents and players will be sensitive to this relationship. Even with your best effort, people may feel you have a bias. Everyone wants their child to play as much as possible.
Coaching requires a division of jobs meaning there is a time to be a dad or mom and a time to be a coach. Both can not occur at the same time. During games, there is no time to relax and enjoy your kid’s play as a parent. No cheering for your child and be a spectator. You must always stay in the coach lane. This can be quite hard to follow.
Furthermore, the division goes beyond games and extends into home life. Kids will have to know the difference between when you are coaching and when you are a parent. Otherwise, they can get confused. Some kids might not be able to handle this division. Coaches and parents act differently. For example, parents love their children unconditionally and are forgiving of their mistakes. While coaches deliver constructive feedback to correct mistakes. Instructing your child in front of their peers takes some skill. Not all kids can handle you correcting them in front a large audience of people.
Tips to Coach Your Child
Go the extra step to fight the favoritism perception. Set up a preseason meeting with players and parents. Don’t scoot around the issue. Be direct and honest. Tell them what to plan to do to avoid any favoritism situation. Allow them to express their concerns if they feel you aren’t holding up your side of the bargain.
Document everything to cover yourself and keep track of your decisions such as rotating player positions during gameplay, the amount of playing time each player receives, and which players start each game. Balance the best you can. There is no black and white answer here. The biggest note here is to fight the perception and the rest should be easy. If everyone feels you are fair and objective, then you are doing a good job.
Furthermore, if you are unsure about a decision, ask a trusted parent or another coach. Get a second opinion. Feedback is important. Find someone to give you the truth. Sometimes we blind ourselves because we want the best for our children. This is the role of a parent, not a coach. There will be times when what is best for the team and your child don’t align. For instance, if someone needs to play goalie, put your child in first. If someone needs to have an extra turn, volunteer your child. This helps eliminate feelings that you are putting your interests first.
Make strong rules on when you are the coach and when you are mom or dad. One rule might never to talk sports once you get into the car. Leave the coach talk on the pitch. Then you can back to mom. This allows for a strong division and helps your kids understand.
As with most things in life, coaching your child is an individual decision. No answer is right or wrong. Discuss with your loved ones and team. Decide for yourself. I wish you the best in your decision-making process.