4 Things to Remember When Coaching Your Kids

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4 Things to Remember When Coaching Your Kids

A couple of years ago I was at a Little League game. I watched the coach’s son on the mound trying his hardest but walking batter after batter. The only “help” the coach (who I believe to be a good-hearted guy) could offer his son was a stern, “Throw strikes!” After throwing a wild pitch a runner was trying to score from third. The coach’s son was covering home and got slightly bumped by the runner. After he started crying another parent asked me why he was crying so much, it didn’t seem like a rough collision. I told him, “He’s clearly exhausted, having a rough time on the mound, and has been yelled at by his father for the past twenty minutes. It makes sense to me.”

I’ve watched a lot of fathers coach lately and it seems like the default behavior is to criticize their kid whenever they make a mistake on the field or court. I recently asked a kid at a little league practice, “What makes you the angriest?” Sadly he said, “My dad.” His dad is a wonderful guy, helps out during practice, but consistently criticizes his son. There’s a way to be a great youth sports coach. We just have to keep in mind the following 4 things.

First, don’t put pressure on your child.

Believe it or not, your child may not be the star or team leader. Let him find his own place on the team. Sometimes you’ll beam with pride and want to scream, “That’s my son.” Other times you may want to hide. I know your heart will be pounding every time he runs out there. But whether he succeeds or fails, do your best to treat him just like his teammates.

Second, make sure you have some practice time alone with your child.

Many of the other kids will go home and play catch with their dads. You may think that, as a coach, you’ve already done that. But your son or daughter also needs your time one-on-one.

Third, we’ve all heard Vince Lombardi’s words: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

I’ll agree with that only if we can redefine what winning is. Are you out to have a perfect win-loss record? Remember, Coach, little league wasn’t formed so middle-aged men could show off their coaching skills. The goals are fun, exercise, sportsmanship, and self-improvement for the kids. Make sure everyone participates to the best of their ability and contributes to the team. Give that struggling kid a few extra innings at second base; he may cost you a game, but he’ll also eventually throw somebody out. That’s really winning.

Finally, coaching can be a chance to reach out, not just to your kids, but to some of the other kids on the team.

These days, if you put fifteen kids on a ball field, at least two or three will come from broken homes and another few will have dads who just don’t have a clue. What a great chance this is for them to be encouraged by an adult male who cares for their well-being. As a coach, you can make a life-changing impression on your child and every other kid on that team.

©2001 National Center for Fathering

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