“Now pressure from the team coach is one thing, but coaching pressure from Mom or Dad has an added dimension to it.”
—Jim and Janet Sundberg, How to Win at Sports Parenting”
I have known many capable former athletes who have been pressed into coaching their own child’s sports team. I have known a few who have managed it, especially in the earlier years; however, others in so doing have inflicted damage to relationships, not only with the other parents, but more importantly with their own child.
When our son Tom was about 9 or 10 years old, he was one of the pitchers on his youth league baseball team. My husband had played college baseball and was quite knowledgeable about many aspects of the game, although he himself had been a shortstop. He was an assistant coach on Tom’s team, along with another father who was the team’s pitching coach. I remember a tight game one evening versus a tough rival, and Tom was on the mound. At a critical point (relative to 9-10 year old baseball) during the game, Tom’s pitches were a little off, the pitch count was more balls than strikes, and the pressure was mounting.
All of a sudden I heard Mike shout from the dugout, “Just throw strikes!” You could have heard crickets in the stands. Tom stepped out of his stance, wheeled around toward our bench and shouted back: “Do you even know how hard that is?”
We laugh about that now, but I know it made an indelible impression on not only Tom, but also Mike. By the time Tom turned 12, Mike made sure Tom would play on a team under a coach whom we knew was knowledgeable and effective—but no relation to Tom.
I know that was the best decision for our family, for Mike and Tom’s relationship. The adolescent years posed plenty of challenges without the added pressures that could emerge from the coach-player relationship . As Jim Sundberg continues in his book: “After all, what we want from our parents far transcends mere skill improvement on a ball field. When all is said and done, we long to know that our parents love us with all their hearts—unconditionally—-whether we hit the game-winning single or strike out…”
I don’t know your specific situation, but these are truths that should be thoughtfully considered before coaching your own child, especially as they approach adolescence and beyond. You would be wise to commit to be resourceful in finding ways to keep your father-child relationship primary and healthy. Undoubtedly, that is the most important thing, and the thing that endures.