What I've Learned in Coaching

By now it’s probably no secret what a few of my passions in this life are. I love sports, the Tar Heels and more important than any of those things, I love my son. I love that he loves sports, the Tar Heels and spending time with one another. As he has grown, we have done our best to allow him to try the sports HE wants to play, not just the one’s that I played or love. He has tried soccer, swimming, basketball, baseball, tennis and has yet to attempt football. I’ve always said that I would be passionate about what he is passionate about. It worked out nicely that he LOVES basketball and has a passing interest in baseball. His mom loves that he has a natural talent for swimming as well (she is a swimmer and former water polo player).

Over the years, I have had the privilege of being able to coach or assistant coach for his various teams. To be honest, my first attempt at coaching left me thinking I would rather be a parent that just watches and coaches “at home”. It was a learning experience to say the least. Coaching your child in sports is a very, very delicate balance. At least for this guy it is. I’ve seen examples where the Dad didn’t feel that way and watched the child’s reaction. To be very honest  my internal thought was “he’s going to hate this sport and you by the time he’s 16“. We must choose our words and our actions wisely.

Maybe it is a bit of conviction that leads me to this post. My wife and I are starting to spot a tendency within “The Boy” to quit when things don’t go his way. He does it with his sisters and has, at times, done it in sports. He has a bent to “check out” and not see it through if he is not winning or the best. So last night at basketball practice, I witnessed a moment of this “bent” and decided to coach my son. This is where that balance comes in. The challenge was to change his bent but not break his spirit. Those words at that moment have the chance to create a hunger to get better or a wound that will take time to heal. I chose to be stern in my coaching and clear in my direction of what I witnessed. Later that evening, I took the one-one-one time to explain my words and coaching and get his feedback.

To be honest, I won’t know how my coaching this child God has entrusted in my care will effect him until years down the road. With each practice and word spoken, I am hoping I am doing the right thing. After a few short years of coaching, here is what I have personally learned:

1. The “coaches kid” can quickly become the one that takes the hardest coaching. The frustrations of what the kids that are not yours are doing can be taken out on the one that is yours. Be careful here. It can happen without even recognizing it. Be very aware that your coaching of your child should only pertain to their performance and not another child on the teams.

2. Remember that the child is surrounded by his/her peers. These are the kids they will see at school and in the neighborhood. How you coach and handle your child is seen and heard. The last thing any child would want is to have to face the jeers of his friends for something his Dad, the coach, said or did.

3. Remember that YOU are surrounded by the parents of your community. How you handle your child (and theirs) can leave a lasting impact (good or bad).

4. Your child wants and needs to be coached by you. No matter how loud the coach of the teams voice is, it is yours that they will hear from the stands or bench. Long after the coaches approval and validation fades, it is yours that they are seeking.

5. Know that, even on the tough coaching days, there will be a moment when they will look back and remember your teaching. You are teaching your child to be coachable in life as much as you are on a playing field. Don’t break their spirit in the process.

6. Our time is over. We can’t live out our sports failures and successes through our children. We had our day in the sun and moment to shine. The time is theirs now. You need to be there when they hit the game winning shot and especially when they don’t. It’s their turn now, let them have it.

Again, I am no expert. Time will only tell the results of my coaching on the playing field AND at home. More than once I have told “the boy” that it’s my first time being a Dad too. We’re learning together. Hopefully we’re both growing together too.

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