Challenges vs. Rewards of Coaching Your Own Kids

OK, we’ve all tried it but how many of us have been really successful at it?  Coaching your own kids is certainly not without its merits but walking the tightrope between parent and coach is more than just a little challenging.  Here is your opportunity to chime in with the good, the bad and the ugly.  Tell me what works and what you’re having problems with.  Throw in a horror story or two about a parent/coach you’ve observed (because you never make those mistakes, it’s always the other guy, right?) and we could have a hot topic on our hands.

The best topics will be asked to join the next recording session.

Good Luck

Coach Tony


7 Responses to “Challenges vs. Rewards of Coaching Your Own Kids”

  1. 1 Ralph Amitrano
    July 21, 2009 at 11:06 PM

    Hello Tony,

    About 12 years ago I was on the sideline as a Varsity Basketball Coach at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn New York. With my team engaged in many contests against some of the best high school teams in the country at the time I often found myself so involved in the game that I would actually get lightheaded as I shouted instructions to players on the court. I was a green and energetic coach at that time and I pushed the players that I had to compete and be confident that they could play with the best. At times I was surely overbearing and over exuberant. It was a few years into coaching this team when I had a personal epiphany during a game. I thought to myself, “What would happen differently if I stopped barking instructions and actually let the kids play?” What if I took it in and offered something to them that was more summative and less on a play by play basis.
    It wasn’t easy to give up what I thought at the time was control of what was happening. It gave the kids a chance to breathe on the court without hearing me on every play. The players had worked hard enough in practice to know where they were supposed to be and were conditioned enough to compete. The difference that a coach can make on individual players varies according to how each individual player reacts and how they are made up. One reaction or comment from a coach can fire up one player and deflate another at the same time. It is a complexity involved with coaching young people at a competitive level where they will measure themselves in victory and defeat both as a team and as an individual.
    Fast forward to 2009 where I am now coaching my 7 year old son’s baseball team. This summer we are in a 7/8yr old baseball league. I have found that the challenge is leaving the practice and game on the field , where it belongs. I limit my comments after the game to “Did you have fun” and a comment on something that he did well.Interestingly enough , my son seems to bring up the things that he didn’t do well. To that I say,”Keep Practicing and do your best” and “don’t worry about it”. The great thing about sports is that you will always have another day to play. I find that kids at this 7 and 8 year old level are very self-critical and self-conscious. They do not need another critic. They are learning ,.. for the first time that “3 strikes and you are OUT !… and that if your ball is caught on the fly …you are OUT !It is an introduction to failure already , no additional pressure is necessary.

    During High School I played basketball with a guy who’s dad was our coach. There were some intense exchanges. He was an excellent player and his father was a great coach but you could feel the intensity during practice. They are part of a wonderful family but I am sure there were some interesting discussions around the dinner table back in those days.
    As for coaching your own children I would say the following;

    Take a step back from the situation and see the game through your son’s eyes. he wants to succeed and impress. Be a supprter all of the time. Remember, the game is not easy.

    Make character a priority. Tell your son and the kids on his team the following;
    Do your best,listen,concentrate and be respectful. Like John Woodens pyramid of success says, success is not medals, awards and trophies. It is working hard, being confident , doing your best and not giving up.

    Don’t forget who you were. chances are you weren’t a great athlete. especially at the age of 8. It isn’t fair to exert that type of pressure on a younster. It can turn them away and burn them out quickly. If you were a great athlete then relax, it’s in the genes. (HA HA)

    Think about who you want your son to be one day and how miniscule the chance of making a living playing a sport is. Teach the lessons that he can apply to other situations he encounters in school and in social settings.

    Have fun coaching your own kid. So far it has been a great bond and if it stops being fun, I will stop being his coach.

  2. 2 Rick Elliott
    July 30, 2009 at 3:08 AM

    Ralph and Crew,

    Many great truths in your post. Especially about John Wooden’s golden thoughts about teaching the kids about “working hard, being confident , doing your best and not giving up.” This is our duty as a coach to all of the kids (not just our own).

    But, if you re-read Wooden’s comments from a parental point of view, you realize how important it is, as parents, to install these virtues in our own kids to give them their best chance for success in life, not just in sports. I guess in simplest terms, the best thing about being a coach for your kid, is the chance for you to expand your realtionship, while teaching life lessons.

    BTW Many of us don’t just coach our sons, we coach our daughters, too!

    Tony, love the web-site,


  3. July 30, 2009 at 3:17 AM


    Well said, rick. Let’s not forget the young ladies here. In fact, quite a few of the “a-hole” parents and coaches in the girls’ leagues put the boys’ parents to shame.


  4. August 11, 2009 at 9:05 PM

    We are going through a situation with summer travel softball. My husband and 3 other fathers coach the team. One has tried to take over the roll as head coach. He has been coaching the girls in this grade since 1st grade. He has not let anyone but his own daughter play short stop. He only compliments his daughter. It’s almost like he tries to make the other girls look bad so his daughter looks better. My husband and the other 2 coaches try hard to teach the girls and make them feel positive about themselves. Whenever one of them finds a teaching moment the one father comes over and interupts….won’t even let them talk to the girls. All the girls see whats going on and are getting frustrated to the point that they don’t want to play anymore. We live in a small community and no one wants to cause problems but how do you get someone like that out?

  5. August 11, 2009 at 9:35 PM

    hi Janine

    Bottom line, there are 2 answers here. the one that makes sense and the one that you will probably and unfortunately be stuck with.

    First thing you could do would be to round up the parents to see if everyone feels the same way. If that is the case, the parent group should petition the commissioner of the travel softball program and hopefully someone will take the kids’ best interest and step in to rememdy the situation.

    Having said that, let me explain what will probably happen. since this moron has been coaching these girls for some time, he has probably been annointed as the chosen one and will coach this group until he dies or his daughter quits, whichever comes first. the parents who decide to speak up will become more frustrated when they learn that the idiots who run the program actually support this coach and the only people who will suffer from this will be the girls whose parents tried to do the right thing.

    Sound like I’m speaking from personal experience here? You guessed it, I am. I was an assistant coach to the most horrible and least experienced baseball coach you could imagine. me and the other assistant coach both played college ball and traveled the country playing as amateurs and had to sit back and watch this baboon who never even played in high school, make mistake after mistake and yell at kids and keep his own son in the startign lineup at his favorite position. Lo and behold, the morons who run the program in our town decided to sit on their thumbsand do nothing but support this idiot.

    I hate to say it but be careful how you approach this one. common sense does not always prevail.

    Hope that helps and let me know what, if anything, happens.


  6. 6 Coach Berno
    March 4, 2010 at 8:46 PM

    Having just completed seven straight seasons of coaching one of my boys in wrestling I would like to say that although it is not always easy it has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. There were difficult moments especially when there are heartbreaking losses but the bonds that have been formed between myself and my sons are something that will last forever. Although the outcomes did not always meet our expectations the hard work we shared to try and achieve our goals were priceless.

  7. March 4, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Good stuff, coach, I hope you’ll listen in to the show on Saturday and share some of your thoughts.

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