How to Coach Your Own Kid in Sports

It's tricky to be both coach and parent. But it can be done.

baseball player and coach
Kudos to coaches who are moms and dads, too. LWA / Stone / Getty Images

Yes, it can be a challenge to wear both the coach's hat and the parent's. But with some advance planning, and some healthy perspective, you and your child can survive it with your good relationship intact. Here's how to coach your own kid—in a way that works for you, your child, and the whole team.

Talk It Out Ahead of Time

Before you even agree to coach your kid's team, talk it over with your child.

You're not asking for her permission, but you are setting expectations (on both sides). Ask her how she feels about you coaching. Does she have questions or concerns that you can allay right now? Walk through some difficult situations that might come up: "How would you feel if I had to bench you? What would happen if I had to discipline you or one of your friends? What if a teammate says I was mean, or that I am favoring you because you're my kid?"

Discuss how you might handle some of these tough situations, and remind your child that you'll be the coach of the whole team. So you'll need to make decisions for the benefit of the team. It will be important for you to show everyone (players, parents, and other coaches) that you're not playing favorites. So thank your child in advance for understanding, and for making the most of it. Then check in with her periodically during the season to see how she's feeling.

Separate Coaching and Parenting

When you're with the team, you're the coach. But when you're at home, you need to be mom or dad. "Some coaches have a special cap they wear only when coaching their child’s team. After a game or practice, they make a point of changing hats: 'I'm taking my coach hat off and putting my dad hat on,'" says Jim Thompson of the Positive Coaching Alliance.

You could achieve the same result with a certain shirt or jacket, or even a whistle you wear around your neck. Let it serve as a physical reminder to you and your child. You can also ask your child to call you "coach" when you're playing that role. It will probably feel strange for you both at first, but it helps draw that boundary between your two jobs.

Just as you don't want your parenting role to interfere on the playing field, you also want to keep your home life separate from your sport. So save your coaching tips for practice, and don't run extra drills with your kid at home. If he really wants to play, make it fun and pressure-free (play catch instead of trying to perfect his fastball). And keep post-game chat supportive and positive. Avoid "talking shop" or discussing your child's teammates with him or anytime he could overhear your conversation.

Be Fair

It's obviously important, and easy enough to say; the hard part is really doing it. When you coach your own kid, you need to be impartial and avoid giving her special advantages or privileges.

On the flip side, you also need to guard against being too hard on your child in an effort to show others you're not playing favorites.

So how do you walk this fine line? Get some backup. Before practices even start, ask an assistant coach or another team parent to help you with this, giving honest feedback any time it's necessary. (Of course, you'll need to be prepared to hear what this observer has to say, even if it makes you uncomfortable.)

Have Fun

Coaching your own child does give him one advantage that you can embrace: It's a special opportunity for you to spend time together, sharing an activity you both love. Now that's something to cheer about!

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