Lessons I’ve Learned from Being a Parent Coach

From the moment they’re born, we coach our children.

First, it’s just to eat, sleep, and play. We cheer them on as they learn skills, words and songs. We clap as they take their first steps and learn to use the potty.

When they struggle with emotions and we guide them through their feelings and behaviors, we are coaching.

Then, the day arrives when your child wants to participate in an activity or sport. The registration form asks whether or not you are interested in the role of Coach. Whether you’ve checked that box, considered it, or shook your head and moved on with the paperwork, it’s possible the following thoughts crossed your mind:

  1. Do I have time for that?
  2. What if everyone thinks I’m favoring my kid?
  3. What does my child want from the activity/sport?
  4. Do I know how to coach this activity?

Lessons I've Learned from Being a Parent Coach

Let’s be honest: most non-professional/non-school sports are made up of parent coach volunteers. Every year, our children need grownups to step up to coach so they have the opportunity to play for the local town team or youth sports association league, whatever it may be.

The Sequor Youth Development Initiative at Texas A&M University conducted research and some of the benefits of parent coaching include the following:

  • Identifying and effectively meeting the child’s needs better than anyone else.
  • Spending more time with the child.
  • Teaching skills and valuable life lessons to the child.
  • Allowing an opportunity to have shared experiences and memories.
  • Being in a good position to deal with the child’s mood swings and reactions to certain situations.
  • Being a good role model.
  • Expanding the child’s social network.

Those who volunteer to assist the head coach are also an asset.

These parent coaches are so needed and provide incredible value to the players, whether they know it or not. By bringing their experience in the activity or an interest in supporting the team, assistant coaches are invaluable.

They also may have a child of their own playing on the team. One of the other coaches can help deliver a lesson or feedback to a player who might receive the message better from someone who isn’t also their parent. Leaning on the other coaches can make the experience of coaching your own child a bit easier and can have less of a negative impact on that relationship.

When I signed up to coach one of my daughter’s t-ball teams, I decided to clarify my expectations for myself early on.

Since there’s no scorekeeping in most t-ball leagues, I didn’t have to worry about winning or losing. That pressure was off. My mission was clear: I wanted to teach each player something new and my primary goal was that they all had fun!

When it came to my own kid, I had to do some work internally and with her as well. After all, she was five years old and had her own expectations for having Mom as the coach.

Lessons I've Learned from Being a Parent Coach

This helped me understand that I needed to set boundaries.

That meant I put on my “coach” hat when we stepped on the field hat. Sometimes she would get to play and sometimes the best thing for her team was for her to sit out, just like her other teammates. I was there to give support to her and her teammates.

Alternatively, when we stepped off the field, especially in the car or at home, my coach hat was off and I was Mom again.

I chose to let my daughter drive the conversation in the car before and after t-ball. If all she wanted to discuss was her favorite Disney movie, so be it. If she wanted to talk about practice or the game, I would ask her about her favorite parts or answer questions she had, even let her vent.

She had her ups and downs as the season went on.

When I would cheer on her teammates she’d sometimes get jealous. When we did the team cheer at the end, she loved to scream the loudest and had the biggest smile. Eventually she embraced being my helper and carried the equipment or reminded me to bring the baseball hand stamp I would use at the end of each game for the team.

That daughter is older now and this year, I’m helping out rather than taking the lead. She has a younger sister who has joined her in playing ball. I envision them playing on the same team in the near future, and I anticipate that my “Coach” hat won’t be coming off anytime soon.

One of the things I’ve learned to say to my daughters, whether they’ve had the game of their life, or have their heads down is this: “I absolutely LOVE to watch you play!”

Because that’s all they need to hear from their Mom.

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