to-coach-or-not-to-coach

Are You Ready to Take on the Role of Team Coach?

Tossing up the idea of coaching your kid’s sports team? We look into the right and wrong reasons for parents to pick up the whistle and take on the role of team coach.

“Coaching our child’s sports team is a chance to display leadership that will serve your kids well in later life – but it’s important to do it for the right reasons,” says Robin McClellan, CEO of Leadership Western Australia, and mother of three adult children, 21 to 28.

“If your motivation is to re-live your glory days when you were high school team captain, or because you want to be in the movies, you might need to re-think. That motive puts a lot of stress on the kids. If you’re doing it because you want to be an inclusive and supportive coach, that’s exactly the right reason,” she says.

“We want our kids to learn sportsmanship and resilience, but we don’t always see coaches displaying those things. We all look at any great coach we’ve had and see how we can bring the great lessons they taught us into our life. A lot of modeling goes on in coaching that lasts a lifetime – and a lot of scarring can last a lifetime, too.”

It seems many families want to play, not coach.

A recent Perth Now article told how junior sporting clubs were in such dire need of volunteer coaches, they were paying parents to coach their own kids.

Robin admits that one reason for that is lack of time. However, our regard, or lack of it, for coaches is also a factor. “I think we all know of cases in which kids’ sports have shifted from being children competing against children to parents competing against parents, through their children. A friend of mine who coached for a couple of years finally gave it up because he was tired of the harassment from parents. Coaches have a responsibility to identify something every kid does right and value them for it.

“I think we all know of cases in which kids’ sports have shifted from being children competing against children to parents competing against parents, through their children. A friend of mine who coached for a couple of years finally gave it up because he was tired of the harassment from parents. Coaches have a responsibility to identify something every kid does right and value them for it.

While some kids might acquire the skills that take them to top level, you’re not there to raise an athlete.

You’re there to raise a person.”

Dr Sam Elliott of Flinders University’s Sport, Health and Physical Education research centre says it can be difficult for parents who coach their own child to navigate that dual relationship. While it’s good for sharing positive social interactions, these relationships can also be contentious, and lead to rebellious behaviours among children.

Robin nominates ilovetowatchyouplay.com as a great resource for parents and coaches. It has in-depth articles on topics such as school sports vs. club sports, how to mix sport with puberty, and ‘Five Things Parents Must Do for Kids to Benefit from Sport’ (tip 1: let your child choose the sport).

The Australian Sports Commission has a coaching resource with many in-depth guides on topics such as how to demonstrate a skill, plan a training session, and manage children’s (and other parents’) behaviour. It also offers a free four-hour self-assessing online coaching course, and sells manuals and DVDs including the ‘Coaching Juniors’ DVD, $10, ausport.gov.au.

The Coaching Checklist

Robin suggests parent coaches ask themselves these five questions every few weeks:

  • Did I make sure every kid got to play this week?
  • What would I want from the coach if someone else were coaching my child?
  • How can I bring out the best in each child?
  • Did I praise everyone on the team in some way?
  • How can I involve other parents?

Image by Noah Silliman

Lana Al Habl
Lana Al Habl
lana.alhabl@sydneyschild.com.au