The Coach’s Child

The Coach’s Child
By Deb Zacher

In my early athletic career I remember watching the coaches of my teams interact with their children. I remember being glad that I wasn’t the coach’s child, because there usually seemed to be more tension between them than any other players on the team. It wasn’t until my husband and I started coaching our own children that I became aware of how rewarding, yet difficult it can be.

There is a different level of comfort with your own child. You might have less patience with your son or daughter because they know how to push your buttons. I know I am quicker to react with our daughter Sydney, who we coach now, than I am with the other girls on the team. What worries me is that people don’t see how much love and support we also give her. But being such a competitive person myself, knowing when to push and when to back off can be very tricky.

We have always been “tough love” kind of parents and coaches. But of course it can go in the other direction. Some people think the sun rises and sets on their child, and even though that kind of love is crucial, they can’t grow up thinking that everything they do is perfect. Obviously not everyone parents the same, so finding a happy medium of love and support with the right amount of constructive criticism is a worthy goal in my opinion.

As a coach, I find that what we say is echoed in the mouths of the other players on the team. Sometimes when I find myself being hard on Sydney, the other girls hear this and seem to find it easy to place “blame” on her for more than what is fair. When I realize I am being too critical, as soon as it is feasible, I try to turn my words into positive reinforcement. I make every effort to rectify the situation by talking about how I, or WE could handle things differently in the future. There is no question in my mind that this is the way to go, because it works. It’s hard,  but attainable. As a parent, it would be nice if the perfect words came out of our mouths every time. But they don’t- and I’m guilty of speaking harshly and quickly. What’s important is realizing what we are saying and doing, because our actions and words have a huge impact on not just our children, but also the others on the team.

Being aware of how to act when your child is on your team proves that coaching is more than what a lot of people think it is. There are other important aspects like recognizing the significant differences between coaching males and females. My experience being that I have two girls, and grew up as one, I can only speak for myself. But it can be a delicate balance as pushing females too hard can lead to low self-esteem, insecurity and rebellion to name a few negatives. This not only goes for those of us coaching, but I think every parent. Males and females react differently to words and methods used by coaches. So if you are a male, coaching females, I encourage you to talk to your players or research what motivates young ladies as opposed to young men. We all know that men and women can interpret things in different ways, why should adolescents be any different?

It would be easy if coaching your child and raising kids came with a daily manual that said, “do this today, do this tomorrow,” but that’s just wishful thinking. I believe that the most important thing to do is watch and listen to your children, and not only pay attention to whether you are getting the results you want, but also if they seem happy. A game lasts only so long, the feeling a child is left with can last indefinitely. Kids are constantly learning, and we should be too.



Deb Zacher is a freelance writer, fitness instructor, triathlete, and soccer Mom to her 2 girls.  Deb also assists her husband with coaching duties.  She is passionate about fitness and health and helping make a difference in people’s lives.  She has played tennis, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and other sports along the way to help with her insight into team sports.  She enjoys finding humor in just about anything, and likes to make others smile, so she will be trying to add comical points of view any time she possibly can!


sonja everson  

Great article, Deb. It was as if you were pulling thoughts out of my head. My husband has stopped coaching my daughters team but continues to coach my son’s and I manage both my son’s and daughter’s soccer teams. It’s both rewarding and incredibly difficult…as you mentioned. So many times my husband and I look at each other and wonder if this is worth it or would it be better if someone else stepped up and coached. I hope you don’t mind that I re-blogged your article. I gave you full credit and a link directly back to here.

Deb Zacher  

Absolutely, thanks so much for sharing it Sonja! It is a double edged sword as I’ve talked to friends. You want to coach, but it creates conflict as all things do. Just have to figure out if it works for all involved or not!


Thanks for sharing your experiences. It seems that the challenges you have experienced stem mainly from the components of “tough love” and criticism that you use in your coaching. If you haven’t already, you might consider checking out the philosophy of coaching espoused by the Positive Coaching Alliance at

Deb Zacher  

Thanks, I’m all for positive coaching and reinforcement!


Great article. i coached my daughter’s various teams for 7 seasons. I didn’t struggle with this issue much, the only thing I had to deal with is that at one point she decided she was a coach too, which I had to put a quick stop to.

The issue that did put me out though was that as the girls approached that critical age of 16, I found I couldn’t relate with them correctly. I found myself saying to a girl at a practice “(name witheld), put that cell phone down and come participate or I am going to throw it in the garbage!” It was then that I realized I no longer had their attention and had to pass the torch.

Of course the kids are smart at that age and responded “well, the coaches use their cell phones during practice!” And we did once, but that was because another team had shown up expecting our gym, and we had to go online to confirm our booking. Other than that I never even carried it with me, it went in the bag. It’s strange though how the kids can misinterperate what’s going on.


The coach’s child, not the coaches child.

Sorry, but that was killing me reading this otherwise interesting article.

Deb Zacher  

This made me LOL! Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Guess one got by the goalie, whoops!

Coach Rob  

Some great points on what it’s like to coach your own child. I’ve been coaching mine for the past 9 years and it’s only been in the past two that a real turning point has started to take place for me a coach. I was definitely guilty of being harder on my son than the other players. It was a combination of being more comfortable with him and wanting to make sure everyone knew I wasn’t playing favorites. I justified it by thinking I was “setting a precedence” for the rest of the team. In any case, I wasn’t in the right.

I have to second Dave’s suggestion on the Positive Coaching Alliance, it is a great resource and a much needed tool in the youth sports environment. On a side note, my son and have worked through what it’s like to be the coach’s son. I’ve had to apologize and move forward. Another life lesson brought to you by sports.

Deb Zacher  

Awesome, thanks for the comments! We can all learn, right?


Hi Withheld,
Curious as to how you found out that your daughter was ‘coach’ as well. Did you find out? Or did the players say something? I have a daughter dealing with a coach’s daughter with the same attitude. She doesn’t say anything in fear of losing playing time…

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