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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!