Coaching Son’s Is One Of The Hardest Roles For A Dad
Being a father to two teenage boys means you take on many roles like role model, caregiver, servant, and plumber. Plumber you ask. I’ve had to unblock a few toilets and it’s definitely NOT the highlight of being a father.
But I’ll stop there for good reason.
Being involved in their lives as much as possible means I’ve taken on several different roles during this wild ride called parenthood. And I’ve had to evolve over time as father and husband.
And it’s never been a smooth transition from one role to the next because I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the next phase. It’s not pretty but I eventually get there.
When my kids were younger and started to run around, they got involved in youth sports, mostly soccer and basketball. Which meant driving to practices, buying snacks, stalking the sideline, and making small talk with other parents.
But here’s the kicker. Being tall, an extrovert and a personal trainer meant I was perfectly suited to taking on one of the difficult roles of being a father, coaching my boys.
Coaching your own children leads to some blurred lines. When does being a coach stop and being a father begins? Or vice versa. It can be confusing for the parent and child.
My first experience with coaching my kids was with Upward soccer, which is a sports program for churches. Not knowing much about soccer or coaching kids, it was an eye-opening experience. Upward has a set program to implement during practices and games.
Even though things were set, the kids had to listen and try to understand. And anyone who’s a parent knows how hard it is to make your own kids listen, let alone anyone else’s. Combined with my Australian accent, it made for some fun times.
But with my kids being young, the blurred lines between coach and dad wasn’t a big deal. Telling them what to do at home or the sporting pitch was all the same to them.
Coach or Dad?
My son’s school was looking for a 6th grade basketball coach because they had more players than coaches. The organizing committee reached out to all the parents of this team without a coach to see who would step up. No one did.
So, facing the prospect of our son NOT playing the sport he loves, my wife and I volunteered to coach basketball. But here’s the thing. We both knew diddly squat about coaching basketball and we both had to learn the basics fast.
Let’s just say the learning experience was steep and not always pretty.
If my memory serves me correctly, I think we only won 2 or 3 games out of 10 and got in handed to us in the other games. Because being an inexperienced basketball coach on the sideline meant I was not always ready when other teams adjusted or played a certain way.
This lead to me throwing hissy fits at the ref’s and my players out of frustration. Let’s say I wasn’t on my best behavior and didn’t set the best example. After coaching 10 games of basketball, I can understand why coaches completely lose the plot.
On the way home from one of our losses, my son asked me why I yelled at him during the game. He wasn’t hustling back on defense after a missed shot and I let him know all about it. Because when the team knows he’s the coach’s son, I needed to be careful NOT to treat him any differently.
This is how I responded
“The game is over, and I yelled at you for a reason. I’m not in coach mode anymore, I’m you dad now. So, let’s drop it.”
I don’t blame him for asking because the line between coach and dad is a fine one.
5 Lessons I Learned From Being Coach Dad
Coaching is hard enough when you know the ins and outs of a particular field but when you know diddly, it’s a challenge. Add to that coaching 13 pre teenage impressionable boys it was great learning experience for me.
But it did ruin basketball for me for a while because I was analyzing games as a coach and not enjoying it as a fan. Coaches, can you relate? Anyway, in no particular order, here’s what I learnt…..
You need to set clear boundaries
This is something I learnt the hard way because it’s hard to turn off the coach switch and turn on the dad switch. But this needs to be done to make parenting and coaching easier.
You’re always being watched
A few occasions l let slip an s or f word slip if something didn’t go the team’s way. Although some of the kids found it funny, neither my wife nor kids were impressed.
Coaching kids is hard
Being young, impressionable with raging hormones all over the place, it’s hard to get them to listen and pay attention. I had to be on top of my game and extremely patient so as to not lose my cool.
Winning is not everything
Don’t get me wrong, I like to win as much as the next guy. But getting the team to play together, teaching them the fundamentals and being good teammates to each other is important too.
Sometimes winning gets in the way of teaching these lessons. Learning and teaching means not every win is on the scoreboard.
Don’t forget it is a game
Yes, winning is important but playing and having fun is equally important. Winning is fun but this shouldn’t get in the way of the kids enjoying the game and each other.
Coaching is an enjoyable experience and one where you will learn a lot about yourself and others. Because when the heat is on all eyes are on you and you better be ready for this responsibility.