Previously we presented some pitfalls when entering into youth sports as your own child’s coach. Hopefully the first 10 tips offered will get you started on the right foot as Coach-Dad or Coach-Mom. Today we’ll go through another 15 tips that were learned the hard way or stumbled on (sometimes with a few stubbed toes). Watch your step!
Coach/Dad Tip-11: You can’t be “Coach/Dad” 24/7. You wear two hats-Coach & Father. Separate the two. Spend time just being DAD!
While coaching as a profession, at the same time as being Coach-Dad, I’m
not sure I did this is well as I’d like to have. I didn’t really stew for too
long by bringing the games home with me, but it was such a big part of our lives. I always tried to make every game of all three children
playing eight different sports, with a 2-year old at home, and In one
of my final years coaching, I realized our schedule
was really ruled by “the schedules”.
As I was watching a men’s and
women’s collegiate doubleheader, with my son playing for the University of La Verne
and my daughter playing for the University of Redlands (I had to wear a shirt that had both schools colors in it – hard to find maroon
and forest green – but I did). Another coach in attendance suggested I count
how many games I attended that year. Between their multiple sports, my team,
and all the offseason games and tournaments, we figured I attended in excess of
300 games in a calendar year!
Coach/Dad Tip-12: Try to resist the
temptation to talk about other players’ performance, or about what positions
they should be playing.
Coach/Dad Tip-13: When the child wants
to talk “strategy” try to be general rather than specific when it
comes to teammates performance.
Coach/Dad Tip-14: Avoid putting your
child in the “uncomfortable” position between you & teammates.
You don’t want them to have to “keep secrets.”
My children were pretty cerebral
players and would really “think the game”, so there were plenty of times when
we’d talk strategy, The important thing I tried to remember is to refrain from giving
specific opinions about other players strengths and weaknesses or very much
“inside information” that players should not be privy to.
Coach/Dad Tip-15: Because you have to
correct as Parent and Coach – SEARCH for all opportunities to praise to get you
to the 5:1 “Magic Ratio”
Coach/Dad Tip-16: Your entire
relationship needs to approach the “Magic Ratio”of
5:1-positives:corrections. You have to correct. So correct wisely!
One of the key principles in the Positive
Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal
Coaching philosophy is to Fill Emotional Tanks of the players. The principle is based on trying to achieve the “Magic
Ratio” of five positives for every criticism or correction. There is plenty of
research to support this ratio in athletics, as well as academics, business,
and even relationships or marriage.
brain registers 20,000 snap-shots (memories) a day, and essentially drops them
into a “Positive Tank” and a “Negative Tank”. When it comes to anything, the
positives should outweigh the negatives by 5 to 1 in order to maximize performance
and feel good about that activity or relationship. The Magic-Ratio
is not necessarily 5:1 every play, every day, and not just what you say. It is rather
the total experience the child has when it comes to, in this case , their Coach-Dad
or Coach-Mom relationship.
Coach/Dad Tip-17: As a coach, parent, boss, or leader-*Reward Desired
Effort*. Relentlessly! You’re staying positive by rewarding them when they’re
trying to do what you want
the Coach-Dad dynamic, there are naturally built in criticisms and corrections that
are simply part of the job description.
Most are necessary and you can’t do anyhing about them, except to
deliver them in the most recievable manner possible, but you can make up for
them. Coach-Dads need to go out of their way to create positive memories any
chance, in any way possible – between and outside the lines.
of ways to recognize and reward the Coaches’-Child efforts as much as their production.. They are going to “feel”
you are very critical because corrections, even when delived in the most
constructive way, can register as a negative. When young players fail to
deliver in competition, they can feel as if they let their coach and team down.
They also can feel as if they let their parents down. Coach-Dads and Coach-Moms are BOTH.
Imagine the potential internal trauma that “double-whammy” can cause.
Coach/Dad Tip-18: Seize teachable
moments & avoid non-teachable moments. If they’re not ready to listen –
you’re wasting your time.
I remember during a rough game my son had
he looked at three straight strikes without swinging during his first at-bat and his
second time up, he looked at the first two strikes…again, and responded to “C’MON BUDDY, SWING
THE BAT !”. . . by swinging at a
bad pitch way out of the strike zone. After the game, I went thru a drive-thru to bring home dinner
while Mom drove him home to start his homework. As I waited in the drive-thru
line the following text message exchange occurs (…and I was IN the drive-thru
lane – so it was safe!)
Mom: he’s upset-said it was
a bad game
Dad: That’s OK. Means he cares
Mom: Told me to leave him alone
Dad: If he’s not ready-he isn’t
Mom: I don’t do well w/ “leave
Dad: Remember…his Emotional
Mom: What about MY emotional
We left him alone and an hour or so later we looked at a bunch of
pictures taken of that days’ game that showed great swings, nice plays in the
field and a bunch of Little Leaguers smiling. Soon he forgot the two strikeouts
and remembered how much fun he had. We couldn’t do anything to make the
memories of the two strikeouts go away – but we could make up for it by
providing other positive memories – and that sometimes opens the door for even more
Coach/Dad Tip-19: Look for opportunities to show them that their hard
work is paying off & what they’ve been practicing is helping them improve.
As the Coach as well as the Mom
or Dad it’s really important how you frame your feedback, even during
successful efforts. While we’ve said praise is good, it
needs to be truthful and specific. Never tell them they did a good job if they
didn’t, but search for something good and then tell them exactly what it was.
It’s also vital that we create the
proper mindset in our children. When they do well Coach-Dads and Moms can fall
into the trap of telling them how “good” they are in an attempt ti instill confidence (“you’re crushing the ball – you’re such a good hitter”). This
creates a “Fixed” Mindset where they feel they succeeded because they are
talented. They may, at some point, face an obstacle and end up feeling “Well, I’m just not that good” and they
If we, instead, praise them for
their efforts (you’re hitting the ball so
well because you’re really focusing on the fundamentals we’ve been practicing”)
they develop a “Growth” Mindset, where they equate success with hard work.
When they face a challenge in the future, they know if they work a little
harder they can overcome the adversity. This theory is presented in Positive
Coaching Alliance National Advisory Board Member Carol
Dwek’s book “Mindset”. It is a
great book for coaches, parents, or teachers – and in this case, those who are
all three. You can hear me talk about it here.
Coach/Dad Tip-20: Ask them – don’t tell
them. Most of the time they know. Telling them is “tank-draining”
lecture. Asking them creates “thinking player” (and son/daughter!)
This has worked out well for us, because
it’s sort of the style of communication in our family anyway. We’ve always
asked questions and created some banter about everything we discuss. When you ask them to express their
thoughts, do so in such a way that doesn’t plant a seed as to what you think (So…what did you think about that umpires
call?). Ask open-ended questions, not leading-questions
that could be objected in a court of law, so that you get their thoughts – not
those they think you want to hear.
This conversation style creates
some spirited conversations to this day when we all get together (a Holiday
meal is an experience in the Lokar household!). They certainly have developed
“a voice”, are thoughtful, and express it well. My youngest daughter went on to
be a member of the nationally
recognized University of La Verne’s Debate Team and has competed
successfully with them around the world. I win far fewer arguments today for
Coach/Dad Tip-21: Your kids listen to
you 7 days/week. Sometimes “Ask Permission” such as, “Want some Tips
on your swing?” They usually say YES
Coach/Dad Tip-22: When I’d feel like
they weren’t listening, I’d say “When you’d like to know what’s wrong with
your pitching, come and ask!” Always did!
If you are constantly telling
them what to do it drains their Tank. So flip the script and get permission or
entice them to ask. If they ask you for help & you give it to them – it
fills their Tank. So you tricked ’em!
Coach/Dad Tip-23: Try to have more
*conversations* as Coach/Dad. That means two people talk. If it’s only you-
it’s just another lecture. They may turn off!
Coach/Dad Tip-24: Sometimes they hear you so much, it may seem like
they tune you out. Develop strategies to get them to listen. .
Patient & Persistent.
One thing I know for sure is that
nothing is going to work 100% of the time. The trick is to have as many
different “clubs in your golf bag” as you can. You can’t effectively use a
putter off the tee or a driver on the green – and you have to have a bunch of special
clubs in between. Generally, if we keep trying in a non-confrontational way,
they’ll talk. If they don’t want to, it could be more important to us than it
is to them – and that never should be the case when it comes to youth
sports. This is their time – not ours.
Dad Tip-25: If you have multiple children, and they agree to it, make sure to coach all of them as much as you can!
My single biggest regret in coaching youth-sports is this one didn’t work out for me quite as I had planned. I have three older children that were all a couple/few years apart and had it all mapped out when I would coach each of them. I was set to coach my youngest daughter for her final few years of youth softball when the league cut the oldest age group after only one year as her coach. Oh, the best laid plans..
I didn’t get to share the Coach-Dad experience with my youngest daughter as much as I would have liked. That’s a time in a child’s life we can never get back, so I have my work cut out for me. I can’t do anything about it – so I need to make up for it.
This is a chance for a Mom or Dad to have a once in a lifetime
experience with their child. I strongly encourage anyone who has the
inclination to help young children, and whose son or daughters are interested, to become a
Coach-Dad or Coach Mom. It can be a rewarding experience for all and
create a bond that will last a lifetime.
There will be ups and downs, joy and sorrow, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The hugs and “I love you”s
are just as important, if not more, during the tough times as they are
during the good ones. Always remember, the team’s performance is not a
reflection of your success as a mother or father.
We enjoyed some great wins and big upsets, but I also remember dealing with tears when my son played with a favorite teammate for the last time, when my youngest daughter ended her softball career on 2nd base as the tying run, and I still think of textng/calling my oldest daughter when I see a college star or NBA player dribble off their foot in the final minutes of a crucial game. It happens to the best of them.
My two son’s appear to be clones of each other at the same age. It’s like looking at Dr Evil and Mini-Me. Well, not really, but you get the picture. Because of this I’m reminded daily how very fast the time goes – and remembering it can be the time of their lives. They seem to go from 5 yrs old to 6’5″ 250 in the blink of an eye.
Take advantage NOW!