Tips for Coach-Dads (and Coach-Moms) (Part 2 of 3)

Today we will share the first ten Coach-Dad tips that I posted on Twitter some time ago. At the beginning of this spring season of youth sports, I think it’s a good time to get some ideas on how to manage this relationship. These tips could be guidelines for Coach-Dads (and Coach-Moms) that are venturing into this realm for the first time… OR for those who might notice, “Hey – that’s me!”

(Grammar disclaimer: Keep in mind Twitter is limited to 140 characters, which may lead to some interesting grammar, abbreviations, and/or contractions that I’ve basically chosen to leave – just for effect)

Coach/Dad Tip-1: Have a conversation BEFORE the season and ASK if the child wants you to coach them. For best success it should be on their terms.

After coaching my three older children for a long time, it was time for my youngest son to enter youth sports. Each season, for a couple years, I’d ask prior to registration, if he wanted Dad to help coach his team. Each season I’d get an answer something like, “Well…there are some other good coaches” or “You could help me at home then I could have two coaches”. He was too polite to say no – but clearly he wasn’t excited about it. So I didn’t.

Coach/Dad Tip-2: Explain to child when earning playing time/positions he/she must clearly *be better* at position. Ties go to the other player!

This was always my personal philosophy. Children are always a little better in their parent’s eyes, even in Coach-Dad’s or Coach-Mom’s. When it came to my children I wanted to make sure the difference was very clear when I decided on positions and playing time. Of course some coaches are different, and feel the time they put in gives them certain rights. Former Marquette University Basketball Coach Al McGuire once explained that while other players may be “just as good“, his son was starting because… “he IS my son.”

Coach/Dad Tip-3: Build leadership by explaining to your child they must set an example. Eyes are on them & teammates may follow their lead.

Making sure that the Coaches’-Child lives up to all the expectations of the team is of utmost importance. The culture of the team will be quite a bit better if they are the well-behaved and hard workers that you expect others to be. This certainly isn’t a bad thing to strive for in your child anyway and sports provides the perfect venue to teach those lessons while under your supervision as Coach-Dad.

family pic.jpg

I’ve been pretty fortunate to watch that translate into a life-lesson that I’ve observed my grown children continue to demonstrate on the field, in the classroom, or at work. The end result to date is Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude for my three oldest college graduates and my youngest daughter graduated first in her class at the University of La Verne! (shameless Dad-brag. that doesn’t put any pressure on my youngest son – does it?) I feel very strongly that these are among the habits that can be learned through sports.

Coach/Dad Tip-4: On scale from “gets special treatment” to “on ’em all the time”-be just*a bit*tougher than ave. Avoids nepotism & builds leadership

I was always a little more demanding on my children than other players, and almost all coaches who I speak to say the same thing. However, the perception is different among other parents in the stands. They think the Coaches-Child gets “extra benefits”.

Bob Hurley, the legendary basketball coach form St. Anthony High School in New Jersey coached his sons. This relationship was touched on in a CBS 60 Minute segment very recently that gives some insight in Coach Hurley. In the video his son Bobby says,

“Yes, and I think almost everyone on my team would say that my dad went out of his way to be harder on me just to kind of send the message that there was no favoritism on the team.”


My oldest son, and I had the process down pretty good and he knew that there were even times when I would remind or correct him when I wanted to get the point across to the rest of the team. I remember a baseball play when he was 13 when I said something to him that was clearly meant for the player next to him. In between innings he said, “Dad, can I talk to you?” We went for a walk and he said, “That time… you were really yelling at Nathan weren’t you?” I replied, “Yes, but Nathan’s real sensitive…and his Dad is CRAZY!”


Coach/Dad Tip-5: But can’t be TOO tough on them…they may need to take care of us someday !:?)

After coaching my oldest son, when I coached my oldest daughter I was hit with a revelation. Children… and daughters, are different. There was a situation at practice where it became clear my daughter was taking “coaching” a little more personal than my son had. Whether it was or not, she was “feeling” that way and feelings are real. So we developed a “signal” to let me know when she was “feeling” that way.

Anytime she began to get upset we decided she could either fix her helmet, visor, pony-tail, or pat her head to remind Coach-Dad to “keep his head!” Over several seasons in multiple sports we only used it a couple times, but recently she mentioned hoe beneficial it really was. I encourage any Coach-Dads/Moms that have issues with children who are emotionally effected to give something like this a try.

At a holiday get together we were discussing our signal and she shared these benefits. She said just knowing she had a “safety-mechanism” actually allowed her to endure a bit more “coaching” because she didn’t want to use it too often and appear “soft.” This created the mindset that correction leads to growth and enabled her to play for coaches that were much tougher in the future.

Coach/Dad Tip-6: Love them unconditionally. NEVER let them think for a second that your love & support is related to their performance

As a coach there can be games where we are emotionally invested, are rehashing the game in our minds, and even sometimes not in a great mood after a poor performance. It’s important that we separate those feelings from our relationship with the child – especially if they didn’t perform so well either. We don’t want them to think our relationship is dependent on wins, losses, hits, or errors.

Coach/Dad Tip-7: CAN’T give them special treatment! Everyone will already think you’re favoring them – whether you are or not.

Coach Ray wkids.jpg

I don’t think you’re doing the Coaches’-Child any favors by doing them any favors.  There definitely will be times in their life when they need to do just a little bit extra to get noticed, and this could be a time to learn that. They know you love them, so resist the urge to go overboard, but don’t shortchange them of recognition they deserve either. This is a sensitive topic for some coaches who have explained that they also “need to go home and answer to his mother!”

Coach/Dad Tip-8: Brings up a good point. Discuss w/other parent the rewards & pitfalls of coaching your son/daughter & come to an agreement

Jack Bennett, the Two-Time National Championship Basketball Coach at Wisconsin-Stevens Point coached his son’s and his wife told him early on she viewed herself as a mother first and the coaches wife second. She said, “99.9% of the time I’m going to side with them.” Her point was they’re young and still forming their philosophy so they needed unconditional love. Jack was unconditional as a parent, but when the jobs blend it’s sometimes hard to do as a coach too.

Coach/Dad Tip-9: We had “The Driveway Rule.” When pulling out of the driveway on the way home-avoid discussing the game unless THEY bring it up.

In order to try to “leave the game on the field or court” we used the driveway of wherever we played or practiced as the line of demarcation – then we’d try to leave the game there.  This helped avoid the dreaded “post-game analysis” in the car on the drive home and give everyone a cooling off period after the game. I do have to admit…sometimes after games we’d sit in the parking lot a little bit longer than others – before we pulled out of the driveway!

Coach/Dad Tip-10: If THEY bring up the game, like a court of law-they opened the door & you can “cross-examine”, but that way it’s on their terms!

When the child knows the topic will not be broached unless they bring it up, then when you do have a conversation it is according to their “emotional schedule.” This creates a safer environment and I found it actually encourages them to talk even more. My older children almost always wanted to talk about something… and they still do. My youngest – not so much….yet!

On Friday we’ll have the remaining tips for all of the Coach-Dad and Coach Moms trying to make the world of sports a better place, not only for our children – but also for others.

Part 1 – The New Apprenticeships – Playing for Coach-Dads & Coach-Moms 

Part 3 – Coach-Dads (and Coach-Moms): The Time of Your Lives


Leave a comment
  • Ray,

    Great tips!!! They are ALL excellent, however, I want to bring special attention to #'s 2, 4, and 7. I can't tell you the number of times I have heard a few H.S. Coaches talk about how their son or daughter should GET special treatment because they were the coach. I would walk away just scratching my head not believing what I was hearing. Do they realize the sense of entitlement that would teach their offspring. And this is all outside of the negative issues that that type of attitude would bring back to the team or program.

    Great post, hope all father/mother coaches get a chance to read it!!!

  • Kirk, I have found some coaches who feel that way too, like Al McGuire in the example above did. The worst result of this behavior, in addition to the players sense of entitlement, is the resentment of the player by teammates and families in the program. Not a good recipe for a positive team culture!

Leave a comment