Research has shown that parental involvement is a critical part of a child’s participation in sports. But is it possible to become too involved?
Parents who coach their own children make up 90% of all youth sport coaches. Motivation for this popular practice stems from a number of places: whether it be to spend more time with a child, to utilize a background in coaching, or simply to help the team. When handled correctly, coaching a child can be a wonderful experience.
A 2005 study by Weiss and Fretwell revealed that having a parent coach can be beneficial not only for the parent, but also for the child when involved in a supportive parent-coach/child-athlete relationship. The duo are able to spend more quality time together participating in an activity that both enjoy, therefore strengthening their bond. With a deeper understanding of their child, parents are able to make more informed coaching decisions based upon current moods and needs. In return, the child has the opportunity to receive individual technical instruction and added motivation.
However, many parents attempting to coach are learning the hard way that sometimes becoming too invested in their child’s team can lead to a negative experience for all involved parties.
The Danger Zone
When parents are unable to separate the role of mother/father from the role of coach, arguments on the field can lead to arguments at home. Being unable to move in and out of these roles will create strain not only in team relationships and family relationships – but the activity itself loses appeal.
The child may also begin to feel added pressure associated with their athletic performance. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when coaching your child is the perception of favoritism. In an attempt to treat each team member in a non-prejudicial manner, parents often overcompensate by becoming overly critical of their own children (Hughes). The child then feels as if they are on the receiving end of the coach’s anger when they don’t perform as expected. Studies show that not only does the child feel they are receiving more criticism, but teammates who witness the coach-athlete interactions also reinforce this belief.
The child-athlete may also begin to feel isolated from teammates. Young teammates may feel hesitant to share stories with the child in fear that they will repeat those conversations to the coach.
Proceed With Caution
To ensure that your coaching experience as a parent is as enjoyable as possible for both you and your child, be prepared to separate the role of coach from the role of parent.
- Approach the situation without favoritism and be confident enough to be partial without being overly tough.
- Have realistic expectations about your child’s abilities and discuss how your athlete feels about the coaching techniques being used.
- Pay attention to the dynamics of your relationship with your child off of the field.
And most importantly, view this as an opportunity to have fun with your loved one.
What have you found with your own personal experience? Let us know in the comments below!
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