What you need to know about coaching your kids

Practical advice from dad coach Justin Martin on coaching your children.

Are you coaching or thinking about coaching your kid or kids?  If so, maybe my experiences can help you understand the sh#t show life-changing experience you’re about to walk into.

Before I get going, I’m sure you’re wondering who the hell am I to give you advice. Am I a PhD?  Counselor?  Professional Coach?  Nope, none of the above. 

I’m an every day average super dad who’s looking for ways to stay engaged with my kids and be part of their lives. Plus, I love working with kids and I know a ton about sports. 

I’m a sports nut. If it’s labeled sport I’ve watched it, tried it, or (when it comes to extreme sports) said, no way am I doing that. For example, the guy in this video:

I mainly played  football, ice hockey, baseball, golf and track and field.  I played D1 college hockey, and got a tryout in the NHL. I then floundered in the minor leagues for 3 seasons, playing over 200 games.

As for coaching, my background is mostly with ice hockey, but I feel coaching is something that translates for any sport.  I’m Level 5 USA hockey certified, plus I’ve been working with kids for over 20 years in some capacity or another.

A few years ago, the situation presented itself like this:”Dad, will you be my coach?” 

I know this seems like such an easy question to answer.  The truth is, as a parent you’d better put some serious thought into this proposition. It could forever change your relationship  with your child. (Hopefully in a good way, but I’ve also seen it go bad.)

Two things you must do at this stage: 

  1.  Ask you child’s permission to be their coach. Do everyone a favor and make sure they say yes before heading to part two. 
  2. Make sure you do the best you can to clearly outline this relationship.  When you are at home you are dad, when you are on the field, at the rink, or on the pitch you are coach, and make sure the kid understands the difference.

I’ll discuss what these differences are in my next post. But my best advice now is get buy-in from your child athlete before proceeding to coach his or her team.

Like a Girl

A maxi-pad commercial in the Super Bowl last night made me tear up.

You may have already seen the Always commercial from last summer called “Like a Girl” where men and women of all ages talk about what it means to “play like a girl.” It has over 54 million hits on YouTube. That one made me tear up too.

I teared up because it reminded me of my own frustrations playing and learning new sports as a girl. I was competitive. I wanted to do anything the boys could do, but better. I have been known to grab a boy by the hoodie and pull him to the ground after he beat me in a race. It was that bad.

I find my daughter shares the same frustrations. One day in the car she asked, “Mommy, how do you change the law? Because I want to change the law that only boys can play professional baseball.” She’s only six-years-old, yet she’s already frustrated by the limitations she feels as a young girl who loves sports.

It’s important to me that my daughter grows up with strong female role models. I never want her to think “playing like a girl” is a bad thing. I want it to make her proud to play like a girl, throw like a girl, and run like a girl.

This is why I get out on a snowboard or skateboard with her. It’s why I put her in skate clinics with other girls. It’s why I constantly look for videos or films with strong female athletes in them, so she will always know that playing like a girl is exactly what she wants to do. And every once in a while it’s nice to hear her say, “Look at my mom! She’s killing it!”

Football, Sportsmanship & Learning What You Teach

No one in our house is fanatical about pro football (we’ve never prayed for our team, for example.) However, hanging out with a game on TV is relaxing part of our winter weekends.

I (mostly) enjoy answering my six-year-old girl’s millions of questions about the game. “Why did he do that? What does that mean? What do you think they’ll do next?”

We’ve had many, many conversations about where the teams are from, their players, where they stand in the rankings, how many Super bowls they’ve won, and what their team emblems mean.

I grew up cheering for the Patriots. I was born in Boston. They’ll always going be my team. At first, our kid also loved the Pats, even though her mother is a 49ers fan.

However, this winter I noticed a dark trend: increasing chatter about the Green Bay Packers. Then, one day in December, she confessed. Green Bay is officially her favorite team. Why? Because green is her favorite color and because for some reason she’s obsessed with Wisconsin.

We joke about how we all follow different teams. We also talked about how important it is to enjoy the excitement of competition while also being a good sport. I’ve seen my friend’s kids cry, weep and fight over professional sports affiliations.  Unfortunately, many people fail to grow out of that behavior.

Six year olds are pretty much sore winners and losers by default. It’s kinda cute when they’re young, but quickly becomes obnoxious. Fortunately, watching sports together provides hundreds of teachable moments about sportsmanship. (Actually playing sports provides vastly more, of course.)

I’m not going to lie – as a Red Sox fan, I’ve yelled “Yankees Suck” at many games at Fenway Park. But around the kid, I consciously try to model good sportsmanship in five ways:

  1. Explain and discuss the concept of “sportsmanship” – don’t take it for granted they understand what it is.
  2. Recognize good efforts and good plays by both teams.
  3. Don’t put individual players down.
  4. Discuss controversial plays, but respect the ref when he makes the call (easier said than done)
  5. Cheer, clap, hoot and have fun when your team makes a good play or wins, but remember respect the fans of the other team. Don’t be rude.

As in many areas of modern parenting, I’m learning what I’m actually teaching as I go. Exemplifying good sportsmanship for my daughter has helped me become a better sport. I’ve supported my kids choice of football teams, and even cheered for Green Bay once or twice.

Totally different matter if she ever supports Yankees, of course.

FURTHER READING

Dads have the overwhelming influence  for how kids choose their sports teams.[stag_icon icon=”external-link-square” url=”http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/10/24/141649929/how-we-become-sports-fans-the-tyranny-of-fathers” size=”16px” new_window=”no”]

Some further tips on sportsmanship from PBS Parents [stag_icon icon=”external-link-square” url=”http://www.pbs.org/parents/food-and-fitness/sport-and-fitness/raise-a-good-sport/” size=”16px” new_window=”no”]