Surprisingly, it is not at all uncommon for youth hockey coaches to end up coaching their own children at one point or another. Sometimes, this happens because the parent is already acting as coach, and when the child reaches the appropriate age level, it just makes sense for him to join the team. Other times, a professional coach might suddenly depart, or there may just be a need for an affordable volunteer coach, and an interested parent steps up. Whatever the case may be, coaching your own child can be a little tricky. Fortunately, if you just keep a few simple tips in mind, it doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think.
First things first, talk to your child about the situation. Ask your child how he feels about you being his coach and what he thinks some of the advantages and disadvantages might be. This is a good way to figure out if your child is dreading the arrangement, and, if so, why. When that’s the case, you can alleviate his fears or maybe even consider the possibility of going with another team. You might also learn that your child has false perceptions of what you being his coach might be like. Some children might expect special treatment, for example, and this is the perfect time to lay some ground rules, such as letting the child know what to call you when you’re in “coach mode” and making it clear that your child will be treated just like any other player.
Secondly, make sure you follow through when it comes to treating your child just like any other player. It’s very easy to breed “bad blood” if you give your child more playing time than the other kids or allow him to get away with bad behavior or disrespect. Expect just as much from your child as you do from the other players, no more and no less.
It’s also smart to avoid coaching your child at home. You can coach your child at practices and at games, but not at home. When you do that, you’re blurring the lines and giving your child “special favors” that the other players don’t get. If you want your little one to get extra help, have him seek it from a teammate or another coach. You do not want to get accused of showing favoritism or giving your child advantages that the others don’t have.
Also, be aware that, no matter how true you are to these tips, there will likely come a time when someone accuses you of favoritism. That’s just, unfortunately, how some people think. When that happens, however, you’ll be in a good place if you have followed this advice. Everyone else will be able to vouch for you and for the fact that you are a pro at separating your “parent side” and your “coach side.”