Should You Coach Your Own Child in Hockey?

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coaching your own child
Glen Orsak

The pros and cons of parents who coach their own kids

By Tim Turk

Coaching Your Own Child in Minor Hockey: Pros and Cons

Youth hockey is an exciting sport not only for the children playing but also for the parents of the players. Fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters can all be part of a productive, fun activity that allows for plenty of family bonding. And for many parents, the ultimate bonding experience is the ability to coach their own child’s hockey team.

Most youth hockey teams are coached by the parent of someone on the team. This personal relationship can be beneficial for both the parent and the child, but there are pros and cons of coaching your own kid’s team. We’ve laid out some of the positives—and negatives—of coaching your own kid.

The Pros of Coaching Your Own Child

Quality Time and Bonding

With many families living very busy lives these days, it can be difficult to allocate quality time to spend with your kids; especially when it comes to the demands of a sport like hockey. If you coach your child’s team, you get to spend quality time with him or her while helping to develop their skills and knowledge. There is a shared joy with each success that comes throughout the season.

While older children may express a desire to get away from their parents, this is a great time for younger kids to learn from their family coach. With all the requirements of work, the parent gets to take some time away from the real world and spend more time with their child while the kid gets to enjoy his or her favorite sport.

Creating Memories

Any coach has the ability to create memories for his or her team, and these become even more special when you get to share them as you coach your own child. Whether it is winning a championship with the whole team or simply having a laugh during warmups, these are great life moments that your child is sure to hang onto for a lifetime. It’s always nice to share in your kid’s passion, and they’ll be thankful that you are part of these fantastic memories.

You Know Your Child Best

Another advantage of coaching your own child is that you know their strengths and weaknesses, and can be better equipped to deal with their personalities than another coach might. This may be beneficial for your kid, as it will allow them to adjust to the league faster and to reduce the amount of stress put on them. Instead of needing to take extra time to learn how your child reacts, you will already be in a position to make the best decisions and take appropriate actions.

The Cons of Coaching Your Own Child

Preferential Treatment

As much as you might tell yourself that you won’t give your son or daughter any preference, it can be difficult for parents to actually follow through with this. Many parent-coaches end up giving their kid more playing time and putting them in the more important in-game situations. This is harmful to the development of other players on the team.

Strained Relationships

If other players feel that your kid is getting this preferential treatment, it can lead to resentment throughout the team—not to mention the other parents. Your son or daughter may not be invited to extra-curricular outings, or they may become the target of ridicule from the other players. Often this can lead to a downturn in performance as your child loses confidence and feels that they are not wanted on the team, or that they are getting playing time not because of their skill level but only because they are the coach’s kid.

Added Stress

Although some kids feel relieved of pressure when their parent is coaching, many actually find themselves under additional stress. This is because a parent might have higher expectations for them and as such will treat them with more criticism and assign more responsibility to them. The parent-coach may be a little harder on them than they are on the other kids, simply because he or she feels more comfortable doing so. This again can lead to negative results, as your kid finds him or herself pressing to play better rather than developing naturally and having fun.

Finding Balance as a Parent-Coach

Although there are many ways that a parent-coaching situation can turn negative, the pros outweigh the cons as far as being a positive influence on your child’s life. There are some steps you can take to ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of showing favoritism, or that your child doesn’t feel uncomfortable with you as the coach.

Separating Parenting from Coaching

This is easier said than done, but many parents have found success by committing to be a coach when the time calls for it, and reverting to parenthood after a practice or game. Treat your son or daughter’s name as just another player on the roster when it comes time to set lines and strategies. If they need a break due to fatigue or diminished performance, treat them exactly the same as you would any other child. You may not feel right doing so, but your child will appreciate your efforts. Once the game is over, then you can go back to being a parent.

Talk to Your Child About the Situation

When you coach your own child, make sure to set clear expectations about your plan for coaching them. Let them know that they won’t be getting preferential treatment and, conversely, that you will not be any harder on them than you are on the other players. Make sure they understand that you want to help them develop as a player, but that you also have a job to do for the entire team.

Communicate With the Other Parents and Children

It is important to be transparent about your coaching relationship and to keep the other parents and children involved. You don’t have to try to do too much as a coach, but it should be clear to everyone that you have the team’s best interest in mind; you aren’t here only as a bonding experience with your child. That is certainly a benefit, but it is not one of your responsibilities.

Tim Turk has been an NHL Shooting and Scoring coach for over 25 year, working with organizations like the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Arizona Coyotes, and many National Programs abroad. He also works with minor hockey teams, coaches and players of all ages and levels, specializing in Hockey Shooting, Passing and Puck Protection. For more information visit timturkhockey.com.

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