Friday, March 5, 2010

The Coach's Kid Always Plays

If you talk to sports parents, one of the common complaints is that “the coach’s kid always plays.” Sometimes this comment refers to the coach’s child receiving more playing time, playing the glory positions (e.g. pitcher, quarterback, point guard), while in other more competitive situations it can also refer to the child playing in front of seemingly more capable players.

Is there merit to this observation or is this simply another example of sports parents tending to look at a situation through the lens of their child’s interests? It’s probably a little of both.

In youth sports, parent-coaches are essential—there are simply not enough individuals (without a child on the team) who are interested in coaching. Often, the parent-coach has played the sport in high school and is knowledgeable about the game. In these instances, the coach’s child may be more skilled than others on the team, have a greater understanding of the game, and also enjoy playing (and practicing) the sport. In other words, the parent-coach’s child may deserve to play a key position on the team or receive more playing time—especially in competitive leagues.

Coaches’ kids are sometimes held to more exacting standards and may feel that other players on the team receive preferential treatment. The coach’s child may face additional pressures including potential accusations of favoritism by their teammates. Sometimes, coaches over-compensate in their treatment of their child in an effort to remove any suggestion of favoritism. In these instances it’s not uncommon for the child to retaliate verbally when the parent-coach “corrects” a skill or behavior.

Before you begin complaining about the parent-coach favoring his or her child, try to objectively observe how he treats all of the team’s players. Do the parent-coach’s strategies and schemes provide opportunities for each player to potentially succeed or are they geared to specifically benefit the coach’s child? Does the coach give everyone an opportunity in practice and employ the teaching principles discussed elsewhere in this blog?

Be honest with yourself. Is the coach’s child the best player for a position and does this child need to play for the team to compete? Is your child clearly superior to the coach’s child or are they close in ability? The latter situation may prove especially difficult as some coaches may unfortunately justify playing their son or daughter based on their investment of coaching time and effort.

Also, talk with your child and understand how he or she feels about the coach’s kid and their role on the team. Your child may believe that the coach’s kid is the best player for the position. Despite your feelings, your child may like the coach and believe that the coach is fairly treating each player on the team.

If you believe the coach’s child is receiving unjustified preferential treatment in comparison to your child and others on the team, you may want to discuss the matter with the coach. Arrange a time (other than after a game) to objectively talk about your concerns. Try to understand the coach’s philosophy and specific reasons for making his or her choices. Do not accept blatant favoritism, but understand the difficult position that a child and their parent-coach sometimes face. If you feel strongly that the “system is broken," consider becoming a youth coach to provide the experience that you believe all young athletes should enjoy!