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!


Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved

30 comments:

Bennett said...

'Tis true. Coaches kids are the top of the pyramid. I am a coach and not afraid to tell it like it is; If I am "coachen' my kid is playen"--obviously we are not out here to let some other kid get a head of ours.

Anonymous said...

I’ve coached for ten plus years and do not think that coaches kids are favored in most cases. Where there are kids that want to play I’ve allocated opportunity on a fair basis. Of course, when no one wanted to play goalie for a girls soccer team, my daughter was drafted to do the job. She never had the opportunity to decline.

STATS DAD said...

I have seen it both ways. My son's baseball coach is so tough on his son that he pulls him out of games or bats him last if he is not playing up to the dad's / coach's inflated expectations. I keep the stats for the team so I know statistically speaking the kid is a good player and should be given more slack. I also keep stats for my son's football team. My son was the fullback. The coach's son was one of two tailbacks. The coach's son had 89 total yards on 89 carries for the year. One pathetic yard per carry. My son got 16 carries in 10 games. He had 136 yards.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to be the coach's kid and sometimes the parent/coach takes the path of least resistance, so that their kid doesn't act up in the middle of practice. It's embarrassing, and difficult to take the time to parent the way you do in normal situations. (I'm talking the little ones here). As this essay says, if you don't like it, try coaching yourself. Signed, first-time coach of K-2 soccer team

Anonymous said...

For the coaches who can coach without preferential treatment, I say thank you. Unfortunately, these coaches are few and far between. I hope never to have Bennett as my sons coach. As a school counselor for 2o years I can tell you what this persons children are probably like. Many of you have seen what coaches children behave like on and off the fields. Most of them feel entitled to their positions thanks to their parent coaches. They carry this attitude into other areas of their life. Most parent coaches live vicariously through their children. The parents inability to have succeed in sports themselves places a tremendous amount of stress on their children. A lot of these children have anger management issues that are more than apparent on the playing field. Why? because thanks to their parents they think that they can do and have anything they want. Parent coaches are not only setting their children up on the fields but they are setting them up to fail in life. Effective coaches teach children that they have to earn their spots on a team because in the real world none of these parents coaches are going to coach you in the MLB. And for all of you coaches to buy into the, If you don't like it, coach or get out, I would start saving for your childrens future counseling sessions.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous on 6/8/10; thank you to the coaches who do it right. When it comes to leagues that claim to be developmental, it's the job (volunteer or not) of youth coaches to provide ALL players at the younger ages with a solid foundation and teach them the game and the skills to play it. If you can't do that and not play favorites, don't coach your own kid.

Anonymous said...

My son plays on a 5 and 6 year old t-ball team and the 6(yes, six) coaches play their sons in the infield and bat at the top of the batting order every game. I am afraid my child will believe these kids are better players than him. One child is far better. The rest are equal at best but I think my child is better (let's face it is t-ball, they all can hit and none of them can catch very well). Any suggestions in this situation? This is a situation where quitting and having me play with him at home may be better than allowing him to believe he is not a good player. This is a bad solution but it is a very ugly situation.

Jeffrey Rhoads [Inside Youth Sports] said...

At your son's age, I see little reason to favor one child over another. Filling the primary roles (e.g., pitcher, catcher) to make the game fun for everyone likely isn't an issue. And winning certainly isn't important at this age. Sounds like your son's coaches are too serious for this age group. Have you talked with the coaches to express your concerns and better understand their reasoning?

Even if he's batting last and playing the outfield, is your son still having fun? Can you somehow frame the situation in a positive way (i.e. a learning experience)? Unless HE has a problem with the situation, I would suggest riding the season out and finding new coaches next year. Playing ball with him at home is ALWAYS a good complement to organized sports. Good luck...

selectandunite said...

Advice from a coach of this 6u, 8u and 10u...

Approach the head coach with a positive attitude, asking what type of things your child can work on at home to play the infield more often and bat higher in the order. Be as polite as possible, and thank him for all his hard work. He won't get defensive if you do it this way. You won't have to be any more overt than that, or insinuate anything else. He will get the hint. The coach should give you some homework, and he may volunter some criteria that you might not realize is taken into account for playing time (such as practice attendance, attitude, attention spanish, hustling/effort, knowledge of situational baseball, etc).

Finding the right team and coach can make or break your season, and perhaps even change your child's desire to play the sport in the future. www.SelectAndUnite.com allows players and coaches to fill out a profile with everything they are looking for in a new team/coach or players, and then it suggests the best matches in your area to contact.

Jeffrey Rhoads [Inside Youth Sports] said...

Thanks Matt for some good suggestions on how to approach talking with a "problem" coach. I also agree that parents sometimes miss the more subtle reasons why a coach may select one player over another. Still, at 5 or 6 years old, I would expect that most kids should get a mix of different positions in the field as well as in the batting order.

Anonymous said...

For the Daddyballers that must coach so their child gets the most playing time, we are on to you! We've had this situation in soccer for 2 years, and finally the town soccer club (travel) is realizing there's an issue after numerous complaints (the kid has a temper, injures other kids, fakes injuries for attention, and is one of the worst players on the team -- and actually does not even have the skills or temprament for travel soccer. It's an embarrassing situation for all, and this daddy-coach has affected two years (4 seasons) of the rest of the kids development. Thank god the league finally realizes there is an issue and is changing it next year. The whole situation was a shame. We just wish it was recognized sooner. There are others willing to coach that are positive, fair, and care about the development of all players.

Anonymous said...

Just finished an all-star season where the three coaches of the team played their sons every game, every inning - even to the detriment of the team - we lost at our first sectional playoff with the head coach's son at max pitch count and the two other coach's kids (who incidentally are not our top pitchers) coming in afterwards. Uggh. I want to know how to decline an offer for our son to be on one of the three coach's teams if recruited next season - - - can we do this and have him just be picked up by someone else? Would rather have a "worse" team but less nepotism (if it is possible).

Anonymous said...

It is true. The coaches kids play and play all the key positions whether they are good or not. Not only that, the buddies and influential freinds of the coaches get the same special treatment. I've seen it for years. If your child is atheletic he has a shot. But it is the buddy system. These coaches do want the good players and want to win but most will take a loss rather than to make a change that involves their child. I've sat in the first meeting for leauge football and the head coaches first comment was,"i will tell right now my son will be the quarterback this year." Of course you know the rest, we did't win a game. Now starting this season they have finally infiltrated the middle schools and paving the way to the High Schools with their donations,company donations, and their special club affiliations. If you haven't already, you will have to explain to your child why certain folks always get what they want. Because they start noticing as mine did when certain kids don't have to work as hard, and yours has to bust his tail. These coaches are trying to stay involve now since the kids are older, but they are struggling somewhat. If the schools catch on they will be out of there. But God is Great, and if your kid is a good athelete things could change. Also if you can keep your head there could be a silver lining. Some school coaches(not all)don't play that buddy and daddy ball game. For instance last year my son tried out for football, basketball, and baseball. Guess what? He made the team on all three sports. The league ball coaches kids didn't make the basketball team as a player, they was the score keepers. Football, the league ball coaches sons hardly touched the field. Heck they didn't even get to play in our championship game. My son through his hard work played every game. Baseball, the league ball coaches kids sit on the bench all season. My son played every game as leadoff batter and didn't sit the bench. He had the highest batting average and on base percentage on the team. He was one of the two 7th graders that got to play all season. And no I'm not the coach. Stats say 75% of kids in youth sports don't play sports after starting middle and high school. Sorry I have been so long winded but if you come across coaches that follow the buddy and daddy ball practice shop for another team before it affects you child. And just one other thing don't ever let a coach start telling your child he or she is too small, short, or needs to get bigger. My son is close to being the shortest on each team he has made. Give God all the Glory.

Anonymous said...

There are five coaches on my son's team. One of them have twin boys. All the coaches kids play backfeild positions on offence and backfield positions on defence (line backers, corner backs, safty, etc.). My son is in the top 5 regarding speed and is very physically fit, yet he is put on the line and defensive line and then told he needs to "bulk up." I think there is favoritism in junior athletics and I don't think it is just.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone provide some insight for a teenage girl who is the coach's kid?

We are in an awkward situation where our daughter is often left out by other girls because Dad is the coach and chooses not to socialize (read: drink alcohol) with the other team parents. Since he, now we, no longer go to the "drinking" parties, our daughter is not invited either, and so she is left out when the girls get together at these parent parties.

Also, at school, her friends (who all are on the team), complain and talk negatively about Coach (her Dad) in front of her, which makes her simultaneously mad, feel bad, and again, left out.

The teenage years are tough to begin with for girls (anyone seen "Mean Girls"?), but it's even tougher for the coach's kid.

"Dad" has coached this group of girls for several years now, and with much success. And, I can honestly say that daughter does not get preferential treatment / playing time, etc.

Lastly, Dad has offered to step down from coaching, but daughter does not want him to. Of course I'm biased in pointing out that he's really a great coach: tough, demanding, and wants the best for all the kids he coaches. So, for now, I keep telling daughter that "this too shall pass" and "this will make you stronger". If you have any sage advice, I'd love to hear it!

Wendy LeBolt said...

Wow. Just stumbled on this great conversation and tough question. To all you who are anonymous - true that. The coach's kid is the toughest position to play on any team. Often they are not the best player. Often they get preferential treatment. Often they get preferential yelling. Always, it's hard for coach and kid.

To the commenter from Oct 16, it sounds like there are a lot of issues here. I'm not sure how old the girls are but girls do talk, and they don't hold much back. Parent/alcohol parties with the girls there? Exclusion of people? Honest conversation? Kindness? respect for self and others? This should be the basis for any sport and any team. (it's a life skill)

Sounds like the parents need to have an honest conversation - often kids parrot what parents are saying (and how they're acting). And Dad coach needs to make a decision about whether continuing to coach is in the best interest of his family. (regardless of what daughter says - although talk about this - because kids very often tell us what they think we want to hear). Perhaps even offer to do a trial step-down. In the new environment, take a fresh look. Everyone might be grateful to have the coach back in the saddle in a season or two. (but be sure you iron out the adult issues in the interim)

Anonymous said...

My daughter is a good BB and was benched so the coach could play the daughter of the volley ball coach at the end of the season and guess what volley ball starts soon favoritism at its worst.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a Football coach in the UK, it's very simple. All children regardless of who they are or what ability they have should be given equal opportunities to play any sport and should be allowed to try all the roles within the team. Results are not important, having fun, developing skills and learning the importance of being part of a team that wins and loses are.

Shelly Munro said...

My husband has been a coach for years. Basketball, softball, travel softball, and now varsity softball. Both of my daughters are very driven. The freshman made both the varsity volleyball team and the varsity basketball team. She is a starter on the basketball team with her junior sister. Both girls work very hard in the off season, averaging between 80 and 100 ASA, NSA, and USSSA softball games with the freshman putting in another 40 AAU basketball games. What do other kids do during the off season?
My freshman rolled her ankle (black and blue all the way around it) 3 weeks ago but refused to go to the doctor. She iced it, kept it up, and babied it in order to play her first game the following week. The junior once caught a line drive to the inside of her right thigh. She was back out there playing 3 innings later. It's been 4 years and she still has a lump where she was hit. They give all.
To the counselor, please don't lump ALL coaches kids into your nasty category. My girls work hard on their grades and have no sense of self entitlement. They always help when asked and are not disrespectful. I don't believe that they are in any way an exception. I know other coaches kids that are the same.
To the October 16th, as a parent coach you have to not only teach your child the skills they need to play but also the skills to survive the adversity they will face as the coach's kid. There will ALWAYS be the negative as in the previous comments. There is always going to be a kid or a parent that believes your child is only out there because your the coach. In a way that's true, you're the coach because you care enough to take the time with not only your child but a team. Of course you take special interest in your own and I'm sure you, as my husband does, work with your child on their skills year round. Most parents won't or can't do that. She will be a strong young woman as mine are becoming. She will be able to look back at all that you've done for her and be proud. Hang in there.
Coaches don't get paid much, if anything. They take a lot of crap and they sacrifice so much. Do you really think my husband wanted to miss the Michigan/Michigan State game to coach a softball game? How about missing family time every weekend and 4 nights a week for practices? Cut the coaches and their kids some slack. If you think you can do a better job than get out there and do it!

Anonymous said...

In my kid's u10 soccer team,the coach had two of his sons playing in his team.when my son would score 2 goals,he would put him in defense or bench him,while his kids played all throughout the game.this coach messed my son's head so much that 1 year later,he's playing with a different team and he's afraid to strike the ball.the damage some of these Bennets of the world do to the kids can sometimes last throughout a kid"s lifetime.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what i'm talking about,it's a i scratch you back if you scratch mine's mentallity.nobody wants to bench a kid whose father may be coaching a different sport.that's why if you can't beat them,join them and become a coach,your kid will be better served.

Anonymous said...

Have you thought about the possibility that your girls play at a higher level because they were never benched?we are talking about kids,it's called developmental level.how is a child supposed to learn a spot if from the age of 7 to 10 he's being told he's not good enoucg and that's the reason he's not getting the same playing time as the coach's daughter or son?

Shelly Munro said...

Have YOU taken the time to work with him? At age 7 their skill levels are very low, they're still learning the game. I would suggest that YOU coach and I'm not being snotty here, it doesn't take much to coach at that level. Sometimes it's better to have a less experienced coach at the younger level to just teach them the love of the game.
I reread my comment and see no where in it that my husband coaches ALL of their sports. The oldest has had him the most, her skills are great but to be honest the younger one that got left behind because of her age and had to play with different coaches is actually a better athlete. They've both played for other coaches and have both sat the bench at times. More than once BECAUSE they were a coaches kid and the other coach didn't want to give them that chance.
If you want to talk about messing with their heads, how about having a parent talk to your kids coach in front of your kid about your child getting too much playing time just because her dad helps with the team? Now put yourself in my daughter's shoes. She's practiced every day with THAT team and then practices every Sunday with a travel team. She averages between 80-100 games per year. The parent that complained had a first year player in the 9th grade. Right now my kids are playing varsity basketball. They play two games a week and practice three days a week with them. They practice Saturday's with their varsity softball team, play in a softball winter league from noon to two on Sunday and then go straight to their travel team's (different) practice until 7 ( let me add that it's an hour from home).
I guess my whole point here is how hard are you willing to push your child? How much time are YOU willing to spend? How much money are you willing to spend? Our lives are centered around sports, that's what we do. From one event to the next. That's how we roll and we like it that way. My kids are happy, they make good grades, they have friends from not just their school but all over the state. It's not easy, it's definitely not always pretty but we do it....go ahead and judge...we're used to it.

Anonymous said...

In any difficult situation you need to work on the positives and pay attention. If your best assessment reveals a problem, take it to the coach and give him an opportunity to do something. If he fails, go straight to the person responsible for that coach and state your concern. But request a response, a formal one if possible...then share this with those who it may effect..be transparent. In community youth sports, if the purpose has principles all should expect and account for development over winning. And if equal opportunity isn't part of the deal....at least you know that going in. If it is...state your points. Nothing may come of it...accept possible reprucussions from the coach or program. Any program is only as good as it's leadership. Most programs spend a lot of time selling one thing, then doing quite another. They see what they want to see and ignore what they don't. I see coaches in every sport reveal their purpose in their team communications and you often have a problem when the coach thinks the reason we have youth programs is so he can coach and "have a team." Rarely and most treasured is the coach who understands "why do we have youth sports?" They understand it is not so parents can "get to coach." Youth sports is for the young players. To be given the opportunity to coach is a rare priveledge that comes with important responsibilities.
Parent Coaches and Parents...."Stand behind your kids and support them from there. If they fall back, catch them. If they fall forward, watch them pick themselves up and grow. Don't stand in front of your kids, they cannot see over or around you. They don't learn, they don't grow, and eventually they'll climb over you risking permanent damage to your relationship w/ you child." For the coach who openly expresses his goal to give his own kid advantages over the others....Reject him and work with others to create an alternative oppurtunity. You can do it. I have coached for 8 years, I'm paid to evaluate top rated high school baseball players, I am a parent of two sons (13 & 11). We have wonderful coaches but only a few get it. Most others....they are there to give their own son the advantage and restrict the development of other players who might challenge their own son now or in the future. Expose the latter by taking a responsible stand and be willing to create your own alternative. Can be very difficult to make the first move, but obsessing over it and working back-channels is just as bad. Be constructive and you can make an important difference for you community. Good Luck!

The Flux Group said...

I Feel You, I HaVe taken it into my own hands with my son. Starting out and football and soccer my son. he wasn't very good starting out and I didn't complain because I knew this, but he was determined so I took time outside of practice and in the offseason to work with him myself. he is now the starting running back on his football team and the starting striker on his soccer team. the problem with coaching A Team is that there is very little to no one on one development. I think that if you want your child to be better than it is mandatory that you work with him individually.

Anonymous said...

My husband has helped coach football for the past several years. Started out as a youth coach and then went to the JV level and now is the assistant varsity defensive coach. My son and all of his classmates have had him as coach now for quite awhile. One of his biggest fears was his son. He went to him when he was asked to move up to JV and then Varsity and asked him how he felt about it. He asked him if he wanted a break from his "dad" coaching him. My sons reply was no and even his friends have always respected him in my own opinion. My son is a very smart and level headed kid. He has never played a "star" role in football. Our school is small and the guys have always been smaller in size. My son being one of the bigger kids could not play the "star position"!! He has great catching ability even, but bottom line is.. he was needed on the line and my husband being a coach knew where he needed to put him. Not once has my son complained. A couple years ago when I was out with some friends one of the girls I was with who has a son in my sons class made a comment about football. She had made the comment that my son plays because he is the coaches kid. I was thrown by this comment!! Seriously!! I looked at her and never said a word. Now.. anyone that really knows me knows that took a lot!! I have a temper and when it comes to my kids well lets face it.. we all protect our cubs. I then went to her later on and said " Lyn, do you really think my son plays more over yours because of who is dad is? Her reply was " yeah". I then said to her... have you talked to your son or his head coach (who is not my husband) about why he doesnt play as much as the others. She said "no". I told her I think it would be best before she makes a comment like that to go and discuss with her son and coaches to find out why he isnt playing. She did and her son said he didnt know why... she went to the coaches and she was told a lot of her sons problem was his attitude. When he was told to do something or how to correct a problem her sons comment back was either " I KNOW" or he would roll his eyes. Not a good way to get playing time. My son works hard not only on the field but in school as well. He doesnt get a break away from football ever being the coaches kid. He is the one that gets home from a game and the coach pops the tape in and says "come here I want to show you something"! Meanwhile all the other kids got to go home and relax. So before you judge or make comments about the coaches kid getting favored over your kid..think about that. Now I will say not all coaches are like that.. the good ones do not favor their kids if they are there to teach the kids!! I have seen it the other way too and it sucks!!! I'm sorry for those of you who have had to deal with it. My only suggestion is to put the time and effort into making your kid the best he or she can be..either that or move to another school district because those kind of coaches dont ever change!! Its sad but true!!

Anonymous said...

I'm encountering this right now and I'm angry. I hate injustice and blatant favoritism. My son paid his dues. This is his 3rd year of coach-pitch. The first two years he played the outfield or catcher, he was benched and he was at the end of the batting order. The bigger kids played infield and base positions. My son practiced his butt off this summer and he's really gotten good. His new coach put him 6 out of 12 in the batting order. He should have been 5th but the coach's kid was placed above my son. The coach also promised that he'd let everyone play infield. HA! Our first game out of 6 innings my child was benched once, put in right field and made to play catcher. There are kids that can't even catch on this team, and most have just come from T-ball and have no clue what they're doing. But guess who is in the infield? Yep, the coach's kid and the assistant coach's kids and their friends kids. All the 6 year olds. The coach's kid actually sat in the dug out the last practice and played in the dirt and refused to practice, but was rewarded with playing 1st base at the game. I'm behind angry. The two years my son was in the outfield I never said a word. I considered this him paying his dues and was sure that this year he'd get his chance! I was so wrong. The worst part is that right outfield and catcher are for the worst players and my son is devastated that he's been put in those positions when he is clearly better! I know most of you will think I'm a delusional parent and my kid sucks, but I'm not delusional. He's worked his tail off and I hate to watch him get treated like dirt.

Anonymous said...

Is it typical/ normal to have 10 kids on an 8U select baseball team and 6 of the coach's are parents (dad's)?

Anonymous said...

I just really think it is so sad that so many kids get pushed to the wayside and their talents never develop because some parent coach has decided to play favorites. It totally undermines the whole reason why sports are started at the youth level. When the coach plays into the "unfair" advantage, it doesn't teach anything positive. I think that society has become very corrupt.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with a coach favoring his/her child. After all, the coach is volunteering his/her time. Also, I have found that the coach's kid is usually the best player on the team.

For me, the problem occurs when there is more than 1 coach for a team. The assistant coach's kids are usually not very skilled and yet they get plenty of playing time. If the goal is to compete at the highest level (i.e. not a developmental / non-competitive league sort of situation), the head coach needs to play his best players at crucial periods instead of worrying about the feelings of his fellow coaches.

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