Advice to the Coach & the Parent
Most youth coaches in every sport, I believe initially, become involved because of their own child. Later, they even help coach their child's team.
Despite the inexperience and lack of knowledge of the sport, some are pushed into positions of head coach. That is the sole reason for this Web site. To read and practice its teaching will help the inexperienced tremendously.
To start with, your relationship with your son or daughter must be different on the field than it is at home. On the practice field, constructive criticism is important. How can a player improve if he or she doesn't know what they are doing wrong. A parent should never fear criticizing their own child; however, other people's children should be treated as you treat your own. Praise before the group, but criticize in private.
There are other considerations, too. As an example, imagine a head football coach who is coaching his own son. After the first week of practice, his son's name appears on the roster as a first string quarterback.
You can bet the farm that other parents of players on the team will notice this. Even if they are not present, their child will come home and tell them about practice and the new quarterback. They will likely begin to talk amongst themselves about the team.
Sooner or later, human nature being what it is, some parent is going to complain. Some parent, probably one that has never even been to a practice, is going to get the idea that the coach's son is only the quarterback because he's the coach's son. Eventually that irate parent is going to openly accuse the coach of preferential and unfair treatment.
Now, based on the information at hand, is the coach guilty as charged? Not necessarily; however, he is perceived as guilty.
Unfortunately, his actual intentions are completely irrelevant once that perception takes root in the minds of the parents. Anyone in a position of leadership and authority be perceived as honorable, fair, and devoted to his team. His players must know that he can be trusted, because he is trustworthy.
What does it tell the players when their coach tells them to work hard, to give our all, and then places his own child in the most popular position on the team? In my opinion, such action tells them to stop trying, because they cannot trust their coach.
Perhaps that coach's child truly is the best quarterback on the team. He is a natural leader, with poise and confidence beyond his years, and inspires his teammates to play at a higher level. Perhaps that head coach wasn't even the one to make that decision. What if it was the offensive coordinator who selected his son to play quarterback?
There is no way to be completely fair to all parties in this situation. If a coach makes his child the quarterback he'll be accused of playing favorites. If the coach gives another boy the position, then not only is he unfair to his child, but his entire team suffers because a lesser-talented player is running the offense.
Is the coach's son, by virtue of his lineage, not allowed to compete on an equal basis with his teammates for all the positions?
In a situation as this, there is really only one way to be fair, and perceived as fair. That is to refrain from coaching your own child. This is unrealistic and a radical viewpoint, but I think it's an honest one and I mean no disrespect to parent-coaches.
I know this is not usually the case, and most parent-coaches started coaching their child because there just wasn't anyone else to do the job. I applaud the sense of responsibility that made these coaches step forward when they were needed.
There are few coaches, especially at the youth level, that do not have children.
My recommendation is that parents make every effort to avoid coaching their own child, whenever possible. This can be done but requires some creativity. For example, if your son is a linebacker, then you coach the offensive unit, and hand the defense off to your assistant.
There is no perfect solution. What do you do if your son plays both ways? The answer that is, I don't know.
The most important thing to remember is the perception your players have of you.
They must always know that you will do the right thing. They must know that their hard work will be rewarded with their place on the team, and their own playing time.
Your best defense against a charge of favoritism is your players, who will always be able to tell if you are fair and trustworthy.
Coaching your own son or daughter is a huge responsibility, but along with that responsibility comes the equally great responsibility to the players that are not related to you. They too deserve competent, fair coaching from you.
Thoughts on the coaching philosophy for the parent and youth football coach
A coach's philosophy should be a concern of parents. Sportswriter, Grantland Rice once wrote, "It's not that you won or lost, but how you played the game." Skeptics have scoffed at those words ever since Rice wrote them.
Anyone remotely familiar with the game of football knows that competitiveness often surfaces as aggressiveness.
This is especially obvious in the physical area between the offensive and defensive linemen. This area is the most difficult area for a referee to detect inappropriate activities; therefore, rough play becomes inevitable. Some players will develop a style that includes deliberate gouging, tripping, elbowing, and holding. All of these are covered and against the rules; however, kids hear about such dirty tricks and a few will ask to be taught how to do it.
A youngster at this age is most impressionable. Unwittingly, they are searching for values to carry the rest of their lives. A web site stressing fundamentals of football may seem to be a strange place for moralizing; however, since the athletic field is such a training ground for kids to learn honesty and fair play. I must not ignore this opportunity.
Teaching and condoning tactics that deliberately violate the rules is totally inconsistent with what should be the goals of youth league football. There is enough hypocrisy to go around, without introducing it on the football field.
In a more practical vein, the nine-year-old football player should have his hands full simply learning to make an effective block or tackle. If they are to go undetected, tricks to evade the rules are difficult in themselves. Trying to add them to the necessary fundamentals seems foolish.
Anyway, when he gets caught it will cost the team fifteen yards. Most likely, this would happen when team can least afford such loss of yardage. Your little leaguer will have plenty of time after he has mastered the fundamentals to learn to defend himself. At this stage of his life, the best protection is good execution. There is no place in youth football for dirty play.
Winning is another favorite subject. Winning, of course, is what football is all about. Everybody wants their team to win. No child should ever be taught that it does not matter, but neither should he be taught that a win at all costs is appropriate. The tough question facing coach and parent is where to draw the line between learning and the winning? There is no easy answer.
This concern becomes difficult when the coach is trying to give all of his players a chance to play against a better, more experienced team. Every time he replaces his best players, first team the opponents run all over his weaker subs.
Some leagues provide for this shortcoming by requiring each player to spend a minimum of time in each game. Another way is to play reserves during the second and fourth quarters, requiring teams to have equal numbers of players. All leagues should have and enforce such a rule; however, keeping track is sometimes difficult. Also, momentum is lost when the teams change. This can be discouraging to starters and their parents.
Who plays and how much is never an easy question when it comes to little leaguers; however, this is a question that each league and each coach should consider carefully. It is also something the parents must understand.
The use of parent and coach as a team in early development football should be considered. People who volunteer to go out on the field with these little guys to teach them how to play, are equal in rank to school teachers, Sunday school teachers, social workers, scoutmasters, and den mothers of the community. Their positions of influence make them teacher, advisor, and builder of youthful character to your children.
The parent who does not volunteer, nor provides support is delegates a heavy responsibility to those who do. This does not mean that coaching, even of little leaguers, can be a committee endeavor; it absolutely cannot.
The coach must be the undisputed boss on the field. Parents should stay away from players during the game. They should not even be permitted near the player's bench. They belong in the stands; however, When the coaches lack experience, as is so often the case, interested parents should know enough, and care enough, to want to provide guidance and assistance to keep things on track.
So whether you are on the field coaching or on the sidelines cheering, you have a responsibility. These kids are learning football, but they are also learning values that stays with them the rest of their lives.
Parents who are indifferent, or those who try to influence events to satisfy their own selfish ambitions, must do so with the full knowledge of the negative effects it will have on the kids. This greatly reduces the value of youth league football.