Coaching your child: Expert advice from T-ball to high school and beyond (Part 2)

By Steve Henson

What follows is a short guide to coaching a son or daughter found in the Proactive Coaching booklet, “Youth Coaching, Four Keys to a Successful Season.” The examples are from baseball players, but the lessons can be universal to any sport:

• Understand when to be a coach and when to be a parent: As soon as a game or practice ends, make a quick transition back to the unconditional love of a parent. Do not be the coach to your child at home; do not parent your child on the field. Develop a clear separation of roles. Keep in mind that you will be a parent for life; you will only be a coach for a while.

New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes admits his dad was tougher on him than on his youth teammates. Even today, Hughes’ father will call him after games.

“He’ll leave these hour-long voicemails about everything I need to remember,” Hughes said. “He especially leaves a message on my phone if he watches the game and knows I struggled a little bit. He’ll leave questions like, ‘Was your sinker working?’ Then I’ll call him back and say, ‘I don’t throw a sinker.’ And he’ll say, ‘Then why don’t you throw one next time, or learn one?’ ”

Suggestion: Talk to your child about the difference between your role as a coach and as a parent. Have him or her call you “coach” during practice and games, and have them transition back to “dad or “mom” immediately afterward.

• Avoid playing favorites or being too tough on your child: Showing favoritism to your child will strain his or her relationship with teammates. It will be obvious to everybody but you. On the other hand, being too tough on your child can make the child feel as if he or she is being unfairly punished just because dad is the coach. Treat your child as a member of the team – nothing more, nothing less.

“My dad didn’t ever want other kids or parents to think he was showing favoritism toward me, so I always had to prove myself on my own,” Chipper Jones said. “My dad taught me the fundamentals of the game, but he had the other coaches take care of the discipline end of the game. It worked out great.”

Suggestion: Ask a trusted an assistant coach or parent to be brutally honest with you and inform you if you are showing favoritism or are being too hard on your child. And don’t get defensive when the person says what you might not want to hear.

• Don’t discuss coaching issues with your child: Do not discuss teammates. Do not compare players or siblings. Let post-game analysis wait until you are again in the role of the coach. Make the transition to parent and if your child wants to bring up the game to you, answer from the parent perspective.

The father of Sean Rodriguez, an infielder with the Tampa Bay Rays, was a professional scout and coach who also coached Sean since he could swing a bat.

“He was never hard on me, never screamed at me, never got mad at me, and never called me out on the field,” Rodriguez told Tobin. “My dad was great. Whenever I did something wrong he was more quiet than anything else and then I knew something was wrong. He wouldn’t even say anything when I got back to the car. He always wanted me to figure out what I did wrong.

“That was his biggest thing – for me to figure it out on my own. It was his way of teaching me a lesson – a lesson for me to self-teach myself, self-correct myself, and self-discipline myself.”

Suggestion: Never rehash the game in the car with your child on the drive home. As soon as you turn on the ignition and pull out of the parking lot, you are a parent, not a coach. In your mind, every traffic sign you see as you approach your house should read, “Dad’s Home.”

• Know when to stop coaching: Recognize when the time comes to step aside and let someone else coach your child. This may happen either because of ability (yours or the child’s) or because your child makes it clear he or she doesn’t want you on the field anymore. Brown said this often occurs when youngsters turn 13 or 14.

Curt Schilling’s father, Cliff, never got to see him pitch in the major leagues. (AP)
“Make a smooth transition from coach to parent-spectator-encourager,” Brown said. “Don’t hesitate to do some scouting to make sure the coach who succeeds you is a good one for your child. Remember the kind of parent support that you appreciated when you were coaching and give it to your child’s new coach.”

Maddux recalled when his father came to this realization, saying, “At that point he stayed completely out of it. He let the other coaches coach. Yet, he was still there every game I played.”

Youngsters absolutely appreciate parents being involved in their sports careers, from T-ball all the way to the big leagues. And the dad’s voice lingers in a child’s memory long after they cease taking the field together as coach and player.

Former All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling’s father, Cliff, coached him throughout youth league and predicted early on that his son would make the major leagues. He was thrilled when Curt was a second-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1986. But Cliff died of a heart attack in 1988, a few months before his son made his major-league debut.

Curt went on to start 436 major-league games, and he left a ticket for his father at will call at every one.

Steve Henson is Senior Editor, Major League Baseball at USA Today Sports Media Group. You can follow him on Twitter at @HensonUSAToday


Small Sided Games Good for Parents Too!

By Tony Earp

There is plenty of information out there from all the top experts from around the world and the US in regards to the benefits of youth players playing small sided soccer games (4v4). If you search the internet for “small sided soccer games” and “youth soccer” you will find a plethora of information talking about the benefits of small sided games for developing players. Especially at the youngest age groups, small sided games give players more touches on the soccer ball, more opportunities to try skills, more involvement in the game, and puts players in a game environment that is cognitively appropriate for their age. Outside of all of benefits for player development, is there another argument to be made for the use of small sided games in youth soccer? Believe it or not, the use of small sided games also benefits the parents!

What would the benefits be to the parents if teams played small sided games each weekend (festivals) versus playing in leagues and in tournaments? Below, I have outlined just some of the benefits to the parents (some also benefit the kids as well). Mainly, playing small sided games eliminates many of parents’ biggest frustrations with youth soccer. If players up to U9 played in these types of formats, youth soccer at the youngest age groups would not only become more about the kids again, but create an environment that is beneficial for the parents as well.

Playing Time
For parents paying “X” amount of dollars every season for their kids to play soccer, it is normal for those parents to have the expectation that their kid gets time to play in games (especially at the young age groups). Those games should be about development and the kids having fun, right? Even if a coach divided time up evenly for a team of 10 players, playing 6v6, in a 50 minute game, almost every player would play less than 50% of the game. I will go out on a limb and say most parents probably want to spend their time on the sideline of the soccer field watching their kid get to play, not their kid watching the game from the other sideline.

If you take the same 10 players on that team and break up into two 4v4 games against another team with 10 players, the two teams could play two smaller 4v4 games and each team has one sub. In this scenario, the kids would get a drastic increase of time on the field playing (which is needed to improve). For a parent, the games would be more enjoyable to watch if you got to watch your child playing the majority of the time. Could you just have fewer kids on a team playing 6v6? Yes, of course and playing time for all would increase. Although, still with larger numbers and field at the younger age groups, how often would a parent’s child be involved in the game?

Another issue parents tend have is kids getting stuck in certain positions. Maybe their child plays defender every single game because it gives the team the best chance of winning, despite not being developmentally beneficial for the player. In a small sided game, positions are fluid; you really do not have forwards, midfielders, or defenders. Everyone does everything! Every player gets to attack and defend all the time. The players just need to make sure they are not crowding each other and finding space on the field. For the parents, again, it would be nice to get to see your child get the same opportunities on the field as every other player and not have a “position” labeled too early keeping your child from getting to do learn different aspects of the game. Next: Cost and Travel + Happier Kids

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at


Simply honest, or classless?

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman created a sensation with his post-game rant after Seattle’s NFC Championship win over the San Francisco 49’ers Sunday. Some have rallied behind him, reminding viewers that he was second in his Compton, (CA) high school class and a Stanford graduate, others call him a classless thug. The New York Daily News’ Mike Lupica has written a fair and balanced article on the situation. What is your take?

Should youth baseball have a size restriction?

Those of us who have watched the Little League World Series on television for years have noticed a “growing” trend. Twelve year-old players from around the world have gotten increasingly larger, some 6’4″ and taller. This begs the question, is there going to be a time that we need to look at imposing a height and/or weight maximum for participating in youth baseball? Pop Warner Football has always had this rule. Here is an article about a Japanese player from a couple years ago who is not your prototypical 12 year-old.

NSPCC video on overly-agressive coaches

Here is a brief video addressing the issues parents and league administrators face when confronted with over-the-top coaches. Great advice on curbing and dealing with such behavior.

Really, coach?

Alan Beck, a chiropractor/little league coach in Lakeside, Calif., is suing a 14-year-old player for tossing his helmet in celebration after scoring a game-winning run. That helmet struck Beck and tore his Achilles tendon. Beck is seeking $500,000 in pain and suffering, plus $100,000 in legal bills

Most motivational Duracell commercial ever

Highlighting the Seattle Seahawks’ fullback Derrick Coleman who plays for a chance to go to the Superbowl this weekend.