Parent-Coach Issue Not New

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Dr. Amalia Pineres posed a very poignant question in a letter to the editor that appeared in the Aug. 2 edition of the Payson Roundup.

She asked if it was proper and right for fathers to coach the team their sons were members of and also (for) “parents to follow their kids as coaches for years at a time.”

Obviously, by asking the question, Dr. Pineres has some experiences in which fathers who coach might have shown favoritism to their own children.

The issue of fathers coaching sons has been at the forefront of sports since James Naismith hung up two peach baskets and shot a soccer ball into them.

History tells us, there are those fathers who can expertly coach their sons and not show a hint of favoritism or bias.

They treat all the players, including their own sons, equally and make impartial and informed decisions about such issues as playing time and positions on depth charts.

Sadly, there are other coaches who blatantly show preference to their own sons.

In Payson, the “Daddy Coach Syndrome” has not only occurred with volunteer coaches in youth leagues, but also at Rim Country Middle School and Payson High School.

I’ve witnessed it firsthand — in fact, I have on occasion approached head coaches at both RCMS and PHS to ask them if they were aware such favoritism was occurring.

Preferential treatment is not running rampant in youth sports or the schools, but it has occurred.

The really sad part of the nepotism is the effect it has on other players on the team.

It sends them mixed signals as to what is expected from them in the sport and what it takes to be successful.

Nothing in sports is more upsetting than watching a coach’s son receive all the playing time when there is a better player at the position riding the bench or playing out of position.

Make no mistake, I have the utmost respect for “Dad” coaches, mean no disrespect to them and completely understand the dilemma they face.

In the 1980s, I coached my own son, Gerry, on the high school varsity football team and junior high track and field and basketball.

For Gerry, having his father as coach was trying and often tested our relationship. I’m not sure if I were in a similar situation today, I would coach my own son.

Once a game or practice was over, I had a difficult time taking my coach’s hat off and replacing it with a parent hat.

I know now my son needed my support after football, not my criticism.

Should parents coach?

In my opinion parent-coaches are not a good idea, even though I realize probably 70 percent or more of all youth coaches become involved because of their own children.

Among the reasons I oppose it is because a coach’s relationship with their sons or daughters must be different on the field than at home.

A player cannot improve if he or she doesn’t know what is being done incorrectly and many parents have huge difficulty in criticizing their own children.

Another issue is perception — there are those who argue perception is reality.

So when a coach’s child is receiving ample amounts of playing time or perhaps starting at quarterback, the perception can be that the success is because their father is the coach.

At some point in the season, the human animal being what it is, a parent is going to complain.

The parent might never have been to practice or discussed the issue with the coach, but believes the coach is showing their own child child preferential treatment.

That could be the furthest thing from the truth, but the upset parent will go the administration or approach other parents and it won’t be long until the coach is accused of nepotism.

Being accused of “Daddy favoritism” — even when it is not true, is a deadly team killer.

The bottom line is the coach can’t be fair to everyone.

If he gives his own child a first team position, he’ll be accused of playing favorites.

If he slights his own child and gives a choice playing position or first team status to another player competing against that child, he’s harming his own child.

Another problem with parent coaching is one that Dr. Pineres touched on. It concerns parents following their children over years and in several sports.

Coaching effectively requires a great deal of know-how, expertise and proficiency that can only be acquired over years of experience while attending clinics, exchanging ideas with fellow coaches, compiling scouting reports and practice plans, memorizing rules and focusing expertise on a single sport.

In high school, that can be a daunting task for a professional coach who has dedicated himself to mastering the sport, say football, since college.

Those who can dedicate only a few hours of each day to the sport, face an impossible task of becoming a master coach.

Watching football on Sunday or having played in high school does not qualify a person to be a quality coach.

In a perfect sports’ world there would be sufficient competent, fair and professional coaches for all teams. But that is almost never the situation and parents are pushed into coaching because there wasn’t anyone else to do the job.

I applaud their sense of responsibility in stepping up, but along with that comes an even greater duty to be a fair and competent coach who treats all players equally.

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