Coaches’ kids cop­ping it

Par­ents who vol­un­teer on sports fields are tougher on their own, study finds

Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - TIM WIL­LIAMS

PAR­ENTS who vol­un­teer to coach their chil­dren’s sport teams de­lib­er­ately dis­ad­van­tage their own kids for fear of be­ing ac­cused of favouritism, putting their re­la­tion­ships with their sons and daugh­ters at risk.

A Flin­ders Uni­ver­sity study found dads who coach their sons’ footy teams avoid giv­ing their boys awards and praise, give them harsher feed­back and make an ex­am­ple of them in front of oth­ers.

And they jus­tify it by say­ing they have to be seen to be fair, avoid con­flict with other par­ents and send dis­ci­plinary mes­sages to the play­ing group.

Lec­turer in sport, health and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity Dr Sam El­liott con­ducted in-depth in­ter­views with 16 dads who had been coach­ing ju­niors for be­tween one and five sea­sons. They were in charge of un­der-12s or 14s.

While all the coaches en- joyed the role, most said boys of that age messed around a lot and they felt like glo­ri­fied babysit­ters un­less they laid down the law early.

But dis­ci­plin­ing other peo­ple’s kids risked con­flict with their par­ents, so they made an ex­am­ple of their own child to set the tone for the rest.

“It has got to start with my kid, like when the coach talks, you have got to lis­ten,” one dad, Rick, said.

“For ex­am­ple, if they are not do­ing the right thing and I give it to him, send him to do a lap, yell at him or what­ever … make an ex­am­ple!”

Dads also high­lighted the mis­takes of their own chil­dren for the ben­e­fit of teach­ing the rest of the team skills and un­der­stand­ing of the game.

Most said their kids recog­nised the dif­fi­cul­ties their dads faced in the dual role, but not al­ways.

“I did get picked up by my young fella when I was driv­ing him home the other week. He said: ‘Why do you al­ways pick on me ev­ery time some­thing goes wrong?’” dad Frank said.

Dr El­liott said the chal­lenges faced by par­ent coaches were “prob­lem­atic for par­ent and child re­la­tion­ships”.

He said clubs could ar­range more “meet and greet” train­ing ses­sions for par­ents and chil­dren to help coaches “cope with their fears of ex­ter­nal per­cep­tions of favouritism”, and en­sure coaches were pos­i­tively por­trayed through club com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Ade­laide dad Tim Baker has coached his three sons, aged be­tween 17 and 11, at Flin­ders Park Foot­ball Club, which he said sets high stan­dards for par­ent be­hav­iour to­ward coaches.

He said the dual role could be a mine­field when it came to awards, player po­si­tions and game time, and deal­ing with “key­board war­rior” par­ents, adding the best strat­egy was to get other par­ents in­volved too.

“I’ve been harder on my kids. You al­most de­lib­er­ately dis­ad­van­tage them,” he said.

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