COACHES’ OWN GOALS
Sporting parents are harsher on their kids in teams
PARENTS who coach their children’s sport teams are deliberately disadvantaging their own kids for fear of being accused of favouritism, putting their relationships at risk.
An Australian 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.
Dr Sam Elliott, a Flinders University lecturer in sport, health and physical activity, 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 under-14s.
While all the coaches enjoyed 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. However, disciplining other people’s children risked conflict with their parents, so they made an example of their own child to set the tone.
“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 to help teach 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’,” another father, Frank, said.
Dr Elliott said the issues faced by parent coaches were “problematic for parent and child relationships”.
Tim Baker has coached sons Angus, 17, Lachlan, 14, and Noah, 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.
“I’ve been harder on my kids. You almost deliberately disadvantage them,” he said.
Tim Baker says it has been tough at times coaching sons Angus, 17, Lachlan, 14 and Noah, 10. Picture: Brenton Edwards