My brothers and I grew up playing soccer, and my dad coached us all at one point or another.
It did not go well the season he coached me. The team did well, he would want me to point out. But our relationship was no bueno. We are very much alike in terms of intensity and I was at an age where I needed to push back—from safely across the room or huddle; my mama didn’t raise a fool. Things were tense between us the entire season.
Directly afterwards I switched to volleyball.
I felt then what I can verbalize now: for me to be good at something, I needed the full love and support of my family, in the stands and on the sidelines, cheering me on.
And if my dad was my coach, I wasn’t getting that from him. I was sharing it with ten other girls.
I didn’t want to share it. And for the rest of my career, I didn’t have to.
This is the first reason I will never coach my own children.
I did spend seven years coaching other people’s children. Honestly, I struggled to have the patience to coach high school students. Some of my players were using volleyball to fill time until their favorite season started. This was hard for me. I wanted everyone to give the same dedication to volleyball that I had given. And I had a hard time dialing it down. My teams were fun and successful, but I was a hard coach to play for, and I know it. There are a whole pack of young women on Facebook who consider themselves “survivors”.
They are all still in touch with me, and lead amazing lives as grown ups so it must not have been that bad. Even so, this is the second reason I will never coach my own children. It’s all well and good to have survived a coach.
But I never want my kids to feel like they survived their mom.
The third reason has to do with the sport parenting culture these days. It scares me.
We saw it in football this season, parents who already feel like so much is at stake, that their 8 year old’s NFL dreams live or die in Mitey Mites football.
There was maneuvering for starting positions. There were dads looking ahead to high school, talking about moving into school districts where the rosters were not so deep. And there was tension and hostility towards the coaches’ kids, and accusations of favoring.
I don’t want us to lose sight of our basic family values. I want to insulate my children as much as I can from the greedy and self-serving culture of youth sports today. It wasn’t like that when my brothers and I were playing. I want my kids to love it for the same reasons we did, because we were strong and fierce and challenged. But I also want them to keep their values and their souls about them.
I can’t do that from the bench. I have to do it from the stands.
Somebody has to coach the kids. I get it. I know parents who do it well, including my younger brother, who coaches with old school values and a lot more patience than I ever had.
But I will never do it.
We should all know our limitations as parents, and this is one of mine.