Coaching Your Child: Wise or Unwise?

Jed Hughes@JedhugheskfCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2013

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 25:  Strength and Conditioning/Assistant Coach Steve Hess of the Denver Nuggets talks to children during a Team Fit Clinic on January 25, 2013 at the Hiawatha Davis Recreation Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The benefits of coaching your own child are many. First, coaching presents an opportunity for fathers and mothers to spend quality time with their children while engaging in an activity that they enjoy. Secondly, parents, by nature, are teachers, and they relish the opportunity to teach their children skills of the game. Further, a parent understands his or her children's abilities and reactions to motivational stimuli better than someone else does.

Parents who get involved in coaching have different motivations for doing so. Some offer to coach in order to give their son or daughter the opportunity to be the star. Others do it in order to be more involved with their child’s interests. There are others who volunteer because they have a background in coaching and want to make a difference by using their experience to help the players reach their potential.

I have witnessed a number of parents turn off an entire team by failing to discipline their child and allowing them to play in an undisciplined fashion. The result is not good for the child, his peers, or for the team overall.

Playing for a coach who lacks knowledge of the sport or experience in coaching young people can result in a poor experience for everyone involved. In such cases, the coach will lose the respect of the team and eventually lose the support of the parents.

When coaching your own child, the biggest object to overcome is trying to treat your son or daughter as any other team member and doing it in a fair, non-prejudicial manner. However, a real disconnect occurs when a parent becomes critical and pushes the child too hard to perform. When this scenario arises, the game loses its appeal for the child and the relationship—not just as a coach, but also as a parent—becomes fractured.

There is a fine line between being a parent who can make a difference as a coach and understanding when it is time to back off from the criticism. At that point it is time to turn the keys over to someone you respect to enable your child and the team to succeed.

With 20 years of experience working with five Hall of Fame football coaches, I made the assumption that coaching my son would be positive and productive for both of us. Wanting to share a love of sports and the knowledge gained from coaching on a professional and collegiate level seemed a natural way to bond.

However, after evaluating the downward spiral that our relationship had taken, I made the choice to step away from coaching my 12-year-old son. Our relationship had become tense and unproductive. In fact, coaching my son had negatively impacted my connection as a father.

Since I made this difficult decision, our relationship has improved significantly. He's having more fun now than when his dad was his coach, and it is better for both of us.

Every parent/coach wants their child to enjoy a positive experience. When pressure to succeed results in greater conflict at home, the experience ceases to be positive or rewarding. It can be quite difficult to separate being a coach and being a father.

Participating in sports is an important exercise in building self-esteem. It is about striving to improve, putting forth the best effort possible, improving skills and, ultimately, having fun. We all want our children to feel good about themselves and have positive experiences in their youth that they will remember and learn from throughout their lives. In order for that to happen, sometimes a parent must change from coach to spectator.

Jed Hughes is Vice Chair of Korn/Ferry and the leader of the executive search firm's Global Sports Practice. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter @jedhughesKF.