Keeping it in the family: Exploring the dynamic of parents coaching their kids

The dynamic between an athlete and his/her coach is a special, but complicated relationship. This bond becomes even more complicated when the coach is the athlete’s parent.

A big argument in high school sports today is whether parents should be allowed to coach their kids. People claim that a coach could give their kids unfair advantages in terms of playing time, and it could be a conflict of interest.

This issue doesn’t have one answer that applies to every situation. It is very much an issue that needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis to determine if it is a fair situation.

My dad coached me in every sport I played until I got to middle school. In my experience, my dad was much harder on me than the other kids, and did not show favorites in terms of playing time.

I did see other kids' dads when I was younger give their kids special treatment. For example, if their kid had to miss practice, there was no punishment or questioning like there would be for other kids.

Although the dynamic of elementary school coaching is much different than high school, some of the same themes appear. Experiences may vary with parents who are much harder on their kids as coaches, and others in which coaches’ family members get special treatment.

There are a couple situations like this at Orange. One is Zane Lattig, senior football and baseball player, and Matt Lattig, football and baseball coach. One thing that seems to help them keep it professional is that Coach Lattig does not coach the positions that Zane plays.

I played football with Zane and Coach Lattig and their dynamic should be the model for parent coaches. It seems that Coach Lattig knows his bounds as a coach, as well as when he needs to be a dad. Zane is also aware that he will receive no special treatment from his dad and he must earn every minute of playing time.

There are even examples of this in the professional sports world. In the NBA, coach Doc Rivers briefly coached his son Austin. Their relationship on the Clippers was kept professional. As Austin puts it, their relationship is “strictly basketball”, according to Fox Sports.

Other coaches I have talked to say they would not feel comfortable coaching their kid. One coach even decided to step down for a couple years while his kids finished sports. It is really hard for a parent to make decisions objectively for their kid. Some sort of bias is always going to be there.

I do not think there is a realistic solution to this issue. The possibility of not allowing parents to coach their kids would be conflictual because a lot of coaches’ kids play sports and go to the schools that their parents coach at. This would force either the parent or player to quit or switch schools, which is less than ideal.

For the most part, parent coaches are OK. That being said, it is impossible to understand the dynamic of every situation or apply some universal rule to fix potential problems. The only solution is to trust coaches and other staff members to hold the coach and player accountable if an issue were to happen.

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