My kids are always asking, “dad, can you please coach our team?”
Aside from the schedule challenges, this question always instills panic for me. What if I know nothing about soccer? What if I’m a bad coach? What if I screw them up forever? What if they see what a poor sport I am?
Whatever it is, the question causes a nervous pit in my stomach every time. If you have that nervous pit, and if you are worried about flubbing your kids first soccer experience, have no fear!
There are pros and cons to each coaching style. So, if you are a dad thinking about coaching your kids team or thing, this post is for you.
There are five types of dad coaches. These include:
- Win at All Cost Dad
- As Long as You Have Fun Dad
- We’re Just Here to Learn Dad
- Toughen You Up Dad
- Glory Days Dad
Now that the panic has subsided, pick a style that is right for you and seize the Dad day. If you do it confidently, you can fake it until you make it, and maybe get a free Starbucks card for your efforts.
The good news: none of the other parents will judge you, because none of them want to do it. Any effort will be rewarded with appreciation in today’s world.
Win at All Cost Dad
Last year, my oldest son played little league baseball. It was a huge step up from T-ball. Shit got real—quick:
Several 2-hour practices a week. A major gear list, including bats, balls, gloves, socks, cleats, uniform, some specialized socks, and other random things.
Then, the games lasted hours and called for multiple umpires. Wow.
There were four teams in his division. Three were coached by “As Long as You Have Fun” and “We’re Just Here to Learn” dads.
But one team wasn’t.
That was the Win at All Cost Dad.
They went undefeated, of course. They were tough. Everyone knew their part and position. That dad had read the rule book and knew everything.
In the final game though, his commitment to winning showed its ugly head. He replaced a pitcher with someone who had already pitched.
Well, if you don’t know little league, then you probably don’t realize what an atrocious no-no that is. Ultimately, a 45-minute umpire-and-coach discussion ensued, because the umps missed the transgression.
Geesh. Just end the game already! Some of us have housework to do.
Pros: teaches the kids commitment, discipline, rules, and fundamentals of the game. Great memories of being part of a championship team.
Cons: the kids might win, but three of them probably won’t ever get off the bench, because let’s face it: they can’t catch or hit. Still, in the little league draft, they have to be taken. For the three that never play a game, they learned nothing, had no fun, and will probably end their young baseball careers there.
As Long as You Have Fun Dad
For this dad, the game almost doesn’t matter. They will have great games and exercises that keep all the kids engaged and having fun. This team starts off with high hopes and great team spirit, but after the losses add up, the kids learn to stop caring and just have fun.
Pros: teaches kids that the main point of the game is to have fun. All the kids feel special and build good memories. Every kids wants to play again next year.
Cons: The kids improve a little bit over the season, but miss some key rules, strategies, and skills that they might need to make it to the next level.
We’re Just Here to Learn Dad
This is the style I wish I was. Last year, my son’s team had two awesome coaches who were focused on making sure each kid learned skills, progressed, got playing time, and had something to contribute to the team.
For my boy, he couldn’t seem to hit a single pitch. Then, about halfway thru the season, the coaches had him bunt. Bam! He immediately bunted in an RBI.
Every game thereafter, he stepped up to the plate, got his bat on the ball (usually with a bunt), and felt like he contributed.
The first year in minors was tough. Every kid was older than him and had a year or more skill. Nevertheless, the coaches’ emphasis on teaching ensure that all players played an integral role to the team’s success.
Pros: helps kids develop skill and confidence. They improve over the course of the season, and they are realistic about what they can and can’t do.
Cons: they won’t win every game, but sometimes losing also teaches important lessons.
Toughen You Up Dad
In my brief childhood athletic career, I played flag football for two seasons. Our coach was a Toughen You Up Dad.
There were carrots and sticks, but this coach figured that carrots didn’t toughen people up all that well. It was mostly stick. Anything you got wrong resulted in running laps or push-ups. I got better at laps and push-ups.
If it had snowed in Southern California, I’m sure we would have practiced in it. And there would be hell to pay if we complained.
Pros: kids get a little tougher and have a bit more grit when things aren’t going well
Cons: it’s not a ton of fun. It rarely results in more wins. Kids don’t develop the essential skills as much as some arbitrary ones, like knowing how to appease authority figures.
Glory Days Dad
Maybe you have seen this one. He’s the guy who played in college. His teams won everything as a kid, and now he gets to relive his youth with his own children.
But this time it is going to be different. His kids are going to succeed where he failed, and they’re going to make it pro. (Some recognizable symptoms of this coach include yelling at his kids, making them practice more, giving them undue playing time, and inevitably making them cry.
Pros: his kids are going to be good. We’re talking “draining three points in 2nd grade” good. They’ll outscore everyone else combined, and you will win a lot of games.
Cons: this coach isn’t exactly there for all the players. He’ll put pressure on his kids until they eventually hate whatever the sport is, stop playing it, and do something different. Your kid will go along for the ride, not learn much, and feel inferior to the super star coach’s kids.
So, pick a style and embrace it. After-all there is nothing worse than being aloof and uncaring when you’re in that role. Your kids will know it.
Your kids may not like your coach style choice, but ultimately, in the real world, they will probably have a boss like one of these, and they may as well learn strategies now.
For me, I am somewhere between Win at All Cost and We’re Just Here to Learn. I wish I were more of the latter. I try to balance it based on the game. If we are clearly going to get clobbered, then I’m all for experimentation and learning. However, if we have a chance to win it, then I’m gonna try!
Unfortunately, my kids prefer As Long as You Have Fun Dad the most. My strategy has been to coach things that don’t get my competitive goat—that way I can focus on learning with them, rather than on winning.
Sometimes though my competitive streak just comes out. Oh well. There’s always therapy.