Son should respect father in coach role

ASK CAL

August 06, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

I HAVE BEEN COACHING MY soon-to-be-11-year-old son's basketball teams since he was 7 years old. I love coaching the boys, but at times find it the most challenging having to deal with my own son. He seems to react to me more as a dad than a coach while on the court. If I try to correct his mistakes or get on him about hustling, he tends to make a comment back to me, make excuses, get upset, etc. He never does this with his other coaches in other sports -- he is respectful and never says a word other than "OK, Coach."

I wouldn't have a problem relinquishing the coaching duties to another parent, but having been a former college basketball player and assistant coach, I feel I can offer the most to the boys from a knowledge and experience perspective.

Do you think it would be best for me to give up coaching and allow my son to get some exposure to other coaches and techniques? How would you recommend handling the situation? I've had talks with him about reacting to me the same way as he would one of his other coaches, but I'm not getting too far.

Dave Skaff, Fairfax, Va.

DEAR DAVE / / Your situation is common. Our children tend to listen to the other adult figures in their lives -- teachers, coaches, bosses, etc. -- a lot more attentively than to their parents. I've even run into that when trying to help my son, Ryan, on the baseball field.

Coaching your own child can be one of the most rewarding, yet challenging, experiences for a parent. Before you get too frustrated, take a step back to make sure that you are upholding your end of the bargain. Are you treating him exactly like the other team members? The most important aspect of coaching your own child is to not single him out more than others. This is true with positive and negative feedback.

If you believe that you are treating your son the same way you treat the other players, then it may be time to sit him down again and have another talk. Explain why you want to coach -- that you enjoy spending time with him and helping him grow as a player and that you have a lot to offer the other kids on the team. Tell him how much you love what you are doing, but that you are willing to give it up if he is unhappy, even though the other players may suffer.

If you force your son to participate in a situation that he is not happy with, there is a good chance he will give up the game. I'll bet that he will gain a better understanding of your coaching methods and may show you some ways that you can improve as a coach.

My daughter has played soccer for four years and may be the best player on her under-12 team. She has a very strong leg and was kicking a football with some friends recently when a coach for one of the recreation league football teams suggested she try out. We thought he was kidding at first, but he wasn't. She wants to do it, but my husband and I are undecided. It's not just having her playing football with boys (she's big for her age), but she wants to play both football and soccer and we think that would be too much. What should we do?

Terry Stevens, Kenosha, Wis.

DEAR TERRY / / I believe that as parents one of our important roles is to encourage our children to pursue activities that will keep them active and make them happy. If you have the ability to make sure that she can attend football and soccer practices and she really wants to give it a try, let her give it a shot.

Let your daughter try both sports, but let her know that you are going to keep an eye on the situation. Tell her that after two or three weeks you are going to have a family discussion to see how things are going and determine whether she is capable of participating in both sports without wearing herself out.

My son, who is 13, worked on switch-hitting this summer. He's a natural righty, but has gotten pretty good in practice hitting left-handed. He didn't actually hit left-handed in a game, though. Is there a way to tell when someone is ready to switch-hit in a game situation?

Daniel Grabil, Hopkinsville, Ky.

DEAR DANIEL / / The only way to get better as a hitter and find out where you stand is to give it a shot in a game. However, if your son is having success right-handed, in most cases I would recommend that he continue along that path. If you really feel that he has a chance to be a successful switch-hitter, you will never know for sure until he gives it a try in a game.

Before this happens, it is important to discuss the situation with your son and his coach. Let the coach know that your son would like to try hitting left-handed against right-handed pitchers so that the coach is not caught off guard. The three of you should come to some consensus about how long the trial will last. For example, your son could try hitting left-handed for five games and then the three of you would evaluate his progress.

Your son is not going to become a switch-hitter in just five games. But you may get a pretty good indication about whether he has a shot at becoming a successful switch-hitter and whether he should keep trying. Both player and coach need to understand that there are going to be more failures than successes in the beginning. Player and coach should be prepared mentally for the difficult times and be patient. If you don't feel comfortable that your son and the coach are capable of dealing with this, then the experiment probably should be put on hold until the off-season or the fall, when the games are usually less competitive.

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Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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