Survival Tips for a Parent Coach

Volunteering as a head coach, assistant, or program coordinator can sound very daunting. Especially to parents that work full-time or moms and dads with younger children or babies at home. My husband and I have tackled parent coaching for basketball, softball, and t-ball. (We also tried a brief stint of coaching outdoor soccer that will probably never get repeated because neither of us knows anything about footwork drills or offensive formations.)

We are by no means coaching experts, but now that our oldest is nine-years-old, we seem to have a rhythm that works with our hectic schedules and allows us to enjoy (for the most part) the parent coaching experience.

Embrace the Buddy System

2015-05-20 278My husband enjoys sports and loves being able to play ball with our kids and lend his hand at being a head coach. However, he has a full-time job that can be very demanding. Here is where embracing a buddy system for coaching has made all of the difference. A fellow dad and good friend, who likewise has a very busy work schedule, also feels the call to help out when it comes to coaching our kiddos. This other dad and my husband get along really well, so they have joined forces in the majority of our coaching endeavors. It is a great scenario as we have daughters that are the same age and fortunately (so far) like signing up for the same activities.

Ever since our oldest was five-years-old, my husband and this other dad have paired up to co-coach in a variety of sports. This works great, because if one dad gets busy with their day job, the other feels comfortable taking the reins and handling a game or practice solo. The buddy system takes the pressure off of being the “go-to” person for every single moment of the season. I also think it makes the experience more fun for the dads because they get to do some male bonding, while also coaching a bunch of screaming youngsters.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

My husband has a great attitude for coaching. He is patient and does not often get rattled. He likes running drills, working on fundamentals, and being on the bench or sidelines for games. However, duties like: scheduling practices, organizing game times, handing out uniforms, and making sure communications are getting out to all of the players and their parents is not quite in his wheelhouse of comfort.

2014-09-19 064This is where I enter the parent coaching world. I am a pretty organized person, therefore whenever my husband signs up to coach anything we put down my email address and contact information. My husband’s email is often overflowing due to work and he just cannot be trusted to catch every message that comes across his desk from a player or parent. I am more than happy to handle emailing duties and coordinate with others to ensure we have a good season. I am in a sense the “team manager”, which comes in handy when you have to remind a bunch of dads that having practice on Mother’s Day is a no-no and snacks need to be peanut free because our short-stop has a severe food allergy.

The buddy system is essential behind the scenes as well, as the other dad who coaches with my husband is married to a wonderful lady, and she also assists with the organizational aspect of volunteer coaching. She and I split duties a lot when it comes to one of us lining up practices and the other picking up uniforms. Or one of us prints out the batting orders and keeps track of field positions each week, while the other plays “dug-out mom” during the actual game. The last few summers have had both of our husbands coaching our older girls in softball and our younger daughters in t-ball, so having another hands-on mom to help behind the scenes is a relief and lifesaver. It also makes the experience a lot more fun and a lot more manageable.

2014-06-24 035Even Doing Just a Little is Okay

Volunteering one’s time to coach youth sports is a big contribution. I hear a lot of people say they wish they could do more, but it is hard. Working full-time or being at home with your kids is demanding, so it is good to let parents know that even just helping a little goes a long way.

I know lots of great people that cannot commit to being a coach, but always step up when they can to assist during a game or practice. Having an extra set of hands in the dug-out or out on the field while preschoolers attempt to run the bases in reverse is much appreciated. Even the simple act of carpooling teammates to and from a site can lessen the strain on coaches always having to do it.

Just because You Coach One Thing, It Doesn’t Mean You have to Coach Everything

2014-09-19 037As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I do not know much about soccer. We also have no expertise in wrestling, jiu jitsu, curling, archery, or gymnastics (plus a hundred other athletic endeavors), and that is okay. I have made peace with the things we can tackle as coaches or organizers and the type of activities that do not work for us.

Embracing this peace makes life easier. I wrote about saying no in the past and my fundamental fear of being a “go-to” person in every situation. Helping when we can with the sports we understand and enjoy is good enough. Sometimes, I have to work hard to not let parental guilt get the better of my husband or me, but I have seen the burn out factor first-hand with others. There is nothing worse than going all out and coaching everything with your oldest child to only find that the volunteer tank is empty by the time your youngest one is just starting to play sports.

2014-06-24 039Volunteer coaching is time-consuming and can be difficult. However, by embracing what you know, relying on friends and fellow parents, and just taking a back seat when necessary, it can be a one-of-a-kind experience that builds an unbreakable connection with your child and their teammates.

Do you have any tips to make the coaching a fun experience for parents and their kids? Let us know by posting a comment or sending an email to

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