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The Cornered Coach: How do you Coach your own Kid?

(Flickr photo by Battle Creek CVB)

"My kid won't listen to me."

It's a common refrain from most hockey parents, accompanied by shoulder-shrugging resignation and usually followed by this statement:

"They listen to their coaches, but they won't listen to me."

But what happens when the parent is also the coach?

A lot of people find themselves in that boat and, depending on how they navigate the waters, the ride can be pretty choppy. I'm into my second season coaching my 8-year old lad's team (an assistant with the East York Novice Penguins in Toronto) and it's definitely a challenging journey. In a blog from last year, I told a story that illustrated the unique nature of the "dad as coach"-"son as player" relationship and it bears repeating for this week's piece.

It was the very first time I had ever coached Theo and I passed along a piece of advice after the season's very first shift.

"Bud, you have to be more aggressive out there!"

"I was aggressive!," Theo he proceeded to punch me right in the gut. (See? He WAS being aggressive.) It was an early, and painful, lesson that critiquing your own son from behind the bench wasn't going to be easy.

Through trial and error, however, I like to think I've made some progress. But it's still a challenge so to help you avoid being slapped in the solar plexus by your own child, here are a few tips when it comes to coaching your own kids.

1.) Communicate with your own child in the same manner as all the rest of your players. 

When a random player messes up a passing drill, most coaches display a certain level of patience. "That's okay, Bobby. Just try it again!"

But when your own kid screws it up?

"Come on Theo! Concentrate!"

Kids notice the difference in your tone and it's not fair to have a different communication system according to the name on the back of the jersey.

2.) Instead of raising your voice in anger, speak in calm, rational tones.

Whether it's instructing your child how to play the point on the power play or helping them with their math homework, kids buy in a lot more if they feel they're part of coming up with the solution.

"Just do it because I told you so!" never seems to work. Instead, take a deep breath and teach in a steady, measured style that doesn't result in your child running for the hills in rebellion or completely tuning you out. 

3.) Don't keep harping on the behavior you're trying to change.

 I have a REALLY bad habit of saying things twice. My wife hates when I do it and so does little Theo.

Theo! You've gotta keep your feet moving when you skate." (Short pause) "Okay? It's really important to keep your feet moving out there!"

"I KNOW Dad. I heard you the FIRST time!"

So instead of receiving the tip, he's steamed and focused on the fact that I just HAD to repeat myself; an annoying (and futile) method to try and ensure the message REALLY sinks in.

Welcome to life, and welcome to coaching.

It's a "trial and error" situation that forces you to keep learning.

But as long as you're trying to improve, maybe your kid will pull their punch the next time you yell at them on the bench.   

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