30 second time outs

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The New Apprenticeships - Playing for Coach-Dads & Coach-Moms (with Top 25 Tips to make it the time of your lives)

My name is Ray... and I Tweet. Yes, I get on Twitter, follow some absolutely great people, have learned a ton and share thoughts with some great "followers". I have built some great relationships with like-minded people who I’ve never met face to face –yet consider friends. It’s opened some doors, and actually led to my being a contributor here. So don't be afraid. Like they used to tell Mikey on the Life Cereal commercials, "Try it… you'll like it!"
My philosophy with Twitter is “Here is what I'm thinking. What do you think?” You can follow me here and try it out.

Those who have read my previous entries (or those who have followed me on Twitter) know that I coached middle-school for 6 years, in high school for 13 years, at the college level for 9 years, but the most difficult coaching I’ve experienced was the 15 years that I coached my children in a variety of youth-sports. As you could imagine, I learned a bunch of “dos and don’ts” during that time.

On the morning of Father's Day nearly a year ago I thought that I would share some thoughts on Twitter for all of the Dads that coach their kids' youth teams. I wrote a bunch in the morning and scheduled them to post automatically throughout the day. This way I could do what I really wanted to do that day… spend time with my four children.

Now that I spend a little less time coaching, I’m fortunate enough to travel the country for Positive Coaching Alliance and have talked to youth sports organizations (YSOs) from Southern California to Toronto to Tampa, and several stops in between. I get to “coach coaches” on ways to have more fun, maximize player performance, build Positive character attributes, and improve the entire Sports Experience for everyone involved.

When I present our Double-Goal Coach®: Winning and Life Lessons Workshop to these YSO’s it’s never lost on me the number of coaches that coach their own child appears well over 95% in every room. I always make sure to spend significant time on this topic, and it never fails to create great discussion and insight from other “Coach-Dads”.
The “Coach-Dad” dynamic (and Coach-Moms too) is a unique relationship that requires some close attention.

Decades ago, when there were far more family-owned businesses, sons and daughters would spend time observing their parents at work. They would see Mom’s and Dad’s set the example of what it took to be successful, and sometimes, how to handle failure or disappointment.Eventually, and sometimes at a very young age, they would begin helping in the family store, doing errands at the shop, or working on the farm. It was during this time as “an apprentice” that they began to learn life-lessons like responsibility, reliability, initiative, hard-work, and commitment.

Those Mom-and-Pop Shops are fewer and farther between in today’s world, and the opportunity for children to learn from their parents has to come from a different venue. I think our courts and fields of play have, in many ways, replaced the businesses as a place where sons and daughters can watch Mothers and Fathers working, leading, succeeding and sometimes failing…while learning how to bounce back from those daily setbacks.
When Mother’s and Father’s coach their child’s teams they are essentially the CEO of that little organization, just like in their businesses. They need to organize the group of parents, teach the players, and make sure everyone enjoys the season. This doesn’t happen without planning, hard work, diligence, and a tremendous amount of teamwork.

When a child get’s to share in the experience of youth sports with their Coach-Mom/Coach-Dad, it can be a great learning experience. In many ways it mirrors the apprenticeships that children use to serve in the Mom-and-Pop Shops of yesteryear. This opportunity is one that can be tremendously rewarding and create an even deeper bond between the parent and child. I’d suggest the opportunity should be taken advantage of whenever the situation is right.

In many youth sports isn’t always necessary for the parent to have vast knowledge of the fundamentals of the sport or have been a tremendous player in their day. Leagues do a great job of providing coach education and there is so much information available on the internet that anyone can learn on the run.

If a parent doesn’t feel comfortable and a head-coaching gig is not what you’re looking for - offer to help as one of the assistants. I’ve always felt the more the merrier when it comes to help, and it lowers the coach/player ratio. This provides more repetitions and learning opportunities for the players. A good head coach will usually provide enough guidance for even the most novice assistant coaches get through the next drill or practice

With youth baseball and softball seasons getting ready to go, and volunteerism in full bloom, I thought that I would share some guidelines for all of the Moms and Dads that coach their children’s' youth teams this spring. I hope I lived up to most of them ... most of the time.

Up next will be the Twenty-Five “Coach-Dad” Tips I shared on Twitter nearly a year ago. At that time one of my other "tweeps" suggested I compile them to share as set with others, and this is as good a time as any.

Tips for Coach-Dads (and Coach-Moms)

Here are the first ten Coach-Dad tips that I posted on Twitter some time ago. At the beginning of this spring season of youth sports, I think it’s a good time to get some ideas on how to manage this relationship. These tips could be guidelines for Coach-Dads (and Coach-Moms) that are venturing into this realm for the first time… OR for those who might notice, “Hey – that’s me!”

(Grammar disclaimer: Keep in mind Twitter is limited to 140 characters, which may lead to some interesting grammar, abbreviations, and/or contractions that I’ve basically chosen to leave – just for effect)

Coach/Dad Tip-1: Have a conversation BEFORE the season and ASK if the child wants you to coach them. For best success it should be on their terms.

After coaching my three older children for a long time, it was time for my youngest son to enter youth sports. Each season, for a couple years, I’d ask prior to registration, if he wanted Dad to help coach his team. Each season I’d get an answer something like, “Well…there are some other good coaches” or “You could help me at home then I could have two coaches”. He was too polite to say no – but clearly he wasn’t excited about it.

Coach/Dad Tip-2: Explain to child when earning playing time/positions he/she must clearly *be better* at position. Ties go to the other player!

This was always my personal philosophy. Children are always a little better in their parent’s eyes, even in Coach-Dad’s or Coach-Mom’s. When it came to my children I wanted to make sure the difference was very clear when I decided on positions and playing time. Of course some coaches are different, and feel the time they put in gives them certain rights. Former Marquette University Basketball Coach Al McGuire once explained that while other players may be “just as good”, his son was starting because… “he IS my son.”

Coach/Dad Tip-3: Build leadership by explaining to your child they must set an example. Eyes are on them & teammates may follow their lead.

Making sure that the Coaches’-Child lives up to all the expectations of the team is of utmost importance. The culture of the team will be quite a bit better if they are the well-behaved and hard workers that you expect others to be. This certainly isn’t a bad thing to strive for in your child anyway and sports provides the perfect venue to teach those lessons while under your supervision as Coach-Dad.

I’ve been pretty fortunate to watch that translate into a life-lesson that I’ve observed my grown children continue to demonstrate on the field, in the classroom, or at work. The end result to date is Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude for my three oldest college graduates and my youngest daughter graduated first in her class at the University of La Verne! (shameless Dad-brag. that doesn’t put any pressure on my youngest son - does it?) I feel very strongly that these are among the habits that can be learned through sports.

Coach/Dad Tip-4: On scale from "gets special treatment" to "on 'em all the time"-be just*a bit*tougher than ave. Avoids nepotism & builds leadership

I was always a little more demanding on my children than other players, and almost all coaches who I speak to say the same thing. However, the perception is different among other parents in the stands. They think the Coaches-Child gets “extra benefits”.

Bob Hurley, the legendary basketball coach form St. Anthony High School in New Jersey coached his sons. This relationship was touched on in a CBS 60 Minute segment very recently that gives some insight in Coach Hurley. In the video his son Bobby says,

"Yes, and I think almost everyone on my team would say that my dad went out of his way to be harder on me just to kind of send the message that there was no favoritism on the team."

My oldest son, and I had the process down pretty good and he knew that there were even times when I would remind or correct him when I wanted to get the point across to the rest of the team. I remember a baseball play when he was 13 when I said something to him that was clearly meant for the player next to him. In between innings he said, Dad, can I talk to you?” We went for a walk and he said, “That time… you were really yelling at Nathan weren’t you?” I replied, “Yes, but Nathan’s real sensitive…and his Dad is CRAZY!”

Coach/Dad Tip-5: But can't be TOO tough on them...they may need to take care of us someday !:?)

After coaching my oldest son, when I coached my oldest daughter I was hit with a revelation. Children… and daughters, are different. There was a situation at practice where it became clear my daughter was taking “coaching” a little more personal than my son had. Whether it was or not, she was “feeling” that way and feelings are real. So we developed a “signal” to let me know when she was “feeling” that way.

Anytime she began to get upset she would either fix her helmet, visor, pony-tail, or pat her head to remind Coach-Dad to “keep his head!” Over several seasons in multiple sports we only used it a couple times, but recently she shared a revelation with me. I encourage any Coach-Dads/Moms that have issues with children who are emotionally affected by their coaching techniques to give something like this a try.

At a holiday get together we were discussing our signal and she shared it’s benefits. She said having a “safety-mechanism” actually allowed her to endure a bit more “coaching” because she didn’t want to use it too often and appear “soft.” This created the mindset that correction leads to growth and enabled her to play for coaches that were much tougher in the future.

Coach/Dad Tip-6: Love them unconditionally. NEVER let them think for a second that your love & support is related to their performance

As a coach there can be games where we are emotionally invested, are rehashing the game in our minds, and even sometimes not in a great mood after a poor performance. It’s important that we separate those feelings from our relationship with the child – especially if they didn’t perform so well either. We don’t want them to think our relationship is dependent on wins, losses, hits, or errors.

Coach/Dad Tip-7: CAN'T give them special treatment! Everyone will already think you're favoring them - whether you are or not.

I don’t think you’re doing the Coaches’-Child any favors by doing them any favors. There definitely will be times in their life when they need to do just a little bit extra to get noticed, and this could be a time to learn that. They know you love them, so resist the urge to go overboard, but don’t shortchange them of recognition they deserve either. This is a sensitive topic for some coaches who have explained that they also “need to go home and answer to his mother!”

Coach/Dad Tip-8: Brings up a good point. Discuss w/other parent the rewards & pitfalls of coaching your son/daughter & come to an agreement

Jack Bennett, the Two-Time National Championship Basketball Coach at Wisconsin-Stevens Point coached his son’s and his wife told him early on she viewed herself as a mother first and the coaches wife second. She said, “99.9% of the time I’m going to side with them.” Her point was they’re young and still forming their philosophy so they needed unconditional love. Jack was unconditional as a parent, but when the jobs blend it’s sometimes hard to do as a coach too.

Coach/Dad Tip-9: We had "The Driveway Rule." When pulling out of the driveway on the way home-avoid discussing the game unless THEY bring it up.

In order to try to “leave the game on he field or court” we used the driveway of wherever we played or practiced as the line of demarcation - then we’d try to leave the game there. This helped avoid the dreaded “post-game analysis” in the car on the drive home and give everyone a cooling off period after the game. I have to admit...sometimes after games we'd sit in the parking lot a little bit longer than others - before we pulled out of the driveway!

Coach/Dad Tip-10: If THEY bring up the game, like a court of law-they opened the door & you can "cross-examine", but that way it's on their terms!

When the child knows the topic will not be broached unless they bring it up, then when you do have a conversation it is according to their “emotional schedule.” This creates a safer environment and I found it actually encourages them to talk even more. My older children almost always wanted to talk about something… and they still do. My youngest – not so much….yet!

Coach/Dad Tip-11: You can't be "Coach/Dad" 24/7. You wear two hats-Coach & Father. Separate the two. Spend time just being DAD!

With coaching as a profession, I’m not sure I did this is well as I’d like to have. While I didn’t stew for too long by bringing the games home with me, it was a big part of our lives. In one of my final years coaching, I tried to make every game of all three children playing eight different sports, a 2-year old at home, and realized our schedule was ruled by “the schedules”.

As I was watching a men’s and women’s collegiate doubleheader, with my son playing for the University of La Verne and my daughter playing for the University of Redlands (and I had to wear a shirt that had both schools colors in it (hard to find maroon and forest green – but I did). Another coach in attendance suggested I count how many games I attended that year. Between their multiple sports, my team, and all the offseason games and tournaments, we figured I attended in excess of 300 games in a calendar year!

Coach/Dad Tip-12: Try to resist the temptation to talk about other players’ performance, or about what positions they should be playing.

Coach/Dad Tip-13: When the child wants to talk "strategy" try to be general rather than specific when it comes to teammates performance.

Coach/Dad Tip-14: Avoid putting your child in the "uncomfortable" position between you & teammates. You don't want them to have to "keep secrets."

My children were pretty cerebral players and would really think the game, so there were plenty of times when we’d talk strategy, The important thing to remember is to refrain from giving specific opinions about other players strengths and weaknesses or very much “inside information” that players should not be privy to.

Coach/Dad Tip-15: Because you have to correct as Parent and Coach - SEARCH for all opportunities to praise to get you to the 5:1 "Magic Ratio"

Coach/Dad Tip-16: Your entire relationship needs to approach the "Magic Ratio"of 5:1-positives:corrections. You have to correct. So correct wisely!

One of the key principles in the Positive Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal Coaching philosophy is to Fill Emotional Tanks of the players. The principle is based on trying to achieve the “Magic Ratio” of five positives for every criticism or correction. There is plenty of research to support this ratio in athletics, as well as academics, business, and even relationships or marriage.

The brain registers 20,000 snap-shots (memories) a day, and essentially drops them into a “Positive Tank” and a “Negative Tank”. When it comes to anything, the positives should outweigh the negatives by 5 to 1 in order to maximize performance and feel good about that activity or relationship. The Magic-Ratio is not necessarily 5:1 every play, every day, and not just what you say. It is rather the total experience the child has when it comes to, in this case , their Coach-Dad or Coach-Mom relationship.

Coach/Dad Tip-17: As a coach, parent, boss, or leader-*Reward Desired Effort*. Relentlessly! You're staying positive by rewarding them when they're trying to do what you want

In the Coach-Dad dynamic, there are naturally built in criticisms and corrections that are simply part of the job description. Most are necessary and you can’t do anyhing about them, except to deliver them in the most receivable manner possible, but you can make up for them. Coach-Dads need to go out of their way to create positive memories any chance, in any way possible – between and outside the lines.

Think of ways to recognize and reward the Coaches’-Child. They are going to “feel” you are very critical because corrections, even when delived in the most constructive way, can register as a negative. When young players fail to deliver in competition, they can feel as if they let their coach and team down. They also can feel as if they let their parents down. Coach-Dads/Moms are BOTH. Imagine the potential internal trauma that “double-whammy” can cause.

Coach/Dad Tip-18: Seize teachable moments & avoid non-teachable moments. If they're not ready to listen - you're wasting your time.

I remember a rough game my son had he looked at three straight strikes without swinging. His first at-bat and his second time up, he looked at the first two strikes, again, and responded to “C’MON BUDDY, SWING THE BAT !”. . . by swinging at a bad pitch way out of the strike zone. After the game, I went thru a drive-thru to bring home dinner while Mom drove him home to start his homework. As I waited in the drive-thru line the following text message exchange occurs (…and I was IN the drive-thru lane – so it was safe!).

Mom: Tyler’s upset-said it was a bad game
Dad: That’s OK. Means he cares
Mom: Told me to leave him alone
Dad: If he’s not ready-he isn’t listening anyway
Mom: I don’t do well w/ “leave me alone”
Dad: Remember...his Emotional Schedule
Mom: What about MY emotional schedule?!?

We left him alone and an hour or so later we looked at a bunch of pictures taken of that days’ game that showed great swings, nice plays in the field and a bunch of Little Leaguers smiling. Soon he forgot the two strikeouts and remembered how much fin he had. We couldn’t do anything to make the memories of the two strikeouts go away – but we could make up for it by providing other positive memories – that sometimes open the door for even more conversation.

Coach/Dad Tip-19: Look for opportunities to show them that their hard work is paying off & what they've been practicing is helping them improve.

As the Coach and the Mom or Dad it’s really important how you frame your feedback, even during successful efforts. While we’ve said truthful and specific praise is good, it needs to be truthful and specific. Never tell them they did a good job if they didn’t, but search for something good and then tell them exactly what it was.

It’s also vital that we create the proper mindset in our children. When they do well Coach-Dads and Moms can fall into the trap of telling them how “good” they are (“you’re crushing the ball – you’re such a good hitter”). This creates a “Fixed” Mindset where they feel they succeeded because they were talented. They may, at some point, face an obstacle and end up feeling “Well, I’m just not that good” and they plateau there.

If we, instead, praise them for their efforts (you’re hitting the ball so well because you’re really focusing on the fundamentals we’ve been practicing”) they develop a “Growth” Mindset, where they equate success with hard work. When they face a challenge in the future, they know if they work a little harder they can overcome the adversity. This theory is presented in Positive Coaching Alliance National Advisory Board Member Carol Dwek’s book “Mindset”. It is a great book for coaches, parents, or teachers – and in this case, those who are all three. You can hear me talk about it here.

Coach/Dad Tip-20: Ask them - don't tell them. Most of the time they know. Telling them is "tank-draining" lecture. Asking them creates "thinking player" (and son/daughter!)

This has worked out well for us, because it’s sort of the style of communication in our family anyway. We’ve always asked questions and created some banter about everything we discuss. When you ask them to express their thoughts, do so in such a way that doesn’t plant a seed as to what you think (So…what did you think about that umpires call?).
Ask open-ended questions, not leading-questions that could be objected in a court of law, so that you get their thoughts – not those they think you want to hear.

This conversation style creates some spirited conversations to this day when we all get together (a Holiday meal is an experience in the Lokar household!). They certainly have developed “a voice”, are thoughtful, and express it well. My youngest daughter went on to be a member of the nationally recognized University of La Verne’s Debate Team and has competed successfully with them around the world. I win far fewer arguments today for sure!

Coach/Dad Tip-21: Your kids listen to you 7 days/week. Sometimes "Ask Permission" such as, "Want some Tips on your swing?" They usually say YES

Coach/Dad Tip-22: When I'd feel like they weren't listening, I'd say "When you’d like to know what's wrong with your pitching, come and ask!" Always did!

If you are constantly telling them what to do it drains their Tank. So flip the script and get permission or entice them to ask. If they ask you for help & you give it to them - it fills their Tank. So you tricked ‘em!

Coach/Dad Tip-23: Try to have more *conversations* as Coach/Dad. That means two people talk. If it's only you- it's just another lecture. They may turn off!

Coach/Dad Tip-24: Sometimes they hear you so much, it may seem like they tune you out. Develop strategies to get them to listen. Trial and Error. Patient & Persistent.

One thing I know for sure is that nothing is going to work 100% of the time. The trick is top have as many different “clubs in your golf bag” as you can. You can’t effectively use a putter off the tee or a driver on the green – and you have to have a bunch of special clubs in between. Generally, if we keep trying in a non-confrontational way, they’ll talk. If they don’t want to, it could be more important to us than it is to them – and that never should be the case when it comes to youth sports. This is their time – not ours.

Dad Tip-25: If you have multiple children, and they agree to it, make sure to coach all of them as much as you can!

My single biggest regret in coaching youth-sports is this one didn’t work out for me quite as planned. I have three older children that were all a couple/few years apart and had it all planned out when I would coach each of them. I was set to coach my youngest daughter for her final few years of youth softball when the league cut that age group after my first year as her coach. The best laid plans…

So I didn’t get to share the Coach-Dad experience with my youngest daughter enough. That’s a time in a child’s life I can never get back, so I have my work cut out for me. I can’t do anything about it – so I need to make up for it.

This is a chance for a Mom or Dad to have a once in a lifetime experience with their child. I strongly encourage anyone who has the inclination, and whose son or daughters are interested, to become a Coach-Dad or Coach Mom. It can be a rewarding experience for all and create a bind that will last a lifetime.

My son’s are clones of each other at the same age. It’s like looking at Dr Evil and Mini-Me. Well, not really, but you get the picture. Because of this I’m reminded daily how very fast the time goes – and it can be the time of their lives. They go from 5 yrs old to 6’5” 250 in the blink of an eye. Take advantage NOW!

Lok's Ledger