As a testament to that, I never let him get too far away from the program I now coach, and today many of my teenage girls look as fondly upon ďCoach BillyĒ as I have for the past 20 years.
But among the many things I learned from Coach ó and continue to learn to this day ó was just how difficult it is to balance being a coach on a team that your own child is a member.
I find this timely because just about everywhere you look around Northeast Ohio youth sports leagues are popping up. And whether your child is playing a sport that requires shin guards and cleats, an aluminum bat and helmet or whatever, coaching your own child will be both rewarding and disastrous at times.
If you choose to coach and youíre truly honest with yourself, you must admit the most difficult part of coaching your own kids lies in how you treat them vs. their teammates.
Regardless of your intention, Iím convinced that itís impossible to treat your child like the rest of the team. Youíre human. And that kid is the one youíve been raising since the womb. Youíve been there for the goods, bads and otherwise.
You donít have that kind of history with other kids. Plus, as a parent you know how you want your own child disciplined. With other kids? In todayís day and age itís a crapshoot how parents will react when you pull their child from a drill because theyíre misbehaving and disrupting the group.
So you have a choice to make. Youíre either going to be easier on your kid, which happens far too often, or harder. Most of the best coaches I know choose the latter.
When this happens, itís not easy being the kid. Often youíre used as the example. Youíre the standard setter for the group ó not just in play ó but in conduct as well. And consequently youíre the first one called to the carpet when things get out of hand.
During my final year of high school, Coach Billyís son was the best player on the field by a wide margin. He almost single-handedly allowed me to put up one of the best statistical seasons for a goalkeeper in Ohio history, and to this day Iíd rate him among the best one or two players to ever come out of Wayne County.
Yet at times the heaviest criticism we faced was directed at his son. Perhaps it was an indirect message to the rest of the group. If the best player and coachís son can be held accountable, certainly everyone must raise their level as well. And almost every time, that message was well received.
This spring, I, like many fathers and mothers around the area, will be coaching my own children. And while sharing a game I love with my children is something I cherish, Iím equally met with a tinge of worry. There are some long car rides home and post-practice dinner conversations that are likely coming.
This is more important than just getting a ball out and kicking it around. Itís a teaching environment. And like many parents, I expect my child to actually learn something.
Fingers crossed that Iím doing this right.
Published: April 17, 2017