Coaching Your Own Child
Parents often ask me about coaching their own child at home or practicing skills we work on during our sessions. They also share concerns about their child showing resistance when they try to teach them something as simple as throwing or catching, i.e., “he doesn’t want to hear it from me", or most recently, "we tried but it was a disaster?" This is common and reminds me of an interview with hall-of-famer, Joe Montana, where he confessed both his sons, who play football, didn’t want any coaching from dad! So, don’t take it personal if your child doesn’t instantly accept you as Coach Mom/Dad.
PRACTICE vs COACHING
Practice is the easiest to address, as this is simply practicing a technique they already learned, as opposed to having to teach your child something completely new. For my clients I suggest
working on a specific drill, or task, that I've already taught their child. For other parents I suggest asking your
child's trainer, sport coach or PE teacher if there is something they can work
on at home. I'm sure they'll be happy to offer suggestions and by simply
asking the question, the coach is appreciative of your concern and your child’s
desire to improve. Remember, the goal is to get better—not reinforce improper
technique—so stick to what your child has already learned and practice for
mastery—especially with more complex movements, like a pitching wind-up or a
new golf swing. Repetition creates muscle memory, so it's important to create "good memories".
In this context I’m referring to teaching skills, and/or training, for a specific sport – not coaching the little league team, which is its own
topic. My best advice for teaching a young child (5 – 8), any sport, is to keep
it simple. Fundamentals can be built on, whereas poor mechanics have to be
re-learned—or rather, unlearned—which means you can be doing more harm than
good if your child is doing multiple repetitions of improper form. Always praise more than critique. If your child is unable to do whatever it is you're practicing, then laud the effort instead of the result. Praise will keep it positive and fun.
Assuming you are not already a professional in the sport
you’re instructing, Youtube is a great resource. Even if you are a pro athlete,
teaching a child is different than working with an adult, so be sure that you (or your coach from the youtube video) are teaching technique specifically for a child athlete. Also, browse a few
videos to find the best quality instruction. A good idea would be to watch the instructional videos with
your child, which will start the process and will likely alleviate frustration
when you're on the field—or court.
Speaking of frustration, children relate to parents
differently than their teachers. I suggest treating this as something you’re
doing together, rather than suddenly taking on a coaching role that they are
not accustomed. This seems to be particularly the case with father and sons. My
armchair analysis is, that typically, dads are working during the week and the
child really wants their limited time together to be fun-time. Goes without
saying—so of course I said it—be patient. No reason to critique every throw, catch, and swing. Experiential learning is best on the ‘playing field’—keep the
instruction to a minimum. If either you
or your child are getting frustrated, drop what you're doing and head over to the jungle gym or play a fun game of tag. Otherwise, you may find your child develop resistance the next time you suggest going out to an activity.
Catching is an important fundamental of many sports. It's also a skill I often see taught incorrectly by some parents. I've also observed that a number of children have "ball anxiety", where the child closes his/her eyes and turns away--or winces--whenever a ball is thrown towards them. A quick fix, is to start with something soft and non-intimidating, like a beanbag. Also, getting down on your knee and throwing to your child helps a lot, as the trajectory is less intimidating. The most import suggestion I can offer to help your child catch successfully is for them to catch with their fingers, away from the body. A simple way to do this is, with a "window catch". Have your child hold both hands in front of his/her eyes (away from their face), somewhat how a film director would frame a shot. Their thumbs can be almost touching, depending on the size of the ball--the bigger the ball, the larger the gap between thumbs. Start from a close distance and try and gently throw to their hands (I prefer overhand throws, as that is what they will be dealing with in most sports). Of course watching the ball is important, but again catching with the fingers should be emphasized.
I hope to be able to make some training videos at some point, in the meantime, please email me if you have any questions. Best of luck to you!
P.S. a link to a youtube video of a catching device I invented, also shows proper catching technique by professional athletes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGQ3imUD27s