If you’re thinking about becoming a dad coach, this post is for you.
Possibly the most polarizing topic in youth baseball is dad coaches. I wrote a few blog posts about this topic (here, here, and here), and HOOO BOY! Some people REALLY hate dad coaches! But there’s also a community of dad coaches and their families who understand the pain that goes with that role.
Let me start by saying that I spent more than 15 years as a dad coach. I have three sons and I coached each one of them. My boys and I shared some amazing experiences together. It absolutely is a challenge, but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.
First, let’s be clear: WE NEED DAD COACHES (and mom coaches, too). The alternative is all or mostly paid coaches, and that just isn’t realistic. Using only volunteers helps control costs, and there are a TON of costs in travel ball that can get out of hand.
So, maybe you’re considering becoming a dad coach. GREAT! But, there are a few questions and things you should consider before following through.
1. Do You Want to Coach the Entire Team?
This may seem obvious, but some coaches will take this responsibility on only to help their son. So, do you want to coach the entire team or just your son? Answer honestly.
This goes for head coaches and assistant coaches. Your job is to help and teach ALL of the players. Make sure your heart is in the right place and you have a desire to help the entire team.
2. Does Your Son WANT You to Coach?
Don’t forget to ask this! Don’t assume the answer. If you don’t know the answer, it may be a sign that you’re thinking more about yourself than you are about him, and that’s a red flag.
If he doesn’t want this, it’s really a non-starter. You shouldn’t coach him.
3. Will Your Son Be Able to Handle You as Coach?
It may seem like this repeats #2, but it doesn’t. On the surface, your son may want you to coach. But, he has to also understand how this could make things complicated.
Help him understand that this won’t be easy for him. He can’t treat you as “Dad” while you’re in the role of the coach. How will he take criticism from you? It’s understandable that it will be harder for him.
How will he take the likely scrutiny of you being the coach and what that means? Yeah, things can get dicey for the kid pretty quickly.
4. How Will You Treat Your Child?
Will you be able to manage your son as just another player? It’s easier said than done.
From the outside, this is seen as a gravy gig. Coach your kid and guarantee he gets lots of playing time and plays the positions he wants. EASY! It’s, of course, not that easy.
You need to treat your son like any other player, and that can be really hard to do. You can’t give him preferential treatment (Daddy Ball). But, you can’t treat him more harshly than other players either (the opposite of Daddy Ball). Both are problematic.
You need to treat your son fairly. Are you able to do that??
5. How Will You Handle the Scrutiny?
It does not matter what you do. At some point, there will be scrutiny about your role as a dad coach and how that affects your son and others.
It could be that your son is getting playing time and benefits he doesn’t deserve. More likely, it’s specifically related to other players. Frustrated parents will complain that their son doesn’t get the playing time or opportunities that they deserve, and this is directly tied to your son getting those opportunities.
There’s really nothing you can do. That perception, whether deserved or not, will always be there for some parents.
How will you handle that?
6. Do You Have the Knowledge?
Be honest: Is your knowledge of playing and teaching the game appropriate for the level you want to coach?
Dad coaches make the most sense at the lower levels and younger ages. There’s no reason to have a paid coach for t-ball and the youngest ages.
But, you need to be honest with yourself about what you know and don’t know. At a certain point, do you have the knowledge, teaching skills, and willingness to learn to help these kids get better?
It’s a total investment, particularly at older ages and higher levels.
7. Do You Have the Time?
This is a big one. You’re a volunteer, so you probably have a full-time job. Do you have the flexibility to be fully available for practices and games?
This is going to be a big distraction from your work. Can you handle that?
Do not under estimate the investment of time, energy, and emotion this will be. You will be exhausted following tournament weekends. Dealing with parent and team drama is also mentally draining.
If you’re able to separate this from your job and personal life, congrats! It’s a big challenge.
Welcome to the Club!
If you can answer all of these questions appropriately and you’re ready for this, congrats! Welcome to the Dad Coach Club. It’s not a popular club, but it’s an experience that only those in it can completely understand.
I loved my time as a Dad Coach. It allowed me to share some very unique experiences with each of my boys.
But these were also incredible experiences that I shared with boys who weren’t my own. I took them in as if they were my own, forming bonds with them, and investing in them all individually. It’s been amazing watching them grow and improve and compete.
It wasn’t easy either! I probably wasn’t fully prepared for the journey that this became. While it led to some very stressful summers, I’ll never forget or regret those days as a dad coach.
Are you considering becoming a dad coach? What questions do you have?
Let me know in the comments below!