By Tony DiCicco
Some of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had as a coach were with my own sons and seeing them emerge as competitors, teammates, athletes and fine young men. I know something about parents coaching their own children because I've done it and have made every possible mistake.
Clearly, coaching your son or daughter isn't easy. If you are able to find an appropriate balance between encouragement and pressure, however, it can be a wonderfully rewarding experience.
What you must understand is that no matter what you say and no matter how you say it, it often registers as a personal attack when it comes from dad or mom.
It's important to explain that to your child - that this is not coming from dad or mom; it's coming from the coach. You must also recognize that you're likely to be harder on your own child than you are on the other players and deal with it accordingly.
Don't be afraid to praise your child. If you let your daughter know when things aren't happening the way they should, then make sure you hit the high notes as well. Acknowledge her strengths and accomplishments at every opportunity.
Not long ago I ran the school practice for two of my sons, and I made sure both of them heard a lot of praise. I must have done all right because when I got home later that night my older son came up to me and gave me a pat on the back, which I think signified thanks for helping out.
Frankly, I don't think it's a great idea to discuss sensitive game situations with your child once you're off the field, but if you have a relationship where you can do that, just make sure you don't overdo it.
It's taken me a long time to be able to get to that point, but I've learned to be as nonjudgmental as possible. But no matter what, understand that there are going to be some difficult moments and that, in the end, it is often better to coach less than more.
When it comes to coaching a youngster, the bottom line should always be that the child have fun. If your daughter comes home, goes to the backyard and starts kicking the ball around, you know that the coach has done a great job.
On the other hand, if she comes home and throws the ball into the garage and doesn't take it out again until she goes to practice, then there's a good chance she's not benefiting from a motivational and rewarding coach.
(Excerpted from "Catch Them Being Good: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Coach Girls" by Tony DiCicco, Colleen Hacker & Charles Salzberg courtesy of Penguin Books.)
Tony DiCicco coached the U.S. women's national team to the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal and the 1999 Women's World Cup title. DiCicco, founder and director of SoccerPlus Camps , will be the Boston Breakers head coach when the club begins play in April of 2009 in the new women's professional soccer league.