The trials and tribulations that accompany the relationship between coach and child are many. This relationship is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and can be very rewarding.
As the child grows older and becomes more aware of his or her accomplishments and failures, the partnership becomes more binding and occasionally strained. As a parent who had the opportunity to develop a champion and world class athlete, my daughter Leigh, I welcome the opportunity to share this experience with others.
The anxiety that may have been experienced by both the child athlete and coach during the years of competition, is transcended by the wonderful experiences shared by both. During the early learning years no individual could have prophesied the successes that would eventually be experienced. By the same token, the failures were also without prediction. Success is measured not only by winning or losing, but by all the factors that go into the career development of the athlete. A successful coach is one who develops the potential of an athlete and reaps the benefits of the results. The outcome not only includes a high winning percentage but also the development of excellence in personal behavior.
During the formative years of the athlete, the relationship is one of enjoyment of participation with dad and the other athletes. The fascination continues throughout the tenure of participation but becomes one of commitment to the call of potential success. This dedication amplifies an established component in the lives of both father and daughter. While the desire to succeed is contagious, and it is evident that greater things are just over the horizon, the bond between athlete and coach grows stronger.
After workouts and competitions, the coach and athlete go home with the results. This is not a common occurrence with most athletes and coaches as most athletes do not have a parent as a mentor. This “taking home of the sport” is not unhealthy unless the conversation at the homestead centers constantly on the days practice or competition. A break is needed and other interests need to be pursued. If no other subject is on the agenda, life at home becomes a problem for everyone.
Members of the household are delighted with the successes and very disappointed with the failures of their athletic counterpart. Occasionally however, they do not understand why their sister has opportunities relating to her sport activity that they do not share. This concern, while normal, presents difficulties that must be addressed to prevent mayhem of untold proportion. In order to keep peace, the wife and siblings must be included and consulted in the formulation of the overall picture and a well designed plan of action must be established. The family must be part of the activities surrounding the athlete to the extent that they participate in the progress of their champion. This gives meaning to everyone.
As the athlete becomes older, knowledgeable, and more proficient in the execution of skills, a distinct characteristic begins to emerge. This characteristic is one of self achievement. An opinion of this nature, by the athlete, is a direct challenge to the authority of the father. As this occurs, a new direction of coaching becomes an issue.
When this enigma becomes evident, a meeting of the minds of the athlete and coach is necessary to prevent chaos and a disruption of the learning process. Many athletes go through this feel that they would have been successful without the guidance of a coach. Never mind that a talented person taught them what they now possess, they would have learned anyway. Where this learning stimulus might have come from is an unknown quantity. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
We now have a situation where the athlete has become aware of the importance in the scheme of things. This is a significant development which, in the end, will shape the future successes or failures of both individuals. The time has arrived when the coach must share the decision-making process with his offspring. In most cases the athlete and coach will agree, however, there are times when this is not the case and only the performance results will determine the correct method. Success hangs in the balance!
Confidence and maturity of the athlete are two major justifications for this need to make decisions. It is difficult for the athlete at this point in time to distinguish between confidence and overconfidence. This newly discovered decision- making responsibility can be confusing to a newcomer and often leads to genuine obstacles. Overconfidence leads to ruin, while confidence is the path to success. It is the father/coach who must guide his heir in the right direction to see that success is the end result. A good relationship between the two principals is the key to prosperity.
Because of the understanding shared by father and daughter, an outstanding record of achievement was the end result. Leigh went on to win several World Championships and many National titles in the sport of trampoline and double mini-tramp. Her father was also acclaimed to be the best.