Walking the Parent-Coach Tightrope
By Greg Crowe
All across America, on Little League fields, basketball courts and in high school weight rooms, there are kids sweating it out, busting their backsides to hit harder, jump higher, get stronger.
And there are coaches, too, motivating them to give all they have, to find their passion and to live their dreams. Often the coach is more than just the coach: He or she is also a parent.
“The interesting thing is that the majority of coaches in the world end up coaching their own children,” said Greg Crowe, co-owner of Boostr Digital Displays in Tuscaloosa. Crowe speaks from experience, having coached both of his boys through junior high and high school basketball at American Christian Academy.
Crowe hung up his whistle when his youngest son, Carson, graduated last year, but he has a lot of wisdom to share with parent-coaches. “Coaching your kids is just like coaching every other player on the team. Each one will be different. It will be a learning experience figuring out what motivates them as individuals … what makes them tick,” Crowe said.
Another issue that often comes up is the perception of favoritism. “Parents sometimes complain that coaches’ kids have an unfair advantage because their parent is the coach,” Crowe said.
“It’s true, they do have an advantage. But it’s not preferential treatment. Their advantage is that they are thinking, breathing, living basketball all the time, from the time they are little. They have more opportunities to practice, to learn from older players, to work hard and to understand the game. That’s the advantage they get,” Crowe said.
Crowe never worried about treating his sons Collin and Carson better than the other plays. His concern was quite the opposite.
“We had several run-ins,” Crowe remembers. “In fact, I threw both of my boys out of practice at some point. Literally sent them home.” The boys may have thought he was too hard on them, too. “They would say something to their mother, who would then say something to me. It’s always a constant rub, because they think you are being too hard on them because they are yours. And you are … because they ARE yours!”
During one of these trying times, Crowe’s wife, Patti, said something that turned the game around. “She said, ‘Hey I love you. And I love them. You do an incredible job coaching them. But there has to be some dad time. You can’t be their coach 24/7,’” Crowe remembers. “That was a great insight.”
That was when Crowe realized he had to work harder at keeping Coach Crowe and Dad separate. “I had to make time to be a dad, to do dad things with them. Going to church, meeting their girlfriends, playing golf. Those are the things that strengthened our relationship and really helped when the coaching part was rough.”
Despite the run-ins and the stresses, Crowe wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. “It was two hours every day that I knew I was going to get to spend with my kids doing something we loved,” he says. “Whether it’s the great wins or the bad losses, I got to watch them as they grew, together with their friends and teammates. It was a very rewarding experience.”
Carson and Collin echo that sentiment. “I would tell kids to cherish every moment they have when their father is coaching them. Not many people get that opportunity in a high school setting, so if you have that opportunity, just realize you will make a bond with your father that not many fathers and sons get to have,” Carson said. Having his dad as his coach “was the best thing to happen to me in the world of sports,” Carson added.
Carson, who graduated last spring, was the leading scorer in school history and is now playing baseball at Jacksonville State University.
Today, Collin, 22, who is about to graduate with a degree in accounting and finance at the University of Alabama, plays a major role at Boostr. Collin sees many similarities in the way they approach the digital company. "We are competitive, love what we do and we want to be the best here at Boostr. We have taken that basketball work ethic, teamwork and desire and poured it into Boostr! And just like when Dad was coaching me, he pushes me every day to learn more and make a difference."
The three share an incredibly strong relationship, built on a love of sports and a deep understanding of what it takes to be successful. “We share war stories. Who was the best player? Whose team was the best? Which one of them I was harder on. We watch old game films and talk about them. We laugh about the experience, and probably will for a long time to come.”
Crowe’s Rules for Parent Coaches
1. Understand it’s going to be hard. But it will be worth it.
2. You will be harder on your own kids, and you will worry about it. But they will appreciate the end result. You will find a lot of players who want the same treatment.
3. Make time to be a parent. Know your kid outside of sports.
4. Sports should enhance your relationship with your kids, not destroy it!
5. Your love for your child should not be dependent upon whether they play well, play poorly, or not at all. They need to know that. You need to tell them. Often.
6. Sports help your kids build a strong foundation for teamwork and work ethic but sports should not define them.
7. There’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy their successes. Don’t let coaching circumstances steal the joy of your child having success.
8. As a parent, it’s your job to help them find their passion and motivate them. As a coach, it’s your job to help them achieve mastery of their passion, whether it’s sports, music, drama, art, or academics.