Coaching your own kids requires the right attitude and objectivity.

Joe Augustine has been coaching the varsity hockey team at the University of Rhode Island for 28 years, but says the one season his son played on the roster was probably the most challenging.

Augustine, of Scituate, says some sports parents today have set a precedent that is difficult to overcome when you coach your own child in a sport. They are the coaches – and his son played for several of these as a multi-sport athlete in high school – who put their own children in a game even when it’s not in the team’s best interest.

“Then there’s me,” Augustine laughs. “I was too hard on him because I didn’t want to subject him to the peer pressure of being the coach’s son. I didn’t play him. I think he played four games out of 40.

I was the other extreme and was tougher on him because I saw so much favoritism in sports while he was growing up.”

His son, who is now 23 and a Providence firefighter, played hockey because “he thought I really wanted him to play.” But, Augustine says that meant his “heart and soul” weren’t in the game.

Before coaching your child in a sport, Augustine – who played hockey for Boston College and the New York Rangers organization before becoming a coach, and who has had several sports-related operations with Razib Khaund, MD, of Affinity Orthopedics and Sports Medicine – has some advice.

  • Analyze your motives for coaching. “Some guys don’t want anyone else coaching their kids because they want them to learn ‘the right way,’” Augustine says, adding that the practice might turn out athletes who cannot be coached by anyone else in the future. Dads interested in coaching should honestly consider their own unfulfilled dreams, and whether they’re projecting those dreams onto their child.
  • Remember that play should be fun. Most youths will not get to the Olympics or major league play, and a parent coach who tries to push their child “over the top” may be doing more harm than good, physically and emotionally.
  • Develop thick skin. The parents of other children might make you as the coach feel like you’re “under a microscope” as they track play time for every member of the team, including your own child.
  • Know your limits. Coaching your child in a sport might test the bonds of your parent-child relationship. Augustine’s wife teaches figure skating but hired someone else to teach their daughter, as her own mother had done when she was taking lessons years ago. “It’s not worth the stress.”

The best advice Augustine has for parent coaches is simple: “Pretend like all the kids on the team are your kids. You wouldn’t want someone to mistreat your child, so never mistreat another child.”