Coaching Your Own Kid

By Jennie Ritter

Coaching Your Own Kid

“I am very aware of your great success as a player and a leader in the softball world. I am a father of an 8th grade pitcher here in Florida, dominant so far in her short career. I wanted to see what advice you can give me as a father and her coach. Do you find it imperative that later towards her upper teens that if she continues on this path that I have her play for other teams or do you think it is okay to for me to continue to coach her and create our own name for ourselves? I love and have a passion for coaching and I have much success. I would like to hear what I should do to keep her on the right path.”

I am a STRONG believer in not coaching your own kid. A STRONG BELIEVER. There are a couple of reasons for this:

First, there is a term going around for “father coached teams” known as “daddy ball”. I’ve seen far too much of this type of team in the softball world. It sounds as if you have had a lot of success and that you are putting together a good team while ensuring that your goals for your daughter don’t affect how you coach; however, regardless of how you coach, you can still run into a few problems.

First, you may not get good quality players try out for your team because of the stigma of a father coaching his daughter. This is going to hurt your daughter because you want to surround her with the best team possible so that she can be successful. Also, even if you are not a “daddy ball” type coach, you are consistently presented with the problem of determining if parents perceive you as one. Then you often have to sit your daughter more than you’d like, or deal with the parents who don’t understand that your daughter should often be in the starting lineup. It presents a problem either way.

Second, no matter what type of success you have, in general, college coaches will not take your opinion on your daughter as an “unbiased” opinion. She may be able to stand out on her own, but it will be very difficult to communicate hat your opinion of her as a coach is a credible one because you as her father care deeply for her success. Sometimes it’s too difficult to separate the two feelings. I can't tell you how many times I hear from coaches that parent coaches will talk too much about their own daughter — we’ve even had a few issues with parents going to speak with college coaches at tournaments! This is a bad idea. Even if you are not the type of dad to do this and are in the small population of dads who are actually tougher when it comes to coaching your own kid—the dads I’m talking about have made it difficult for all of you.

Because of these two situations, I think it is best for your daughter to move on from being coached by you. By learning from another person, think of the growth she may have—athletes must constantly be pushed out of their comfort zone. By placing her on a team where she knows she will make the team every year (because you’re the coach) can hurt her when she moves onto college. Experience taking command and instruction from another experienced coach will be extremely beneficial.

Luckily, these days there are quite a few coaches who are not parents that have played in college with no special interest towards any specific players. Your daughter should play for one of these teams, especially if she has proved dominant and successful.

My dad coached my sister because there was a need for a knowledgeable coach—and though my dad was a terrific coach, he was constantly faced with the decision not to pitch my sister in situations she probably should have pitched in. I know you may feel that you’re her best shot at success, but if she is as successful as she has been with you, allowing her to grow outside of your team can make her even more successful!

Jennie Ritter Jennie Ritter is an American former All-American right-handed softball pitcher from Dexter, Michigan. She is a Women's College Series National Champion withe Michigan Wolverines, whom she played for from 2003-2006.

Jennie played on the USA National Team for 3 years. She also played in Japan.

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