Coaching and parenting are similar. It’s not that one is more important, well, obviously parenting is more important, but in my own experience as a father and a coach the two roles are virtually synonymous, especially in the areas of boundary setting and character building.
Boundaries are critical to a child’s development whether eating dinner, playing with friends or on the field. Children are far more successful when they understand the boundaries in any given situation. Coaches, like parents, need to provide an environment where children can grow, one that allows them to feel safe, an environment with rules and boundaries.One of the most important ways to create a safe, enriching environment is to be consistent! Whatever rules or boundaries are set, they must be reinforced time and again. If not, the child won’t know what the limits are, and if he doesn’t know the limits he can’t be successful.
Children who are coached and parented with consistent boundaries begin to hold themselves accountable. What happens in that kind of environent is that children begin to police themselves.
The very first thing I do as a coach is set parameters. For example, I will say: Here’s a box. If you go outside the box, the consequence will be that you need to run a lap. As long as you stay in the box, everything will be great. If you step outside the box, you run a lap, whether it’s the first time you step out of the box or the 30th time.
To ensure that children understand the parameters, I always ask them to repeat them back to me. There is something about hearing themselves say it that makes the boundary more real to them. It also ensures that there is an understanding between us–an agreement, a contract, a promise.