6 Reasons Why Wrestling Parents Should not Coach Their Own Child — 23 Comments

  1. Let me first say I agree with you and second let me say that I coach my own son. The reason i coach my son is
    that I live in Harris County Georgia and we are the only game in town. There is
    no other wrestling club even close to us so I coach him. I actually started the
    club when the wrestling club he was attending closed so I figured the only way
    to allow him to wrestle was to coach him myself and start my own club. I focus
    a lot on the principles you wrote about. I am my son’s number one fan and
    although I am not perfect I focus on encouraging him in the sport and using the
    sport to bring us together. I follow a couple of basic rules. First we don’t
    talk about wrestling in my house; I don’t give my son advice about it or
    anything we simply keep wrestling out of our conversations. I used to always
    bring it up because I felt wrestling to so many other aspects of life but I
    chose a couple of years ago to leave it out of all my conversations with my son
    unless we were actually training or at a tournament. The second rule is that I
    don’t critique his matches, he does. I give him a sheet of paper he writes down
    two good things about his matches and two things he wants to improve on after
    his matches, he does this when he reviews his videos if he wants to. Totally
    his choice and not something we do together if he chooses to review it is
    always a couple of days after the tournament never on the same day.

    My third rule is I praise him
    after each match win or lose, I tell him I love him just as much when he loses
    as when he wins and that I am proud of him regardless and that my love for him
    is in no way related to his success on the mat. The fourth rule for me is I do
    not make corrections on my son during practice, I have another coach that works
    with me and he is the one who makes any corrections on my son. I just give him
    praise or say hey or what’s up or high during practice, the only time I correct
    him is if there is a discipline issue that needs to be addressed, which is very
    rare now but he is only ten. Anyway thanks for the article it is definitely
    good advice and I want to use wrestling to strengthen my son and my
    relationship not tear it apart.


    • David… love the rules. I’m in a similar situation in our town and I know I walk a thin line between being my son’s Dad and Coach. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Great article. Every wrestling parent and Coach should read this.
    My Sons high School team has a volunteer Dad Coach. Although
    we appreciate his efforts, it’s done nothing but harm the team.
    Unfortunately he’s one of those Dad’s that crosses the line and is
    unable to be unbiased….
    I will be passing this article along to the head Coach.
    I look forward to reading your future articles

  3. Absolutely True! Amen. I did all these things with my older boy and he quit before high school. I learned some lessons, backed off, and my younger boy is a high school state champion and a Fargo placer. Still need to learn to back off even more. Great article!

    One additional viewpoint…all of your comments address this from the parent point of view and how hard it is to be his coach, too. But from the child’s point-of-view, it is IMPOSSIBLE for the child to separate you as his parent from you as his coach. You are his parent, period. Every criticism will be taken deeply and personally.

    It may work when the wrestlers are young, IF you are exceptionally good at handling the two roles, but it won’t work later on in junior high and high school. Your relationship with your son is on the line. Better to find another coach for him and get into the stands.

  4. My name is Rick Marinelli I have coached my son since he was in fourth grade and I’ve even tried to get other coaches to coach him at meets or tournaments but he tried it a couple times but didn’t like it and asked me to not do that again we moved to a different town and I am a coach with the junior high team and he still wants me in that corner with him I have been hard I’ve coached football for 15 years and wrestling for 12 he is sixth generation his cousin is Alex Marinelli from st. Paris graham in Ohio my son is in 8th grade here at Jackson junior high grove city Ohio and I know I’ve been hard I have a marine corps back ground but we have had a pretty good father son relationship I alway praise him win or lose and we talk about things he needs to work on but I like that rule no talking wrestling at home rule I’m going to try that this year for sure thank you for the input on all your situations.

  5. Great article, thanks. I have and am coaching my 2 boys now in 10th and 9 th grades. I have a wrestling facility at my house. Being a parent/coach is like walking through a mine field. We want them to “get better” but we have to be a student of the parent/coaching game as well. Especially as each of my boys respond to different styles of coaching – my job to figure that out and respond accordingly.
    A few things I have learned
    1) Have to be patient with progress. As long as the ball of progress is moving in the right direction, i have to be ok with that even if at times it seems like its going in slow motion. I see spurts of growth.
    2) We define success as Aggressive Application of our Instruction. Definitely not winning and losing. I dont ever know what my kids records are and dont care.
    3) You cant inject passion into anyone – ask them to set goals – particularly as they are getting older. Before high school i asked them to visualize themselves just graduating. What are they willing to work for to accomplish sports, grades, youth group etc? Maybe being a part of the team is all they want out of the sport – there are much worse things.
    4) teach them to be students of the game- after every competition we have the 2 and 2 discussion. Truth is revealed at competitions. I ASK THEM – what were 2 things revealed to you that you felt good about? 2 things revealed to you that need tweeking/work? Could be anything from obvious technique, or warm up before, how i felt energy wise (nutrition) etc. It is more of a conversation when they are speaking and less of a perceived lecture.
    5) sports are great character classrooms for life to come. I have to keep my eyes on this and not just the short term.

  6. I disagree with the suggestion that “most” parents should not coach their kids. I think “some” shouldn’t. But the reality that many people tend to not want to face when discussing youth wrestling coaching in general is that the youth wrestlers who do well almost always have a parent coach. And if anything their club is more of a supplement then the actual base of their learning in wrestling. I started off “hands off” because I didn’t know enough about wrestling when we started to help them. But I noticed right away a huge deficiency in my kids’s performance that was really hurting their motivation. People tend to suggest the main cause of burn out is parents who push too far, but as Wade Schalles points out in his blogs an even more common source of burnout is excessive failure. He feels you shouldn’t even take your kids to tournaments unless you are sure they will win at least 40% of their matches.

    My kids are now third year wrestlers, I have a friend who was the captain of his team in high school. His kids have been wrestling the same amount of years. The difference is he was able to coach his own kids to refine their skills in ways that never happen in the average youth wrestling room. So his daughter went on to be a state champion in her second year. His son wins Gold Medals consistently in the open division already even though he technically still qualified to wrestle in the novice division. The progress his kids made compared to my own and other kids we know was enormous.

    My son’s first year was very hard on him. If I had not intervened he would of quit wrestling for sure in the first season. We found a better coach and club and that certainly helped but it was the work at home we did when we got some mats for the living room that really brought them to where they are now.

    A lot of people say “It’s not about winning or losing…” and I noticed frequently the people saying that are usually people who have kids who are doing well. It’s easy to say that when you have a trophy room full of trophies and medals anyway. But I also generally have to make an important distinction, as people are quick to assume that if you care about your kid’s wins or losses that you are one of those “bad parents”.

    You should be concerned for the RIGHT reasons. And they are:

    1. If your child loses a lot and is not improving they inevitably will lose interest in any activity.

    2. If your child loses because of a technical failure then you need to be sure they get the help they need in that technical area. And I am sorry to say this, but in many cases you will NOT get that technical help from their coach. I have seen youth wrestlers continue to make the same mistakes over and over again and nobody fixes it if the parent is not involved.

    My son almost stopped wrestling and I had to nurse his confidence back to where it needed to be for him to compete again. If I had stayed out of it and left it to coaches he would of just chosen another activity or no activities at all. That’s the bottom line. And if I had not stepped in to ensure his technical issues were being solved, they never would of been solved. That’s also the bottom line.

    I have to be very careful and monitor his morale all the times in ways that coaches can’t even realistically do so because they don’t see him as often as I do.

    And if you leave your kids coaching only to their coaches they will have a huge disadvantage throughout their time wrestling at the youth level. The exceptions to this are those super talented “prodigy” kids. (And every time I talk about this, some coach somewhere brings up X child they know who didn’t have a parent coach and accomplished this or that.) but those kids make up a tiny percentage of the wrestling population. As Wade points out, wrestling loses over 40% of it’s participants overall. The insane over pushing parents make up a small percentage of the parents overall. So blaming that on them is not addressing the problem in an honest fashion.

    We can pretend that parent coaches don’t yield results if we like, but all we are doing is ignoring the elephant in the room.

  7. Neil:

    I would agree that most elite wrestlers had a parent coach at some point. As you pointed out in your comment, you had some difficult times while coaching your kid.

    some thoughts on losing… sometimes it’s just maturity. I remember numerous years when my son was losing because he hadn’t physically and mentally matured. Once he hit puberty, his technical ability started to improve. You are correct that if your kid is missing technical ability, you should focus on that.

    I’m not saying it’s not possible to coach your kid. I’ve seen some parents who have done a great job coaching their kid. I’ve seen a lot more parents that caused their kids with a lot of potential to drop out of the sport.

    I feel that you should be a parent first and a coach comes second to your kid. I do think most parents have a hard time switching between parent and coach.

    If i remember right, the united states has some where around 300,000 wrestlers. I’m willing to bet that a very small percentage of wrestling parents have the capability to coach their kid.

    I appreciate the feedback.

  8. I absolutely agree about the maturity issue. The thing is that the way to handle it is to help your kid learn that through hard work they will lose less. My son hit a milestone recently when he actually came and asked me to watch the one loss he had for a gold medal last weekend. It used to be getting him to watch losses was like asking him to clean his room. This time he requested it and set a goal to analyze the kid who beat him and overcome that issue later. But this again, is not something that would of happened if I was not available to him as a coaching resource.

    Losing should become a learning chance and that is something that needs to be drilled more then any move. I don’t approve of the “I am ashamed of you because you lost!!!” parents but I also don’t approve of the parents who butter up their child and tell them “It’s ok… it’s not about winning or losing… here have a soda…” and don’t seize the chance to help their kid overcome their obstacles and teach them something.

    What is ironic, is my daughter cannot stand people like that. She even at a young age despised it when adults would try to shower her with insincere compliments. We found a tougher coach and she asked to stay with him because she knew he was sincere.

  9. I’d tell my son that I’m living my dreams through him and I didn’t want to be remembered as a loser. No honestly I coached my son and we had a great relationship. He never lost he either won or he learned. I never got onto him (well maybe not never) when he lost, but usually pointed out what he did wrong when he won. He was lucky enough to have great coaches in high school and we made many great memories. But yes I agree parents shouldn’t coach.

  10. I agree. Been coachin my boys for the last 15 years. Very hard to be dad and ciach. All three of them were completely different. There was a time when I stepped away from my oldest and let him pick any other coach who thought could him better. He got passed some issues and asked me to come back to his corner. It all paid off when he got to high school. State qualifier every year. So I learned from him as much as I hope he did from me. So good luck to all the coaches/parents (moms too).

  11. Having been a coach with both my boys I knew I needed to take the backseat and let the other coach direct them. I was their number one fan and was always in the stands if I could be.

  12. Funny how only Almost all of them would not even consider any of the points you made. Father knows best right? You are right. A kid won’t ever tell a Dad he does not want him as a coach. More parents destroy their kids chance at being a great athlete in their chosen sport because they think they can coach them better. They drive them too hard, push them too far, take the fun out of the sport, and punish them for losing. Parents should be spectators and supporters not coaches. But, they never listen because they know it all. Parents don’t usually make good coaches. But all think they are the exception to that rule. Too bad.

  13. Great comments and an excellent article…I posted some comments on FB but would like to resume them here. First, this is an American-driven experience and in Canada its a bit different? Every parent coach is different…some magnificent…others awful. I go by generalizations gained from over a decade of running a club. Is the parent certified? Does he or she know anything about the sport? Are they reliving their successes or failures through their kids? The best parent coaches are helping the team and not just their son or daughter. They help more at home then at practice…unless it is a small team that needs everyone they can get. The younger the wrestler, the more restrained should the parent be…any parent shouting at a kid because of a lost match should be figuratively skinned. A parent should play a role within an organization and not be afraid to be humble…driving kids to a tournament…washing mats…being useful to everyone. If a parent is only there for their kid and demand the coaches devote themselves to their kid first and foremost, that is a very bad sign. Any parent who tries to publicly take over from the coach…i.e. shouting instructions during the match over the voice of the coach, that is very bad indeed.

  14. I agree with the point of a it being a very fine line. I’ve coached my boys who for the last 5 years. My 15 year old started high school wrestling and I’m currently coaching my 14 year old on his last season in the IKWF. It’s very hard not to push them and be positive when you know they can do better BUT you have to support them Win or lose. The upside to this is that it has created a bond between us that made our relationship stronger. I’m there mat side every match every win every loss. I get up and drive and travel and warm up and patch them up. I encourage I coach I support. And I wouldn’t trade this for the world. You are right not all parents have that mentality to coach but those who do can bring out greatness. I coached my oldest to a State qualifier and am working on a appear for my youngest. Thank you for this article.

  15. I started coaching my son in 7th grade. He just finished his 8th grade year and is more excited about wrestling than ever. I would agree if you’re going to coach your son then setting rules is extremely important. I have found letting him know who’s talking, his coach or dad, has helped prevent frustration. I also know every father son dynamic is different and there no cookie cutter approach. The one thing that I try to keep in the front of my mind and in his, is that it’s more about enjoying the journey and doing it well than the end result. After 2 years I can honestly say that being my sons coach and mentor has given us a unique bond as father and son that I would have missed if I would have taken a hands off approach. Great topic.

  16. I’ve coached my own kid who’s now 9 for this being his 2nd season of competition. We have a great club and great coaches but I don’t have the problems mentioned in the article and many of the posts here. I am very laid back by nature and I NEVER push my kid. I do encourage him but I told him from when he started going to practices about 2+ years ago now that he can skip a practice or even a tournament (though I hope he doesn’t) whenever he wants. I always remind him of this too. We have Mon, Tues and Thurs practices and he doesn’t go on Tues nights because he wants to watch The Flash TV show so we skip Tues nights! I’m not one of those testosterone overloaded dads reliving their failures on the mat. I’ve seen dads cuss their kids out after matches and I think it’s sad and vulgar. I do have a wrestling background and was relatively happy w/ my career. I started very late as a Jr in HS and went on to wrestle 5 years in college. I steadily improved every year and knew I was fighting time so I didn’t have those expectations on me. I was in it for the love of the sport. When we go to the bigger tournaments I let the coaches take over though I am matside. I have enough experience and knowledge to get his career off to a good start. We make it fun. I try to go to every tournament we can and I always ask him on the ride home if he had fun. He always tells me he does. It’s our father and son time and I know I will miss these days when they are gone. I had college teammates who were burnt out while we were there because they started very young and to some degree had parents pushing them. One of my college teammates told me at a reunion he pushed his son too hard and cautioned me not to do the same. I have no trouble w/ this. His kid walked away and wants nothing to do w/ the sport. Unfortunately in these situations the next generation will never wrestle so that is the bad, down side. In general, not just in wrestling, I tell him that he can do whatever he wants but if he decides to engage in an activity he just has to try his best. That’s all.

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