Should I Coach My Own Child?

Parents choose to coach their children in sports for a number of reasons:

  1. No one else will do it.
  2. The parent is the most qualified person available to coach.
  3. The parent wants to spend quality time with his or her child while enjoying the sport.

All three are valid reasons for coaching your own child in weightlifting.  However, before you take on the mantle of Coach, consider these bits advice from veteran parent-coach, Troy Pfeiffer, father of Northern Michigan University weightlifter, Bret Pfeiffer.

Bret began lifting at age 8 to build strength for football. Within a week, he decided to pursue competitive weightlifting. Photo credit: Journal Gazette & Times Courier

Be a Coach in the Weight Room.  A coach-athlete relationship is different from a parent-child relationship.  An athlete must respect the coach and trust his guidance.  In the weight room, there is no room for backtalk or whining.  If necessary, make a contract with your child about what is expected in the weight room.  Says Pfieffer,

Bret and I had a contract.  When we were in the weight room, he called me Coach.  I treated him like my athlete and not my son.  When we left the weight room, we hugged and went back to being father and son.

Make Your Child Feel Comfortable in the Weight Room.  Weightlifting takes discipline and focus, but there is also a lot of downtime, waiting for the muscles to recover between sets.  Use this time to get to know your child.  Find out what motivates him and what he finds funny or interesting.  Pfeiffer says,

You’ve got to make your kid feel comfortable in the weight room.  If he’s comfortable, you will get more out of him.

Find Out What Works for Your Child.  Every athlete is different.  What works for one athlete may not work for your child.  Don’t spend too much time focused on what other people are doing.  Find out what works for your child and do that.  Says Pfieffer:

I trained Bret with Bulgarian methods.  We worked at high percentages and didn’t taper for competitions.  Bret performed really well this way.  Recently, Bret tried a taper going into a competition.  It did not go well for him.  Some people thrive on the taper week, and some people are built for constant motion.

Bret was a five time U.S. Youth National Champion, one time Junior National Champion, and represented the U.S. on international teams at the Pan American Sports Festival in Mexico City, the 15 & Under International Championship in Colorado Springs, the Manual Suarez Championship in Cuba, and the Youth Pan American Games in Guatemala.

Be Flexible.  The best part about coaching your own child is the flexibility it offers.  If your child has a party or school dance he wants to attend, just move training to a different time of day or day of the week.  Pfeiffer says,

As long as there is a balance, you can work around other things in your child’s life.  Plus, taking a day off won’t kill them.  It freshens up their mind and body.

Don’t Push Too Hard.  As as parent, you want the best for your child.  Plus, you have more control over your child’s life than the average coach.  You can determine the foods your child eats, when he goes to bed, when he practices, etc.  The combination of control and desire for excellence can be detrimental if taken to extremes.  Pfeiffer advises:

Look at your child’s training from a coach’s perspective.  Don’t push too hard.  You’ll end up pushing your child out of the sport instead of up.

Educate Yourself.  When Pfeiffer began coaching, there were not many resources available to new coaches.  Pfeiffer gained the knowledge he needed by talking to more experienced coaches.  Says Pfeiffer:

Ask questions.  Pick the brains of other athletes and coaches.  Most people in weightlifting will sit and talk with you.

Other more recent opportunities for education include:

Coaching your child can be a fabulous bonding experience.  Set up some rules for working together, take opportunities to educate yourself, don’t push too hard, and enjoy the journey the two of you take together.

Photo credit: Lifting.Life



3 Replies to “Should I Coach My Own Child?”

  1. Hi Susan,

    I enjoy all of your articles,as my journey with my oldest and now youngest son are just beginning.
    We had a unfortunate experience last year at Youth Nationals in Grand Rapids, where we missed weigh ins and he couldn’t compete.
    My question is how can I find out what type of weight scale USAW uses? That way I can weigh my sons’ accurately.

    JD Steinberger

    1. Hi JD,

      The scales USA Weightlifting uses are certified for accuracy. Rather than buy an expensive “certified” scale, I recommend just purchasing a digital bathroom scale that registers kilograms. You can purchase one at a department store for less than $20. Take your scale with you to competitions. As soon as the competition check scale becomes available, compare your scale to the check scale. You will then know how accurate your scale is. If your athlete is borderline, check weight on the competition scale throughout the day. Competition scales register to one-hundredth of a kilogram versus your bathroom scale, which will only register to one-tenth of a kilogram.

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