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3 Ways Coaching My Kids’ Teams Made Me a Better Dad

First and foremost, I finally know which friends they're talking about at dinner.

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The following story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.

A few years ago, our local youth rec league needed a couple of softball coaches. I resisted at first but by the third time league organizers asked, I had run out of excuses. If I didn’t volunteer, there would be no league for my daughter to play in. And so I agreed. The apparel contract consisted of 100-percent cotton t-shirts stamped with the logo of a local business for the entire team, and it was a key selling point in my contract negotiations. I did not ask for extra tight softball shorts and a pair of knee-high athletic socks.

In addition to volunteering as my civic duty, coaching provided an opportunity to spend more time with my daughter, which I thoroughly appreciated. So much so, in fact, that I’ve now coached my kids in almost every team sport they’ve played for the last six years. That’s how much I enjoy it. What I didn’t realize at the time, though, was that coaching would also make me a better parent off the field. And here are the three reasons why:

I Got To Know My Kids’ Friends

My kids spend more of their waking hours during a normal school week with their friends than they do with me. Getting to know those friends gives me a bit of context each night as they regale me with the latest playground happenings. Establishing a relationship and gaining some social capital with these kids and their parents makes school events more fun and helps me better navigate play dates.

Watching Sports on TV is More Interactive

Opportunities to watch an entire sporting event took a big hit after our second child was born. Now, the games I do watch second as quality time with my kids. Not only do we tie in skills and lessons that we’re working to improve on the field, but they can ask questions about rules, teams and uniform colors. And I can point out what people who play their similar position are doing off the ball, explain spacing and movement better, and highlight players who are being good teammates. It’s far more helpful than break down game tape of a 3rd-grade basketball game that ended 10-6.

I’m More Gracious and Grateful When I’m In the Stands

“Why don’t they just” is a common phrase amongst even the most chill spectators and sports parents. But “just” implies a limited number of objectives that work in concert with each other. “Just” teaching kids fundamentals while building their confidence, balancing playing time, making sure everyone has fun, and keeping the team from getting blown out is more calculus than it is arithmetic. Taking my turn in the hot seat has made me more gracious when I’m in the stands instead of on the sideline.

Having coached a number of team sports, I’ve also grown in gratitude for parents who will step in and coach the sports I don’t enjoy. May the sports gods pour rich blessings on the baseball and softball coaches who sweat their way through summer practices, keep distractible outfielders engaged, ensure every kid bats in their assigned order, and completes the catcher gear change with expediency. I’ll stick to making sure kids shoot the ball at the right basket and that the goalkeeper isn’t picking weeds during the run of play.

Christian Dashiell is a father of four living in rural Kansas. He is passionate about justice issues, and decompresses by telling jokes and honing his BBQ Jedi skills.