For the past five years, I have had the opportunity and privilege of coaching both of my young boys on the soccer field. I started with each at the recreational level and continued as they moved through to the first few years of competitive. This has been a different experience compared to my previous 20 years coaching other people’s children in communities outside of my own.
The benefits are many. And while the challenges are few, they can be part of the balancing act when you are playing the role of coach and parent at the same time.
In my case, the main obstacles centered around:
- Honoring that I never stopped being Mom in the eyes if my boys, even as I was trying to be coach to/focus on all the other kids on the field. Especially early on, there was no putting momming on hold.
- Trying to not have my boys always be the sacrificial lamb (playing goalie when no one else wanted to or giving them shorter/less shifts when we had too many subs).
- Turning the coach brain off (at least outwardly, to them) when we got to the car after a game or practice. Remembering to simply ask them if they had fun and let them know that it was fun to watch them play.
Some of the great joys include:
- Building lasting relationships with the families.
- Growing a love of the game right in my backyard.
- Contributing to and investing in the development of the kids beyond their soccer skills.
- Getting to continue to see the growth of the players I started working with when they were only 5 and 6 years old as they move into the tween years and beyond.
- Always feeling like “coach,” even when I am no longer in charge of running the training sessions and sub rotations.
So even though I now get to sit on the other sidelines and (try to quietly) drink my tea and “just” cheer, I cherish the moments I get to see the kids I’ve coached off the field (and give them a high five) or when I still get to chat with parents about their child’s accomplishments and soccer progress.
Ultimately, it is incredibly rewarding to be part of two strong soccer families – our immediate core unit and the larger club community to which we belong.
I will always be “Mom” to my boys. I hope they, their teammates and the families know that I will also always feel like “Coach” and will continue to cheer them all on from life’s sideline for as long as they let me.
Jemma Merrick is a life-long soccer fan, long-time soccer player and coach, and current soccer mom. After high school, Jemma played both Division I and Division III collegiate soccer, at the University of Virginia and Macalester College, respectively.