What Good Coaches (and Parents) Do

game My older daughter played in a soccer game the other night. She’s playing winter outdoor soccer. Personally, I think the words winter, outdoor, and soccer should never be used in the same sentence, but that’s what we’re doing this year. The conditions are never great. It’s usually cold, windy and sometimes rainy.

The other night, her team did not play well. And my daughter was not playing well. About halfway through the first half, her coach pulled her off the field and had a short chat with her. After brief respite on the bench, she came back in the game. While her team still wasn’t playing well, my daughter got a bit more aggressive and started playing better.

Her team lost 4-0, the worst loss her team has suffered all year. After the game, I asked her what her coach had to say. “He said I was a good player but my head wasn’t in the game. Then he told me to come out of my shell and quit being timid,” she said. “Then he put me back in the game.”

When she said those words, I realized I could learn something about parenting from her coach. When my kids make a mistake, sometimes my first reaction isn’t the greatest. Sometimes, I don’t really care about teaching my kids or giving them another chance. I just want them to stop whatever behavior it is that’s incorrect. I tell them to “Stop it!” or discipline them without teaching them.

The approach my daughter’s coach took to improve her play on the field is the same one we should really be using when we parent. (Because, really, aren’t parents the ultimate coaches?) My daughter’s coach pulled her out of a situation where she was floundering, encouraged her, then pointed out the areas where she needed to be better. He ended the conversation with a pat on the back. Then, and here’s the important part, he put her BACK IN THE GAME.

We’ve had coaches who have pulled my daughter out of the game for a mistake, then let her sit on the bench for the rest of the game without explaining or helping her correct her mistake. And too often, that’s what I do to my kids. I discipline without explaining. I put a stop to the behavior but don’t give them a chance to correct the mistake. I cringe at the thought of putting them in that same situation again.

The most important thing we can do when trying to correct behaviors with our kids is to put them back in the game. We should pull them out for a moment, encourage them, correct the behavior, then give them a chance to try again. Put them in the same situation again and see how they do.

Because that’s what God does with us. He loves us. He encourages us. He corrects us. Then He wants us to grab a drink, take a breath, and get back in the game of life after we’ve made a mistake. He doesn’t want us to sit on the sidelines forever.

That’s the way we need to be with our kids. We don’t need to avoid the difficult situations because our kids might fail. We need to teach our kids how to work through those situations. Yeah, they might fail numerous times. But every time, we need to pull them out for a moment, encourage them, correct the behavior, and put them back in the game. Because that’s the only way they can learn. It’s the only way they will eventually get it right.

So, be a coach today. When your kids make a mistake, pull them aside, offer encouragement, offer correction, then send them back in the game of life. It’s what good coaches do.