The car ride home isn’t the only parent-athlete dynamic that can turn south if not managed appropriately. With more kids playing lacrosse, parents — some with experience in the game, others without — can be pressed into coaching. The US Lacrosse Coaching Education Program teaches adults how to coach lacrosse, but coaching your child’s team can be tricky.

Know your child.

“Some are easily coachable, others aren’t,” said Becky Gregory, mother of three and a youth and high school coach in the Salisbury (Md.) area. “My middle child has her own agenda. Sometimes it’s easier to just coach your kids that are receptive rather than force it.”

Gregory and an assistant have switched roles in the past to coach the other’s daughter.

Don’t overcompensate.

A parent/coach may worry about the perception that his or her child is receiving preferential treatment and be too tough on that kid, sometimes for all to see, during practices and games.

How can you determine if perceptions are accurate? Ask the team. The results may surprise you.

“We did a confidential, private poll of the players on index cards, asking them to evaluate the performance of the coaches,” said David Jacobson, a youth and high school basketball coach in San Francisco and the senior marketing communications and content manager at PCA. “The players said they thought one of the coaches was actually being too hard on his son.”

Set clear expectations.

Outline expectations and roles clearly with your kid in private conversations before the season starts.

“Your own child may try to push things, fool around, things like that,” said Gregory, whose husband, Dan, coaches football in the area. “We explain to them, ‘Once you’re on the field, you’re there to work hard and accomplish goals. There’s no favoritism. At practice, you’re the same as everyone else.’”

A literal or visual cue can help, Jacobson said.

“Some parents will literally put on a coach’s hat,” he said. “When the hat’s on, I’m ‘Coach.’ When it’s off, I’m back to being ‘Dad.’”

When a kid asks for a postgame evaluation, clarify what’s really being sought.

“Ask if they want the mom answer or the coach answer,” said Johns Hopkins women’s coach Janine Tucker, whose son Ryan plays at Virginia. “The mom in me would say, ‘You busted your butt. I’m very proud of you.’ The coach in me might say, ‘Here are some skill sets to work on at the next practice.’”

Have a mental line, but forgive yourself.

You may react differently when your child makes a great or bad play or sustains an injury than you do when another player experiences the same. You can’t control if that reaction reaches the surface. If it does, forgive yourself. You’re human.

US Lacrosse Parents

US Lacrosse believes it’s imperative that parents stay educated on the issues trending in our sport. Read the full seven-point check for parents in Lacrosse Magazine’s March issue, and visit the Parents section for more resources.