Dear Coach: I'm going to coach my eight-year-old son in
youth-league soccer this summer, and he's uncomfortable with his
dad being his coach. How can I reassure him?
Dear Pop: Be scrupulously fair. "Your son is confused about the
two roles you'll be filling," says Joel Fish, director of
Philadelphia's Center for Sport Psychology. "He's asking himself
if you'll treat him easier or harder than his teammates, or if
you'll make a fool of yourself on the sidelines. The rule of
thumb is: Be his coach during practice and his dad afterward."
Since consistency is the hallmark of good coaching for
eight-year-olds, treating your entire team equally will go a long
way toward keeping you credible. Still, keep an eye out for
telltale indicators that your son is unhappy: personality
changes, begging off practices or games, or coming up with
injuries. Says Fish, "At that age he may not complain to you, so
keep your antennae up for nonverbal signs."
Dear Coach: I'm a 13-year-old pitcher, and I throw sidearm. I've
tried to switch to overhand, but I have much better control
sidearm. Is this going to damage my arm?
Dear Swiped: Toss the sidearming. "When you throw sidearm, the
arm's velocity puts added stress on the elbow and shoulder," says
Dr. Jordan Metzl, sports medicine specialist at New York City's
Hospital for Special Surgery. "On an overhand pitch, the force is
evenly distributed throughout the trunk. Also, pitching injuries
to adults tend to affect muscles. At your age you could damage
cartilage growth plates in your shoulder or elbow, which could
affect your long-term bone growth."
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