Daddy Ball

Preferential treatment bestowed offspring from their parent/coach is a widespread epidemic infecting teams daily. Infiltrating all sports genres and genders, (primarily pre-teen grade levels), this credo is a malignant metaphor for the term we all know and don’t love, called “Daddy Ball.” Many who practice this believe they have endowed the inalienable rite because frankly, they’re taking time to coach when other dads are not. Justifying extra playing time as one of the perks is another counter-argument coming in a close second to their kid being the best on the team. Yes, it's wonderful when your child can be an extension of your coaching. Who better than those who look like and want to be like you flawlessly demonstrating techniques and plays. Unfortunately, mini-me’s frequently exceed the scope of aiding practices. This mismanagement style takes center stage in games when everyone’s focused on the action. Relying on one or two individuals limit the development of other players adding undue pressure, especially down the stretch when team chemistry is needed. Dependence, becomes a crutch, fostering emotions of animosity and resentment. These issues eventually morph into character flaws, that produce long term effects if not extinguished.

Daddy Ball is unequivocally the nadir of nepotism, taking root at the start of a child’s athletic journey. Moms and dads often accept the task of coaching because they were once athletes and realize the opportunity inherently affords special memories. However, some parents' purpose is less admirable, placing their kid in prominent positions they’ve yet to earn. This fosters a sense of entitlement and promotes a false sense of security which frequently backfires. Sure, there are isolated instances when you can rely on one player to dominate but most often opposing teams will shut down that individual through double teams, pitch arounds or flat out deny that player an opportunity to make an impact. Naysayers would argue that if their child is indeed the best, the term Daddy Ball is a false narrative, cop-out and the inference of “special treatment” an inaccurate portrayal. In some limited cases that argument may hold true but organized sports are about building character, teamwork, and fair play. We all want the best for our kids and beam with pride when they perform well. But to ONLY give your child the opportunity to be successful is an unfair practice, negatively impacting youth sports and beyond.

I recently partnered with a coach whose child was without a doubt the best on the team. He, unlike most, used his daughter to make the team better and in the end, we won the championship with contributions from every player. That is how you win! Now my philosophy of equal opportunity isn’t without its own set of shortcomings and criticisms. As a parent/coach you can fall on the opposite side of the spectrum (being extra hard on your kids). Children innately strive to perform to the expectations of their parents especially when they are the coach. This causes a noticeable disconnect when game situations don’t go as planned. Coaching your kid requires a delicate blend of teaching moments, discipline and yes, manipulation to achieve success. I believe this so strongly I’ve curtailed coaching my son and daughter, allowing them to play for others. I pride myself on the ability to individually and collectively instruct players to make each one the best they can be. I truly feel it’s a gift from God and respect the ability to do so. As much as we need coaches I often say its not for everyone—you truly have to be unselfish and committed. Teachers, parents, counselors and many other professionals carry these traits as part of their DNA but it takes patience to balance the art of parent coaching.

Clearly, I’m not a fan of Daddy Ball. Proof my point of view is probably correct; I’ve coached my own kids to 13 championships in multiple sports at every adolescent grade level without using it. Look, I get it, you want the best for your offspring, we all do. But if you take on the responsibility of coaching kids other than your own, you must consider the well being of those players who look to you for guidance and direction. If you brush off that duty then frankly you’re not a good coach. As cute as the term Daddy Ball may sound, it actually represents selfish behavior that promotes entitlement. My position on partisanship was not written to offend, insult or in any way call out individuals who practice this methodology. But hopefully enlightening, to those coaches (you know who you are) who have not seen the error in their ways. Needing just a subtle nudge in the direction towards fairness, enriching the lives of ALL players, not just the ones they go home with. What parent doesn’t fantasize about the prospect of molding a future superstar? Dream on dreamer, but note that even if they beat the less than 1% odds, they’ll still need to be grounded and humble. Daddy Ball should be restricted to children playing with their parents privately, never at the expense of the TEAM.