The challenges of coaching and parenting

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You be “good cop” and I’ll be “bad cop.”

We have all heard this phrase and most of us have all tried it. I lost belief and interest in this concept a long time ago. It is gimmicky and fake. The long term effectiveness of this tactic does not help win championships.

My current team reaffirmed that “good cop bad cop” rarely works and is only truly effective in every few episodes of Law and Order: SVU – and even then the person being interrogated eventually just says they want their lawyer.

Unfortunately, this tactic along with others, like the “opposite game,” no longer works when coaching my 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and 3-year-old. If only it were as easy as to tell my kids, “you better NOT go to bed…or you better NOT eat your vegetables,” to actually get them to sleep and eat!

The goal in my home is not to use gimmicks effectively, but to have a culture that we believe in and strive to stay true to. Culture is the lifeblood of the success for any team. I recently heard a quote that is sometimes attributed to Peter Drucker that states, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

The best teams I have coached over the past 18 years have several things in common. One of those similarities is that we strive for culture and not gimmicks. You may win a game or have a good off day by playing whiffle ball instead of practice, or running a triangle in two when you typically don’t play zone. That is not what I am saying; the season is long and “mixing” it up a bit is a good thing.

I do not mean that you can’t game plan or implement new things. I do mean that you have to stay true to who you are and what you are experiencing at the time things are occurring. You can mix things up, but always in a manner that is authentic and always within your culture.

It’s one thing to self-evaluate and to work to refocus your team or to work on an area of need. It is an entirely different thing when a coach enters a practice predetermined to act a certain way (good cop/bad cop, for instance) before anything even happens.

Do not go into a practice trying to be a bad cop or a good cop. Go into practice being an honest cop. Be yourself, operating within the culture that you have established. Even my 3-year-old knows when I am not being true to myself.

Keep it simple (read “KISS ME”). If your team is “speeding,” pull them over. If your team is not “speeding,” let them proceed. There are definitely situations as a parent and a coach when a reward for doing the correct thing is warranted. Let those moments happen organically and not be forced.

Think about the amount of time you spend with your team. As a coach you like to think that you know your team inside and out. The team most likely feels the same about you.

When a coach predetermines an attitude, or is fake, teams do not respond nearly as well. A fake coach is perceived as a dishonest coach. Teams have evolved. Millennials and Gen X-ers question and analyze everything more. If you are being fake and inconstant it leads to problems.

This goes for coaching staffs as well. The staff has to buy into the culture and has to be genuine with one another too. A good staff needs to know one another well enough that they can read one another. If the culture is established, not only will a staff know how to read the head coach, but they’ll know better how to be themselves, while building the head coaches’ culture naturally.

My 3-year-old literally laughed at me the other night when I went into her room being extra strict about staying in bed. I went into her room being “bad cop” (my wife was good cop), trying to set the tone for how the evening was going to play out. My daughter knew I was basically acting. Needless to say she was out of bed for “one more kiss and hug” in about five minutes, and things devolved from there.

The next night I simply let them know that the Cubs were playing and I was not going to miss the first pitch. This time my threat of “not messing around” with getting out of bed was felt. She stayed in bed and I was able to watch the first pitch. Right or wrong my team knows that dad is not going to miss a Cubs playoff game (they are too rare!) and my actions were more genuine than the night before.

That being said … she eventually did come out of her room for “one more kiss and hug,” but she was wearing her Anthony Rizzo shirt over the top of her Cinderella pajamas with her pink leopard print Cubs hat. I would equate this to how a coach reacts to a bad shooter taking a challenged three-pointer and making it. Sometimes you just have to smile, shake your head, and roll with it.

Coaching and parenting is as difficult as it is rewarding. Evaluating and thinking about becoming more effective is step one. The difficulty is putting it into action. It is important to be yourself while also working to better yourself.

Brian Barone played basketball at Texas A&M University and Marquette University and holds a master’s degree in communications. He now coaches men’s basketball at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

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