My son Casey was a darling, chubby-faced T-baller when I first realized that coaching him wouldn’t always be a hoot. At age five, he’d reached first base while I was positioned behind the base as an assistant T-ball coach. I gave him some helpful, run-of-the-mill baserunning instructions—run at the crack of the bat, or something like that—when he turned and waved me off and shot me a look. It was the look of an embarrassed teenager, a look that said, Go away, Dad! I was taken aback. “I’m just trying to help,” I said, lamely. Maybe I should have spelled things out differently for him right then and there: That’s what a coach does, son. He gives instructions to the players, so don’t act like a punk. Because in the years that followed, I got hooked into regularly managing Casey’s baseball teams, and one of the biggest headaches I often have is managing him.
Call it Daddy’s My Coach Syndrome. For all the hype about dealing with irate parents and knucklehead coaching colleagues, dealing with your own son presents its own unique challenges. Besides ignoring Dad’s advice, a coach’s son may boss his teammates around, exaggerate injuries to draw sympathy, lollygag in practice, and yet still expect preferential treatment in the lineup. Don’t get me wrong: My son, now 11, is a super kid. His report cards sparkle and his parent-teacher conferences are a breeze. But when baseball season starts, he and I tend to bicker like an old married couple.