Would you let this man coach your kid?
July 8, 2013 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Is it generally acceptable for a childless man to coach youth sports?

My husband enjoyed coaching youth football when he was stationed on a military base. There, it was understood that many of the coaches didn't have kids because the troops were expected to have some kind of community service and coaching counted towards that. In the civilian world, would parents or organizations look askance at a man who wants to coach but doesn't have kids on the team/in the league? Anything he should know about finding a team?
posted by erloteiel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Absolutely! My sister is childless and teaches her martial art. I taught High School. We're not pervs, we were giving back.

Your husband should take precautions to never be alone with any of the kids, but that's common sense (and it was told to me when I was a high school teacher.)

My sister put it best I think, "Sometimes you just need another adult around to corral the little buggers."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:21 PM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of our sons and a couple of the girls do gymnastics. Few if any of the male coaches at the gym have kids, as far as I know. Many are newlyweds or still in college. It doesn't bother us. We're more concerned that they know what they're doing, and most of them were competitive gymnasts themselves.

You'll see long-term folks in Scouting, too - parents whose kids have long since outgrown the troop, but who still volunteer to run things and stay involved. That doesn't raise any weirdo flags for me, either.
posted by jquinby at 12:24 PM on July 8, 2013

At the high school where I work, plenty of the coaches don't have children. It's just understood that they have expertise and enthusiasm for the sport that they are willing to share. Everyone is grateful that they give their time. I definitely think your husband should pursue coaching!
posted by katie at 12:27 PM on July 8, 2013

I wouldn't think twice about it, and furthermore the only way I would know whether any of my kids' coaches/sports instructors had kids would be if they brought them around to practices. Maybe not applicable to football, but my daughter does cheerleading and you get these little pre-teen/teenage girls in sports bras and booty shorts being literally thrown around by muscle-bound 20-somethings and that's just the way it is.

Organizations that rely on volunteer coaches are usually desperate for volunteers and should be happy to have your help.
posted by drlith at 12:29 PM on July 8, 2013

Yeah, it's totally fine. Most youth sports leagues will have a "no adults alone with children" rule, which he should follow. In youth football around here, they have the hardest time finding coaches and assistant coaches in high-poverty neighborhoods where a lot of the dads aren't around (due to abandonment or incarceration), where he would not only be welcomed as a volunteer but a good male role model for young men who may not have a lot of stable adult men in their lives.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:32 PM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Some do background checks. But he'd know as soon as he inquired about helping if that were the case.
posted by batmonkey at 12:33 PM on July 8, 2013

Just call your local county or city or whoever runs the league. They are usually desperate for coaches. Also, don't take it personally when they run a background check on you. It's SOP these days.
posted by COD at 12:33 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

drlith: Organizations that rely on volunteer coaches are usually desperate for volunteers and should be happy to have your help.

Exactly. The organizations are going to be fine. You may run into the occasional parent who will be uncomfortable about it, but as long as his behavior is 100% above board, he will not only be doing a good thing by volunteering, but he will be helping to break the stereotype that says that childless men who are interested in working with children are automatically suspicious.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:33 PM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Two of my male cousins are both childless and have coached soccer professionally (middle and high school) and recreationally (all ages) for boys and girls.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:34 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's perfectly normal. I volunteer with kids and most of our volunteers are childless people of both genders.
posted by windykites at 12:34 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he has experience playing and coaching the sport in question, I wouldn't think twice about it. There are lots of reasons men might not have children (male or female infertility, never married, moves too much, recently married/not ready, doesn't want to add to population burden on the planet).

I just did a quick google search.

Simply hired has some listings for volunteer coaches.
Pop Warner is a well known organization.
Additionally, local elementary or middle schools will have some connection to what's going on in the world of sports. You might both find value in volunteering at a school in some capacity, since it sounds like you might be new to wherever you are. I just searched "chicago volunteer coach elementary school" and got this page from Chicago Public Schools. See what comes up when you search your location. If he still has any base affiliation, that might also be another avenue to explore.

Things that would concern me about any adult coaching any kid would be
  • one on one time
  • my kid feeling uncomfortable around that adult
  • excessive yelling
  • name calling, punishments
  • activities away from the sport that were not officially sanctioned, no matter how many kids were involved
  • gifts
  • excessive praise
  • treating any person with disrespect
Of course, many of these are questions of degrees, not hard and fast rules (see gifts? If every kid gets a sticker on their birthday, fine. Buying the kid a game for no reason? Not so fine.) They are also things I would be wary of in any person interacting with my kids.
posted by bilabial at 12:35 PM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Statistics on child abuse tell us that parenthood is no kind of inoculation against being a paedophile.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:52 PM on July 8, 2013 [25 favorites]

Also don't be surprised if the background check entails getting fingerprints taken (if his aren't already on record somewhere). I had to do this for a brief substitute teaching spell and found it rather appalling, but that's where we are.
posted by seemoreglass at 12:52 PM on July 8, 2013

I'm a childless lady with a Girl Scout troop. I know people tend to be less cool when it's a dude, and that's too bad, but there are plenty of kids who need coaches and leaders and adults who will give them time and attention, and I guarantee that your husband will be appreciated.

If he wants something easy to say if people ask him about it: "I love coaching, I think kids are wonderful, and I just don't have any of my own."
posted by phunniemee at 12:54 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Totally normal. I had several male gymnastics coaches, and I can only remember one of them having kids of his own. Gymnastics coaches have to be in lots of close physical contact with the kids too... helping with stretching, lifting kids up to reach the bar, spotting during potentially dangerous moves and helping kids over during any inverted moves, inspecting and treating injuries, etc. Probably a lot more touching involved than other sports. Despite that, the coaches' gender and childlessness was never an issue.

I also recall many of my swimming teachers being male and probably young enough to not have kids yet.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:02 PM on July 8, 2013

I coached off and on for at least 15 years before my son got into soccer. then I coached and later managed his teams. It has been one of the bright spots in my life. No one has ever cast any kind of aspersion (OK, occasionally I'd get, "why don't you start my kid." But that doesn't really count.) And yes, background check and finger prints were usually required.
posted by txmon at 1:16 PM on July 8, 2013

I have really liked when my son's coaches haven't been his teammates' dads, because it eliminates "I'm coaching my kid first, then the rest of you" or "I'm going to be extra tough on my kid and make you all uncomfortable."

I volunteer with a local Pop Warner organization and we are always looking for more coaches. FYI, we run background checks through Lexis/Nexis. Kudos to your husband for wanting to give back in this way. Go for it!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:34 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a player, I had many male childless coaches. It wasn't ever weird (except for one dude, but that was certainly the minority and once it came out, he was tossed out). But yeah, definitely observe the 'never alone with a child' thing unless it's an absolute emergency.
posted by sperose at 1:50 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he hasn't done it yet, have your hubby take Boy Scout Youth Protection Training. If he doesn't find a local source for the training, he can do it online. I find the name of the training to be a misnomer; it should really be "Protecting Adult Leaders from False Accusations and Otherwise Getting Into Trouble Training." The biggest takeaways have already been mentioned- have a second adult on hand if at all possible, and under no circumstances be one-on-one with a kid; make sure there are other adults or at least other kids around.
posted by Doohickie at 2:11 PM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

presumably he has experience coaching, and also references. i'm sure that also makes him look less questionable.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:42 PM on July 8, 2013

Just to note, things like background checks are for everybody. I had one to volunteer at my daughter's school.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:55 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Huh, okay, I'm about to break the consensus here: it depends on the childless adult. My senior Girl Scout troop had a leader who didn't have a daughter in the troop for awhile, and the troop eventually asked her to step down and discontinue her involvement. She was kind of a strange woman and made a few of us uncomfortable. We were high school age and she was in her thirties, and tended to treat us like we were her peers, which for many reasons, we were not. She co-led my GS troops for I think four years before enough of the girls spoke up about her to force the issue. That's four years of awkwardness on camping trips and awkwardness at meetings that I wish I could have avoided by saying something earlier.

We had a big troop discussion about whether we felt weird around her, and as a result, we never saw her again. I think someone who'd had a daughter in the troop would have been given a fair bit more leeway, but also, someone who'd had a daughter in the troop would have had a daughter to say, "Mom, you're being weird, stop it." Nobody let her know she was giving people the weirds until she'd already crossed the line for several of the girls in my troop. So make sure your husband keeps his ear to the ground about kids' opinions, because with no child on the team to report back, if he is rubbing kids the wrong way he may not find out until he's being asked not to coach anymore, which would be sad.
posted by town of cats at 6:24 PM on July 8, 2013

He's sufficiently reassured, everyone. Thanks! I marked the answers he said were best, but we appreciate them all, even town of cats' "it might be weird; don't be weird" advice. :-)
posted by erloteiel at 7:12 PM on July 8, 2013

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