By Tim Penman
Young players can face a multitude of issues when they compete on a team in which their parent is coach, everything from higher expectations to unclear definitions of roles.
Luckily for the Evanston High School badminton team, the dynamic between coach Karilyn Joyce and her daughter Keegan hasn’t been a distraction, they say.
The Wildkits are preparing for their season opener Monday against West Aurora, and are coming off one of their best years in school history, qualifying five players, including Joyce, for the 2014 state tournament.
Keegan, a senior co-captain who placed second in singles at last year’s sectionals to advance to Charleston and was named to the 2014 Central Suburban League all-conference team, said she enjoys the relationship she has with her mom both on and off the court.
“Its not awkward,” Keegan said. “I actually really like it. I feel like some kids would have a problem taking advice about a sport from their parent, but I like it. She’s hard on me, but she treats me equally. She’ll tell you you’re doing awful, not to bring you down, but to say you need to fix it.”
Keegan’s teammates said the two Joyces have done a good job of staying unbiased and fair. According to senior Betsy Meenan, it all starts with the actions of their coach.
“If anything does come up like motherly-daughter, it will be quick,” Meenan said. “Like [coach] Joyce will realize it and be like ‘get away, you can’t be my daughter.’ But I think they do a really good job of balancing that.”
Terri Kimura, badminton coach at Glenbrook South, said she realizes how tricky the parent-daughter coaching scenario can be.
“I feel for them because I coached my niece,” Kimura said. “When it’s a family member telling you something, you can take it personally. I had to learn to kind of step back and maybe go through somebody else [in order] to tell her to do things. This is where it gets hard.”
Tanya Prewitt-White, professor of sport psychology at Adler University, said having a parent as a coach can either be extremely beneficial for one’s development or detrimental due to the high expectations many parent coaches put on their kids.
“Some parent [coaches] see their kids as ‘Mini-Me’s,’ and can play favorites,” Prewitt-White said.
In a study she conducted on Division I female athletes who have been coached by their fathers, she found that having a parent as a coach can make the athlete a better student of the game. However, when coaches don’t distinguish between being a coach and being a parent, their kids often get overwhelmed by the added pressure.
For the coaches themselves, it can be a constant struggle trying to achieve the right balance when your kid is on your team.
“Controlling your emotions when you kid is performing is very hard,” Prewitt-White said.
At the last international conference for sports psychology, keynote speaker Keith Henschen put it bluntly, Prewitt-White said. Henschen, who is a professor at the University of Utah, a consultant to the Utah Jazz and a frequent spokesman in the field, had this piece of advice for all coaches:
Don’t coach your kid.
However, for Karilyn Joyce, who played varsity badminton at Evanston during the mid-1980s and has been coaching badminton there for 21 years, coaching her daughter for the past four years, she said, has been nothing but an enjoyable experience.
“Not many people can say they coach their kid or that their kid is receptive to you coaching them,” Joyce said. “She always has been. She understands that I’m coach here, and when I step off, I’m mom, and the kids know it too.”
After graduating from DePaul, Joyce returned to Evanston and started coaching junior varsity badminton in 1992. Joyce also teaches physical education and is coach of the girls’ golf team.
One reason why the mother-daughter tandem is so compatible, both said, is that Keegan has been following her mom around to badminton practices since she was a little girl.
Keegan said she started playing the sport at age eight, partly out of curiosity.
“Having her old racquets around the house, I would kind of pick it up on my own,” Keegan said. “Then we would just hit outside. It was just there, she didn’t pressure me into it.”
As Keegan grew up, her mother said she “let her be” and just talked with her about her game.
Now, Joyce said she tries to treat her daughter just like any other girl on the team.
“You see her hug me and stuff like that, but then you’ve got the other ones that come up and hug me too,” Joyce said. “The kids would even say we don’t show favoritism. She gets what the other kids get, but to these kids I’m kind of a second mom to some of them anyway.”
That is one of the keys of a healthy parent coach-daughter relationship, according to Prewitt-White. Some coaches are hyper-aware of giving too much attention to their son or daughter, and in turn, end up neglecting them by not giving them enough time in practice.
The fact that Joyce doesn’t place too much pressure on Keegan is another reason their relationship works, Prewitt-White said.
“Parents need to let it go,” Prewitt-White said. “They can get caught up on winning too much. They need to teach them that it is just a sport, just a game.”
Keegan will attend Kentucky in the fall, where she plans to major in education and aspires to be a p.e. teacher and badminton coach like her mom.
“It’s going to be hard not having her on the team,” Karilyn said. “I’ve had her in the gym with me for years. Ideally, Keegan would want to come back and coach. That would be awesome to have her coach under me.”