Dear Coach: I'm going to coach my eight-year-old son in youth-league soccer this summer, and he's uncomfortable with his dad being his coach. How can I reassure him?
Dear Pop: Be scrupulously fair. "Your son is confused about the two roles you'll be filling," says Joel Fish, director of Philadelphia's Center for Sport Psychology. "He's asking himself if you'll treat him easier or harder than his teammates, or if you'll make a fool of yourself on the sidelines. The rule of thumb is: Be his coach during practice and his dad afterward." Since consistency is the hallmark of good coaching for eight-year-olds, treating your entire team equally will go a long way toward keeping you credible. Still, keep an eye out for telltale indicators that your son is unhappy: personality changes, begging off practices or games, or coming up with injuries. Says Fish, "At that age he may not complain to you, so keep your antennae up for nonverbal signs."
Dear Coach: I'm a 13-year-old pitcher, and I throw sidearm. I've tried to switch to overhand, but I have much better control sidearm. Is this going to damage my arm?
Dear Swiped: Toss the sidearming. "When you throw sidearm, the arm's velocity puts added stress on the elbow and shoulder," says Dr. Jordan Metzl, sports medicine specialist at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery. "On an overhand pitch, the force is evenly distributed throughout the trunk. Also, pitching injuries to adults tend to affect muscles. At your age you could damage cartilage growth plates in your shoulder or elbow, which could affect your long-term bone growth."