Hey, Mom! Hey, Coach!

Westport has a robust youth sports scene. Kids fill our fields and courts, running, playing, laughing and learning life lessons.

None of it would be possible without parent coaches. Thousands of boys and girls benefit greatly from the volunteer efforts of hundreds of dads and moms.

Well — mostly dads.

Tara McCarthy is both a Westport Soccer Association board member, and a youth coach. She’s been surprised at how few other women coach. She writes:

I moved to Westport from New York City in June 2017. The next year — as soon as my daughter Allie started kindergarten, I began coached her “Rec” soccer teams.

Tara McCarthy, with Allie and Leo.

The Westport Soccer Association is a great organization, with wonderful professional coaches (Kelvin is a favorite!) and parent volunteers. Our town is lucky to have it.

That being said, I was so disappointed that first year because there was only one other “mom coach” in the girls’ kindergarten division.

Since then, I have tried to encourage other moms I’ve met to coach their daughters’ soccer teams. As far as I know, I have only successfully recruited one.

For all ages, the vast majority of coaches Rec coaches continue to be dads. Please don’t misunderstand: It’s amazing that dads coach their daughters (and their sons!).

My husband Kevin coaches our son Leo’s Rec soccer team. My own dad coached me in a bunch of sports when I was growing up.

But every season that I have coached, little girls (usually from the opposing team) tell me that they “didn’t know moms could coach.”

For this reason (and so many more), I believe it is important for girls to see that moms can (and do) coach too.

Tara McCarthy, at “work.”

While this is one reason I coach, the main one is because getting out there every Saturday with my daughter is fun! It is an activity that Allie and I do together–just us.

Allie gets to see a side of me that is different from the mom she’s used to seeing (the one that nags her to eat broccoli).

Similarly, I get to see a side of Allie that I wouldn’t necessarily see had I not been out there on the field. She’s determined, resilient, and even tougher than I thought.

Another bonus is that I have gotten to know Allie’s friends and teammates better than I would have had they just come over for a playdate.

It has been a joy to coach Allie and her little friends these past few years. I get way more out of the experience than the girls.

I encourage my fellow moms to coach their daughters’ teams. It’s easy. At least for the younger divisions, no experience is required. It’s mainly about making sure every child plays roughly the same amount of minutes, encouraging them, and teaching good sportsmanship.

Oh, and tying (a lot) of cleats!

Tara has a great idea. It applies to all sports. But I’d add another thought: More women should coach their sons’ teams, too. Boys need those role models. They need to see their mothers in those new lights. It’s a win-win!

7 responses to “Hey, Mom! Hey, Coach!

  1. Rikki Gordon

    So happy that you are coaching. I coached both my son’s soccer teams in Pacific Palisades for 5 years until their ability outgrew my skills. At the time there was only one other female coach. It was a wonderful experience. I walk through the Palisades Village and 29 and 30 year old men still say “Hi Coach”. Good luck and enjoy.

  2. Danielle Dobin

    Nicci (Nicole) Chalker was one of the best coaches we had, which is saying a lot given the exceptional group of dads (Dan Clark, Dan Gray, Brendan Courtney, Michael Cammeyer to name only a few) who coached my sons over the years. This is such a thought provoking essay – I don’t know why more moms don’t coach but perhaps you will inspire them, Tara! I remain so grateful to all the parents that give so massively of their time to coach, encourage and teach other people’s children.

  3. Rindy Higgins

    So glad you’re coaching and brought this up. About 30 yrs ago (YES!)I coached my son’s T ball and required that the kids rotated positions every inning and every game to they got to play all of them, even pitcher/catcher, matter how good they were. Coaches (I was the ONLY female) on opposing teams got upset at the delay between innings and parents on my team got upset that we lost games due to poor pitching/catching but I was determined to give every kid a chance. My female friend and I also coached girls soccer, taking over a team that was at the bottom. We purposely developed a positive code of coaching, ONLY praising, not telling nor criticizing. We also had dinners after practices and showed Pele movies(the ole reel kinds with projectors we got from the library) to build team togetherness and positive visual imagery. I recall one girl just stood on the field, only chewing on her long hair. We said nothing. One day she took a few steps toward the ball and we praised her; the next time she sortof trotted to the ball, we praised her. And so on until she became involved! Years later I saw she became one of Staples best fullbacks! We went from bottom in the standings to 2nd three years later! Over the years, a few kids came back to tell me what a difference I had made in their lives. YOU, Tara, are making a difference, not just as a role model, but as an influence in each little one’s lives.

  4. The line that really struck me: “But every season that I have coached, little girls (usually from the opposing team) tell me that they ‘didn’t know moms could coach.’”

    That says it all and I am surprised in this day and age to read this. I just thought there would have been more progress. In any case, I commend Tara; and having done some youth coaching years ago—even without having a kid on the team—I can affirm how rewarding it can be.

  5. When my daughter played freshman basketball in the late nineties at Staples, I was very impressed by Karen DeFelice. At the end of the season, I asked her if she had ever considered coaching boys. She said she never had but that it would give her something to think about on her ride home. There is no reason that women should not coach boys and girls. Coaching is about getting the best out of players; that is not something that is gender specific. I encourage all the moms to coach. You are already the most nurturing people in your children’s life; why not? Go for it!

  6. Leela Narang Benaderet

    I think it is IMPERATIVE that moms coach recreational team. I have coached both soccer and basketball (my boys teams)- and in both instances they said the same thing (they didnt know moms coach). This next generation of kids really need to understand that moms and dads (men and women) are equal in all aspects of life. These are the simple standards that will help generations overcome gender misconceptions.

  7. Maria G Slupicki

    Way to go Tara congratulations great job done