Compare and contrast: aunt versus coach.
Oh, let’s just compare.
Both aunts and coaches need to do four things.  This comes from a book by Robert Dilts called From Coach to Awakener.  It’s a great book.
First and foremost, both aunt and coach have to make sure that the kids in their care remain safe and healthy. The parents aren’t around, so it’s up to you.  Their kids—for now, at least—are your kids. That means you cannot let them eat broken glass, walk tightropes six stories up or play with blowtorches.  You have to bring them back to the parents in the same functioning state in which you received them.  Except giddier. Remember, they are supposed to have fun with you, not use molten metal for crème rinse.
Second, aunt and coach need to teach kids how to play the game.  Whatever game that is, from Bananagrams to soccer, there are rules that make the game playable (hence fun) and kids need to know the rules.  It’s up to you to teach them.  Go Fish has rules.  Jump rope has rules.  Hopscotch has rules.  Games you make up with your nieces have rules.  Help them learn the rules.
Third, aunt and coach need to teach skills. In soccer, kids need to know how to get into position, how to kick with both feet (kick the soccer ball, I mean), stop the ball without using their hands, and challenge the ball.  In hopscotch, kids need to learn the skills of …wait, I forget what hopscotch is.
Fourth, both aunts and coaches take an interest in the personal development of the kids in their care. Call it sportsmanship, sense of accomplishment, exceeding self-imposed limits, teamwork, fairness or any other wonderful human quality that kids learn through sports and group activities, this is the fourth dimension.
Pablo Picasso said, “I am always doing things I can’t do, that is how I get to do them.”  Kids need to come up against their physical limits sometimes, so that they can exceed them.  That’s a character builder—doing more than you thought was possible, in a safe environment (level one).
Perhaps you can best appreciate this by recalling times when you’ve seen it go wrong.  A coach loses his head, gets wrapped up in the game, and forgets about the personal development of the kids.  If you think that the most important thing in a soccer game of seven-year-olds is winning, you can stop reading right here and move along to someplace else.  Or maybe, you are exactly the one who should keep reading.
Carry on.
These four levels of care and development are hierarchal, so that each higher level contains all the functions of the lower levels.  Even when you are teaching rules, or skills, or stick-to-itiveness, you still need to ensure that your kids refrain from drinking bleach.  At least until you chuck them back over the wall to their parents.
Above all, the activities in these four levels need to be fun.
Wait, fun and rules, you ask?  Sure.  Make up a game to explain the rules.  Switch roles to make the kids the referees.  Use a little creativity.
Above all above all, bring ’em back alive.  Level one.  Ensure their personal well being and physical safety.  If you get a chance, help them learn the rules of the game.  And if you have more opportunity, teach some skills.  And if the chance pops up, instill some personal development, some character-building, such as sportsmanship or teamwork.
But remember, aunt or coach, bring ’em back alive.
More at


About the Author

Leave a Reply