The dynamic of coaching your children in high school sports is a constant balancing act with negatives and positives that can either be a blessing or a curse.
From the perception of other parents, to finding the line to walk between being a parent and coach, it can be a relationship that can both benefit and sometimes frustrate an athlete at the high school level.
A coach who has seemed to thrive at the helm with his kids on the roster is the head basketball coach for the North Penn-Liberty Mounties Brian Litzelman, who has not only one of his sons on the roster, but two.
With all the success, it can be a struggle to have two kids on the roster and the issues that can come along with it. “The hardest part is definitely the politics,” Brian said. “Everyone wants to see their kids on the floor.”
The politics can be a big distraction for athletes, and the perception and whispers from other players and parents are something that have been a part of the dynamic of coaching your kids since the beginning of sports. For some, it can be debilitating but it can also be a blessing to the coach and the players to have that relationship done right.
The Mounties dominated the NTL throughout the season, and ended their season with 20 wins and one of the best seasons in program history.
With an appearance in the state playoffs, Colton Litzelman was one of the most important players on the roster. Having his father as the coach, Colton reaped the benefits as a developing player who proved beyond a doubt that he belongs on the floor.
“I think knowing what the expectations are is a big help,” Colton said. “During the season we talk about the games and it doesn’t matter win or lose, we talk about what we could do better and what we could improve on.”
Having that knowledge as an athlete can be invaluable and instilling a work-ethic as a young athlete lays the groundwork for successful relationships as a player-parent pairing. “Even though I only have him for one out of my two sports, it has really helped me to improve a lot,” Colton said.
Derek Litzelman, the younger of the brothers, also played a role on the team, and as the season progressed proved that even as a freshman he can play meaningful minutes for the Mounties down the stretch.
As a young player, the relationship can be a bit more difficult to navigate and takes time to gain the full scope of what’s being expected of them.
“It can be tough,” Derek said. “You have to work even harder and nothing is ever given to you.”
It can be tough, especially for a young player vying for minutes at the varsity level, but Derek has the rare opportunity to see the relationship between his father and older brother to help guide him in the right direction and learn.
“Watching him get coached made it so I can watch and see how to improve or follow what he did,” Derek said.
The relationship can be an important learning tool for a player as well, with extra knowledge on the team, gameplans and ideology of the coach with you whether at practice or in the backyard, a player can make big steps in their game if they utilize what they have in front of them.
“They have to improve themselves above and maybe even beyond most other players,” Brian said. “Colton always steps up to be first in drills, and you see it with Derek, too.”
Though the benefits of having that dynamic can be a positive, it’s not always easy.
“The hardest thing to do is to give them enough compliments about the good things they do. It’s easy to pick out what they can do better but giving them compliments of how they played often gets overlooked,” Brian said.
Brian has had great success coaching for his alma mater, and the impact of getting to coach for the school he graduated at while coaching and watching his children play at the same time has been a sense of pride for a long-time coach like Brian.
“There is a huge sense of pride coaching my alma mater. Every single night I feel like I want to be out there playing,” Brian said.
The key to navigating such a tricky relationship is when both sides understand that on both ends the work ethic needs to be present to succeed.
“I think the one thing it instills is a hard work ethic in my boys and my daughter,” Brian said. “If you can instill work-ethic at a young age, it makes all the difference.”