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UK Coaching Team
Talent and Performance Rapport Building and Communicating

Exploring the Experience of Coaching a Family Member

Coaching your own child can be a complex experience. Tim Hartley caught up with a Premier League manager, two Australian hockey stars and a former England cricketer to find out more about the unique experience of working in sport with a member of your own family

It happens in every sport, indeed in all walks of life. The new person is introduced and you realise the new boss, the one who makes the final decision on your selection, is the parent of an existing staff member. Or, worse, your new teammate is the boss’ son or daughter.

At the back of someone’s mind, perhaps even on the tip of their tongue, is that a decision or ruling ‘isn’t fair’. There are a million ‘what ifs’, a sceptical eyebrow raised over a selection, or non-selection. And if this happens at grass-roots level, imagine what it’s like magnified many thousands of times by the media and large crowds of spectators. Then imagine the pressure those individuals themselves are under.

“It certainly takes a real strength of character to play well in that situation,” says Steve Bruce, former manager of Hull City, about his son Alex, who just happens to have been a key member for the Tigers at this time.

Who deserves a chance?

Bruce senior had a glittering playing career as captain of Manchester United, and early in his managerial career at Birmingham City Steve signed his son from Blackburn Rovers.

According to Bruce senior, there was never any question that Alex “deserved his chance purely on ability”. He’d been at Manchester United’s academy, had impressed through the ranks at Blackburn, and when coach Bruce needed a certain type of player, Alex was given a chance.

Yet things never quite worked out. Some members of the media cited nepotism, and Bruce junior decided instead to forge his career at clubs such as Ipswich and Leeds.

Then, during the summer of 2012, Steve Bruce’s new club, Hull City, needed a player who could play in defence, who was reliable, and was available.

It was never going to be easy for him, there was always going to be a spotlight on it, but I’d like to hope he’s proved himself. The crowd at every club he’s been at seem to have liked and respected him and the fact that he gives everything.”

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