The coach as a surrogate parent

I’m a motherly coach. I’ve been told that and I was even given some very cute nicknames because of that, the best one being Khaleesi. But I have a template: my master, Angelo Pio Buonafina, who brought me, in this version of myself, into the world. Which brings me to the topic of coaches as SURROGATE PARENTS.

Master is an Italian fencing coach and a successful businessman. He coached out of love for fencing and eventually he came to adopt a few fighters. He has a nice family and a son, who also adopted me as a little sister. I obeyed his orders blindly, he was the only authority I truly respected and I learned from him to love order, hierarchy and true authority. That made me a good athlete, a good scientist and a good citizen.

My father is a good man, but he was so heavily abused as a child that he is shut inside himself. It took half a century for him to show he didn’t hate me. I always thought he did. For all practical purposes, I grew up thinking I had no father. My mother was not a strong figure, she did the best she could, but my childhood was a nightmare.

There are few studies about coaches as surrogate parents. I’m sure you can all recall a case or two you read on the news about successful athletes that came from damaged families and were “adopted” by their coaches. I’m also sure many of you, coaches, out there, will recall young athletes that tried (or succeeded) to adopt you as parents. Some of you were too young and failed to understand that this was going on. Some may not have been up to the task. Some of the kids came from abusive families, addicted parents or even worse.

Bottom line is that if you choose to coach young athletes, and even older ones, you are in a position to be picked as surrogate parent. You need to be aware of that.


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