It has been a long winter and spring is finally starting to show itself in some parts of the country. Last week was the first of many baseball and softball tournaments for my family. With three active children, we will be busy going from one tournament to the next over the next 5 months.
I am always surprised as I travel around and watch players, coaches and parents and their behavior. Although most of the behavior is generally pretty good, I am noticing more and more that there is a lack of respect for others and, quite honestly, it scares me.
As a former high school coach and now a coach for “traveling” baseball and softball teams, I have 5 principles which I abide by while coaching these great children.
1) Make sure the players like what they are doing.
- Young athletes play better when they enjoy what they are doing.
- They will take the sport much further as long as they are having fun.
2) Allow them to play other sports while playing for me.
- Society is forcing players to pick a discipline way too early—how does a 9 year old know that baseball, football or basketball is their sport?
- Players need time away from one sport during the year. I saw too many good athletes stop playing in high school because they were burned out.
3) Parents are not allowed to coach, their only role is to cheer on their children
- Paying money to have your child play does not give you are right to coach. You did not sign-up to coach nor are you giving up your free time to coach others.
- The athletes are already under a lot of pressure during a game anyway. They do not need to have additional pressure from their parents.
4) Parents are allowed to discuss their concerns about their athletes but under the following:
- Only after a 24 hour waiting period.
- If it involves more playing time, then the parents of the other athlete or athletes at their position need to be there to listen.
5) Respect your opponent.
- This applies to athletes, coaches and parents.
- Remember that they train as hard as you do and they are trying as hard as you are.
Coaches are mostly volunteers, giving up family and job time to help their athletes. They do it mainly for the love of game and teaching others. They do not need parents challenging their abilities and becoming a distraction. Don’t forget that there are 4 million children born each year and less than 600,000 athletes in college sports. There is less than a 4% chance your child will even make a college team, so sports is really about the life lessons.
Players will be successful if they learn to work hard, to play and learn as a team and to respect each other.
Our young athletes are watching parents and coaches and taking their cues from us. So we need to make sure we are on our best behavior. They put pressure on themselves to perform. External pressure from coaches and parents just adds to the stress of “playing” a game. Please support and encourage your little athletes. Even though they may not be the best athlete, they are learning great lessons about life—how to win, how to lose and how to play the game with character.