The more things change, the more things stay the same. And in reality, some things never change. I like to check out various chat rooms, mostly softball but I will sometimes check out other sports chats as well. One big question comes to mind almost every time I read threads.
Why are youth sports parents arguing about the same stuff that parents argued about twenty years ago?
I’ve been coaching youth sports since the mid 1970’s. I’ve coached basketball, baseball, and softball primarily. I’ve coached all levels up to and including junior college. When our daughter turned 7 in the 90’s, she started playing softball and did so through junior college. She also played volleyball for a few years in high school. While some years and some teams do better than others, the ONLY team that our daughter was on where there was absolutely no conflict, or at least none that we ever heard of, was a kickball team she played on when she was about five years old.
She had been invited to join by a girl that played on our church co-ed softball team. It was a city rec team. I think there were at least fifteen kids on each team so of course you had kids scattered all over the field. We used to laugh when Jessica would have a ball kicked to her. She would catch the ball then plop down on her butt with a big smile on her face. Never mind that the runners were still running. It was a fun experience for all the children. It was what it should be for kids that age. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it through the whole season as Jess came down with chicken pox.
One might think that baseball and softball t-ball teams would have the same kind of experiences. I hope most do, but sadly I’ve seen huge arguments in chat rooms over T-ball. Seriously? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scout for any college or pro team at a t-ball game, well, unless their kids were on a team. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read about playing time, substitutions, parent/coach conflicts, and parent vs. parent conflicts. Oh, and don’t forget coach vs. coach arguments as well.
I remember the rec league we were in. Some of the board members would constantly complain about not being able to get more parents to participate and do their time on the board. Perhaps one reason was that when a new parent joined the board, if they suggested doing something different, one of the older board members would shut them down saying “We don’t do it that way.” From the first year we were in the league to the second, they went from over four hundred kids in the league down to about two hundred and seventy. One board member tried to explain the loss to kids growing out of the league. Uh huh. Why aren’t more younger kids coming in?
I recognize that there are different ways to do things and that we have difference of opinions. But change for change’s sake is not good. And a little common sense can go a long way. Let me share some views I have and what has worked for me in over 30 years coaching youth sports.
Life is not fair. And youth sports are less fair. Get used to it. Teach your children how to deal with adversity instead of using your energy to argue why your situation isn’t fair. Believe me, there were times my daughter got a raw deal. And yes, I did spend some energy complaining but I am sure I didn’t complain as much as I see people doing because, as I would teach my daughter, each coach has their way of doing things. When Jess went into 10u in the rec league I did not coach so that she could experience having a different coach. I’m not saying to never go to bat (no pun intended…well maybe) for your kid. But be reasonable and use that common sense.
There’s no such thing as equal playing time. Most rec leagues have a rule about playing time, trying to make it equal. The rule is usually worded that a player does not sit on the bench for two consecutive innings. So how can a coach reward the player who shows up for every practice? The rules usually address a player not sitting on the bench for two innings in a row. Most teams have between 10-15 players. You need nine on the field, or sometimes ten. The rule does not say anything about playing players two or more consecutive innings. Since there are going to be three or more players that need to stay on the field, those are the players who work the hardest and who show up for practice the most.
But coach, you shouldn’t punish the kids because their parents can’t get them to practice. Parents, this is on you. It’s not fair to the other kids whose parents do get them to practice. In 8u, I had one parent who would drop her daughter off on Saturday mornings, EVEN FOR A GAME, and go get her nails done. Really? You can’t find any other time to do that? Parents, if you aren’t committed to the team how do you expect your child to learn about commitment to the team?
Coaches, watch your mouth around the kids. Yes even HS coaches. We all have our anger points and let’s face it, there seem to be more people today that think vulgarity and swearing in regular conversations is ok. There is no reason to be cussing at or around your players, especially with younger kids. Younger players are more impressionable and also have their feelings hurt easier too. What kind of example are you setting for your players?
We are all different. I was considered to be “too soft” as a varsity high school coach by some. But I had more players and parents that appreciated my positivity. I did learn to be a little “tougher” as I went along. I even had one shortstop tell me she wanted me to yell at her if she messed up. Sorry, I’m not the yelling coach. Some coaches are. Parents, before you go badmouthing the coach to other parents, have a conversation with the coach. Most coaches are trying to do what they think is right. And no matter what they do, there is usually going to be someone who isn’t happy. I don’t like to see any younger players who want to quit sports because of a bad experience. Coaches and Parents can both be better in coming together for the sake of the children. Sometimes feelings will get hurt. Teach your child how to handle the situation and maybe not be so offended. Not every offense is personal against your child, even though it may at first seem that way.
Finally, I offer the same guidelines as I would when dealing with a business. If you have a problem with someone, go discuss it with them. If you want to praise someone, praise them to all. Think how you want to be treated. If you do find that there are many people who have had the same negative problem with a coach, especially serious issues like abuse, then it is time to address the situation publicly.
I hope this helps. Let’s remember sports is a great learning lesson for all children. Before you worry about your six-year-old getting a scholarship, let’s put our efforts into helping them learn life lessons that will last much longer.
Coach Mike Davis