Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tips for Coach, Parents, and Player

Multiple avenues of easy and immediate communication between coaches and parents have spurred some unhealthy banter both on and off the baseball and softball fields in recent years.  This conflict leads to frustrating seasons for young players.  Having made substantial financial and time commitments to a traveling team or a city league squad, a parent is invested.  Like all shareholders, parents want their voices heard.  Understandably that voice often booms when that person’s own child is involved.   As anyone can imagine, a dozen booming voices hitting one pair of ears (the coach’s) at the same time can be a mess.  The simplest way to end the headaches seems for the coach to just hit the mute button.  This solution, however, breeds resentment, and in a world of texting, email, and facebook, opinions always find the light of day.  Youth league coaches and parents need to understand that multiple voices hitting different notes can indeed come together and harmonize. 
Youth coaches, often a parent of a player on the team, need to be honest about their priorities for their team and share these with the parents before the first practice.  Is winning the ultimate goal?  Will the coach sacrifice a couple of wins to make sure every player gets equal time on the field?  Does he believe that every player should get game experience in both the infield and outfield?  How often will the team practice and play?
If parents do not know the answer to these questions, a long frustrating season could be ahead of them.  If the coach hasn’t considered his answers, half the families on his team will be upset by season’s end.   Approaching a youth coach with these questions before the season is perfectly appropriate.   
For the parents and players choosing to play for a win-first team, contacting a coach about playing time, batting order and other strategic decisions will be seen as criticism and should be avoided.  Even an innocent inquiry as to what skills your child should practice might be taken as an indirect slight on the coach’s ability to evaluate talent.  “Just get better,” is what coaches want to say.  
         Hitting at the bottom of the order and sitting the bench half the games can be discouraging for a young player, especially if his or her placement in these roles is unjustified.  A parent’s first instinct is to fight for one’s child.  However, the energy required to bicker with a coach, decode his cryptic emails, and convince him said kid deserves to be batting higher in the order would be better spent building a stronger relationship with the child. 
            Sports give parents opportunities to teach life lessons.   After you tell your child that you love watching them play ball regardless of where they play on the field or hit in the line-up, challenge them to succeed where almost everybody else would fail.  “Give your best effort regardless of where you play and give support to the teammates in front of you.” 

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