I read your article "Defusing Parents at Games" and it made me check out your website and read on. You have a lot of things written that hit so close to home.
I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and played tons of sports as a kid. I went on to play football and baseball in college and had most of my college paid for because of sports. After graduating and getting a job in Manhattan, I got involved in coaching. I assisted at Brooklyn College in the early 80's and ran softball teams for towns and for my company. I saw the good and bad side of parents and coaches as early as the early 70's.
I have 2 boys, 6 and 8 and I am 48 years old. I live in a small town in New Jersey. I knew someday I would be a coach if my kids got involved in sports. I love kids and think I do a good job as a coach for baseball and football. My town, has great programs for these two sports. I am just following the tradition as I help out and move the programs forward.
As I read your article "Defusing Parents at Games", I had mixed feelings. I totally understand and agree that kids need to get a chance to play equally at these young ages and they need a positive experience.
For baseball, I am on the rec board as Treasurer and I also manage a team for each of my kids, run a U8 travel team and run the kids pitch 9-10 division. Way over committed for someone who commutes and has a full time job. But I wanted to make sure the kids in town enjoy little league. Every kid in the world who played little league can remember something good about it, at least I hope so. To me it is very important for kids to learn team work and still have a chance to learn individual skills. Some of the things we have done to make sure there is equal playing time for rec is I made an EXCEL spreadsheet that allows you to put in a kids name and it will produce a chart that shows where each kid will play each inning until they have played every position.
The batting order stays the same except if the 6th hitter was the last one up in game 1, the 7th hitter leads off the second game. It assures all kids get equal at bats over the course of a season and they all get to try their skills in different spots. They only thing different in the kids pitch division is that if a kid doesn't want to pitch, we don't force them. But we put in a 6 run rule so that no team can score more than 6 runs in an inning and therefore no kid can give up more than 6 runs an inning. this gave kids some confidence to try out pitching , knowing there would be an end if they didn't have a good outing. And even good kids had bad innings.
It works out very well.
For Travel, we are competitive but we only get about 12-16 kids per age group who sign up so we keep them all. And I do my best to get kids in during the regular season, with meaningful time. I would bring 12 of the 16 kids to each game and rotate the kids sitting. We get 12 game schedules but I added 9 games so these kids could get more at bats and
innings in the field. At the end, the tournament is double elimination
and that is where we get to play our best 9 as the regular season dictates.
The kids had plenty of time to show what they could do. And although I send out codes of conduct and rules for parents, coaches and players, during the tournament I had parents come up to me to ask if their kid could get an inning to feel part of it. And believe me, some of these kids would have gotten hurt or their egos bruised by the competition we were facing.
Two of the parents must have had tunnel vision because their kids were 2 for 31 and 0 for 20 in hitting for the season and couldn't catch a ball thrown to them.
I took them on the team because our town says we can't cut if we have small numbers. The kids played a lot more than they would anywhere else.
But the number one problem with a parent, was of a child who was only 8 and played up. He played a lot and pitched, caught and hit for a high average.
His parents had the tunnel vision and would scream and yell at the kid for every pitch he threw or every swing he took. And we won a record 10 games of 21 which is great for our town. They would criticize the other kids in front of the other parents. And like one of your articles, the parents slowly moved away from them during games. And I would get comments about getting the kid more time, and he was already getting the most time. This is opposite of the Defusing Parents. There are these parents out there.
Even in a small town.
And about my boys, they are both good athletes at this point. I never force them to play. We ask them when a registration form comes home if they want to try it out and if so, we sign up and volunteer. I do not favor my kids, they go in the rotations I use for all the kids. They get to practice extra at home with me. My wife also coached them at the Tee Ball level with another friends mother. The boys loved it them.
But no one could say I favor anyone, I do it for the kids and the enjoyment I get from the positive experience I try to bring to baseball.
And then I get the same kids for football. I am the head coach for the 3rd grade tackle program. The same kids father form baseball, came up to me screaming at me on my bench during a game this past fall. I know the parents and our kids are friends. I was taken by surprise but I screamed back to get off my field and I backed off as other parents got him out of there.
I had taken the kid out after he fumbled twice for the kid to get a break and go over what he was doing wrong. I have 24 kids to get in and they all need to play. This kid was playing about 80% of the time and still I had to get this verbal abuse from the father. In New Jersey he could be arrested but instead he got warned and we had everyone sign code of conducts so we have a leg to stand on if it should happen again.
And then I see in another town, NY a coach got beat up this past Tuesday by a parent and his brother. And their kids were best friends and they had drinks and food together the week before.
There seems to be no pleasing some parents. It is scary and it makes me think about not continuing to coach. I tried to step back but got such overwhelming support from the parents and rec board that I am finishing the season out before I do anything else. I would have only gave up as head coach and still run the offense as to not let the kids down. The coaches must be as committed as the kids. But this is an example of a parent whose kid gets every chance, and the parents are never happy.
The kid is a great kid but the father also is on his back so much that the mother asks me to step in, which is not my place. I do not take it out on the kid, he plays a little less as I must get other kids in but he still plays during the important moments of the game. And I am starting to watch my back over coaching 6 and 8 year old kids. That is terrible.
As for one of the best programs that anyone would enjoy, I am in year one of running a travel flag football program. We have 9 towns involved with 19 second grade teams and 12 first grade teams. This is year 10 and I have coached for 3 years before this. Now I coach first grade and run the league. What is special about the program is that we are introducing these
6 and 7 year olds to football. We practice once a week and play on
Saturday afternoons for 6 weeks. For my town, we make sure each kid gets to run the ball at least once a game. I have 13 kids on my teams and maybe get 16-20 plays a game. I am not concerned about winning or losing, just getting the kids a positive experience. At the end of the season, in week 7, the kids play their Mom's in a game. It has been a great tradition and it is covered by the Bergen Record, a local town paper.
I over heard a few of my first graders during a recent game talking about it. One kid said that he didn't care if we won this game, just as long as they beat their Mom's. Another replied that he didn't care if we lost all 6 of our games as long as we beat our Mom's. The Mom's set up picnic tables and bring food and the kids sneak over to eat during the game. That night we have a pizza party with everyone and I show a DVD that I make with pictures and video clips of the kids and I make sure each kid, all 48 kids in the program, is in at least 3 of each. It's a great program and you rarely have issues because we follow through on the expectations we set for the parents ahead of time. So there is a lot of good out there also!
MomsTeam--Thanks and keep up the great work. More people need to read your work and get on your website. I have sent the link out to my parents for both of my sports so that should be a good start to getting people to read some important things about youth sports!