Sunday, April 21, 2013

A primer for parents of young sluggers

Because every spring there is a new group that joins the ranks of youth league baseball/softball parents, I offer a reconstituted version of a column that I have been writing for more than 20 years.

I think the subject is important because blatant disregard of your child’s well-being on the diamond will affect him/her for a lifetime. You have the potential to kill any interest in sports that he/she might have if you become the overbearing idiot parent who seems to be so prevalent.

My son, for example, fondly remembers a coach who made the experience a fun one. He also remembers a coach or two who didn’t. Had the bad ones come first, the kid might have skipped the whole experience, instead becoming good at, say, video games rather than basketball and football.

The youth league game has evolved not only from when I was a kid but also from when my kids were kids. When I was a kid parents weren’t really involved. In fact, we were lucky if our dads got to see us play one or two games a season because we played while the dads were at work.

And moms? Well, they were too busy tending to the house to pay much attention. If they did come to the games, they sat quietly in the stands and clapped at inappropriate times because, well, it was the ’50s and ’60s and moms didn’t much pay attention to baseball back then.

And now? Well, this traveling stuff has really gotten out of hand.

So, listen up, Mom and Dad. Here are a few truisms:

–Your kid is not that good. Few players who stay with the game through high school ever get invited to play on the Division 1 college level and even fewer make it to the professional ranks. The climate isn’t in our favor. Kids in the South play year-round as do the phenoms in Latin America.

–Very few people care how your 9-year-old did on the diamond last night. Certainly the kid’s grandparents do. But beyond that the fan base is iffy. Keep that in perspective.

–Outfielders love to doodle with their feet. They dig little holes when they have to stand in right field for those long 12-run innings. This is very normal behavior.

–If someone suggests that your kid ought to be on a traveling team and you say OK, be prepared for extensive travel and long days away from home. You are devoting your spring and summer to this commitment. Forget going on vacation.

–Before you confront the coach about not playing your kid the way you think he/she ought to be used, prepare yourself for the possibility that the coach might hand you his clipboard and tell you to do it.

–Not every child has the hand/eye coordination to play baseball or softball. Don’t force kids to participate if they don’t have the skill. Clues will be plentiful. Pay attention. They may strike out a lot. Or drop every ball thrown or hit to them. Perhaps their talents lie elsewhere – such as in music. There’s nothing wrong with that.

–If you’re helping to select all-star teams, ask the kids who should be on them. They’ll give you honest answers. Fathers won’t.

–Don’t coach your kids from the stands. It’s embarrassing for them. And it will kill any love they had for the sport. In fact, you could inflict a lifelong scar.

–Win or lose, the most important part of the game is … treat time. The kids have no trouble putting that tough loss behind them. You shouldn’t either.

–Youth league umpires are generally … kids. Please do not yell at them. They are trying to make some money by doing something that ought to be fun. Don’t make it a horrible experience for them.

–The best thing you can do for your aspiring ballplayers is to play catch with them. Hit balls to them. Explain the rich history of the game. Stay out of it otherwise. Don’t dwell on their mistakes. Encourage them to try their best.

So, there you go. Now it’s time to play ball.

Read more from Dick Farrell at

No comments: