Once upon a time, youth baseball was simple. That was a long, long time ago. Summer baseball for our youth is equal to summer drills for parents. As your child learns the game of baseball, parents get to learn effective communication skills, time management skills and how to be effective at taxi services. Often, as a parent, you are reliving your own youth through your child’s experiences. When they are in school, you reminisce about “when you were in school”. It’s the same with baseball. Your greatest experiences are going to surface and you want that for your child as well. You forgot about the pain it took to finally hit the ball or when you were older, to come out of a hitting slump. As a parent, you have your responsibilities too. Coaches don’t always have the right answer but they are the coach. (I didn’t see you volunteer to coach!) It took me a while to realize that most parents aren’t regulars at games and practices.
By being a visual appearance at games and practices, I noticed 2 things. First, parents are often too busy being a taxi service to really be involved in their child’s activities. Because of this, they tend to forget when practice starts and ends. This often is disruptive for practice when their child arrives late and takes advance of the coaches’ time (personal time) babysitting your child because you were late. The second thing is that I often naturally slid into the role of being an assistant coach. When the few parents that stayed were in their business dress because they just came from work, I was there in shorts and sneakers with a baseball glove on my hand. When the coach asked for some assistance, I naturally volunteered. Maybe others didn’t have the experience growing up that I did. Because of my experience, I told myself I would get involved in my children’s activities even if it were to be a spectator.
When I was growing up, my father was involved in several sports. My entire family would load up in the car and go and watch him play. One of his sports was fast-pitch softball. He was one of the pitchers and teams use to go home disappointed as he would pitch several no-hitter games. When it was time for me to start playing, he never attended my games nor encouraged me. He would come home with a glove, bats and baseballs or softballs but he really wasn’t there for me. I vowed I would be there to the best of my ability for my children. I was often outside at 7 in the morning catching with my son while we waited for the school bus. When he would get home from school, I would often be out there with him for another 10-15 minutes. It isn’t that much time but it is very valuable time. One word of advice: respect. Being respectful is probably one of the most important things we can do. This is an important lesson not for us but for our children. We can’t very well tell them to respect their coach and the umpire has the last call if they see us yelling and screaming at the coach or umpire. Guess what? Umpires make some Bad calls! No Kidding, huh! After all, they are only human. You can have a hard time with the bad call but how you react to it is going to be the role you model to your child. Beyond respect, we have to look at sportsmanship. We should always keep a high regard for sportsmanship at all times. This includes not only the players but also the coaches, parents (including fans) and the officials. Since we are talking about being a Baseball Parent, let’s address that.
There has been a number if incidents where parents got way out of control. Sometimes this has led to fights and parents being arrested. Sometimes this is the price we pay for the “having to win” attitude. How detrimental is that to the child of the parents involved in the altercation. First, it’s embarrassing to the child. Then the child will always wonder what others think of the child’s family. The way I see it, when a game starts, each team has a 50% chance of winning. If the team finishes their season with 50% wins, they did average. The higher the percentage, the harder the team worked for it. Lower than 50%, means they didn’t work hard enough. Sportsmanship is not only playing fair but it also involves a fair expectation of your performance based on what you were willing to put into your sport. You see, to me, winning isn’t everything but playing to win is paramount. If you play to win and another team out plays you, then you need to be a good sport about it and congratulate their performance.