Pros and cons in youth sports (aka Don’t be an asshat coach)
Posted by Dean Holden at August 30th, 2013
by Penny, 2 May 2013
Before our son was born, Hubs was counting down the days when he could put a ball into his hands. I was worried about things like, you know, if he would be healthy and strong. Hubs was concerned with his “swing”.
As a matter of fact, one of the stipulations to my leaving my job to stay home with our little athlete was that I teach him hand-eye coordination and the difference between gripping a baseball bat and a golf club. Hubs was okay with him learning ABC’s and colors, as long as we worked on agility and dribbling.
Now the truth is I am a sports fan. I cheer on the Chicago Cubs and don a Bears jersey every Sunday during football season. I’ve been following whether or not D. Rose will make his Bulls comeback and I’ve even been known to hang out with Hubs to watch The Masters. I know ~ don’t judge.
But watching professionals take the field (or court or whatever) is a whole different “ballgame” than watching your own kids. I never got heart palpitations when Ryne Sandberg came up to bat. The urge to faint never came over me when Michael Jordan was at the free throw line. But when I see my son in the spotlight, it’s a real “game changer”. Sorry for the puns ~ they’re just too easy.
Hubs was All-Conference and All-State in his respective sports. My father-in-law was a high school coach. My brother was a star baseball player in college and went on to play in the majors. It would be a lot to live up to.
Like anything else, there are pros and cons in youth sports.
Yes, my son has learned about teamwork, discipline and respecting authority. He has reaped the benefits of fresh air and exercise. Learning to be a gracious winner and loser have been great life lessons.
With that being said, however, I think that sometimes youth sports can get a little out of hand when a misguided “asshat coach” gets involved. And that’s when this sports loving mom has a problem. So here are a few things I would like coaches to think about when they’re dealing with our kids.
1. It’s not okay to expect little kids to “suck it up” when doing so would be dangerous for the kids’ health. I have seen kids who play youth football being forced to practice in 95 degree heat wearing a full uniform and pads for 2 or more hours. Even the Chicago Bears (who have several weeks of pre-season, open practices) are not in full uniform and pads. One time, while wiping my son’s beet red face with a cold washcloth during a water break, I heard a dad say, “this is football, not ballet”. He said that from the air conditioned comfort of his SUV’s front seat!
2. It’s not okay to make remarks about a player’s weight. When my son was about 8 years old, he was noticeably bigger than most of the kids on his team. He was painfully aware of this fact and worked harder because of it. It was not necessary for the coach to constantly call him out and encourage his team mates to call him names like “beef” or “meat”. Those names followed my son for years and, although he pretended they didn’t bother him, I knew that he was ready to die inside every time he heard them. At 14 years old, he now stands at 6 feet tall, weighs 165 lbs. and obsesses about his size.
3. It’s not okay to call the players vulgar names, regardless of how poorly their performance was on the field. When my son was 11 years old, we were playing in a travel baseball tournament and the boys didn’t exactly have a stellar performance in the first game. Their coach said to them: ”get over here you little f**kers”. We did not drive 4 hours for that!!
4. It’s not okay to blatantly allow one player (aka “your son”) to be a poor sport while other kids are held to a high standard. Case in point: the coach’s son was on the pitcher’s mound and decided he no longer wanted to pitch. The coach refused to remove him from the game so the pitcher cried, hit 2 batters in a row, and sat down on the mound rather than cover home plate for the play. When the coach finally decided to replace him, he made the first baseman sit down and moved the pitcher to first base. That kid should have been benched for the remainder of the game and the entire next game but, instead, the first baseman was punished. Not cool.
5. It’s not okay to shout out a player’s first and last name so loudly that everyone within 10 miles can hear it. Wait until the team “changes sides” and talk to the player privately. By the way, shouting things like “get your head out of your ass” in the middle of a game being played by 12 year olds is also not cool.
Now I realize that the coaches in youth sports are volunteers. The majority put in their time for the right reasons. They put in long hours, give up time with their own families, and often put out their own money for things like umpires, snacks and drinks for players, etc. I know ~ I’ve seen it. And I fully support most of these unsung heroes.
But occasionally, there are those coaches who take their positions too far and go on a power trip that hurts the entire team. I know of kids who have given up sports entirely because of one bad coach. And that’s pretty sad.
So to you youth coaches out there. If you promise not to be a complete asshat, you can expect this from me in return:
1. I will make sure that my son shows up, in full uniform, on time and with all of the necessary equipment he needs to play the game.
2. I will make sure that my son treats you with respect and that he gives 100% effort from the minute he shows up at practice or a game.
3. I will watch, cheer and fully support all the players on the team and respect your decisions, even if I don’t always agree. In other words, I won’t coach from the sidelines.
4. I will gladly chip in for snacks, drinks and other extras as necessary and offer to help you in whatever way I possibly can.
5. I will offer up any extra seats in my car to transport kids whose parents can’t (or won’t) come to practice or a game.
If we work together, I think we stand a pretty good chance of not only winning some games, but instilling positive values and creating lasting memories. You never know…a player you coach today could be the Ryne Sandberg of tomorrow.