What Do Baseball Players Want Parents To Do During the Game? Nothing!
Posted by Dean Holden at November 20th, 2015
by KJ Dell’Antonia, 6 May 2015
Mike Matheny is a father, and particularly, a sports dad. He is also the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. As a player, he spent 13 years catching in the big leagues. When he coached his son’s baseball team, he wrote a letter to parents, called “ the Matheny Manifesto,” about how he hoped they would support their children during the season.
That letter started out like this: “I always said that the only team that I would coach would be a team of orphans, and now here we are.” It went on in similar fashion, asking parents to take a seat in the stands, let the players play (and be responsible for their own water, hats and gloves), the coaches coach (with no help from the stands) and the umpires umpire (with an understanding that those umpires were volunteers and older children who were doing their imperfect best).
That letter is now a book, “The Matheny Manifesto.” I heard Mr. Matheny talking about the book, and his views on youth sports and baseball, on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” and it was an interview that every parent who will be sitting on the sidelines of any sport this spring should take the time to listen to.
He tells parents: “Mostly, during the game, do whatever you could just to take yourself out of the picture. The kids don’t necessarily need you to be yelling words of encouragement at the top of your lungs.” Because the pressure is already on for the young players: “you’re trying to please your teammates. You’re trying to please your coach. And then you got the most important person in your world back there screaming at you, and you think, if I don’t get this done, I disappoint them.”
His philosophy is based on a number of studies asking collegiate, high school and lower-level athletes “what do you want your parents to do at the game?” The overwhelming answer, he says, is absolutely nothing. Nothing. Don’t cheer, don’t scream at the player, the coach, the umpire, don’t try to get your child a better playing position. Just watch.
No parent wants to be “that” sports parent. (Our six tips for avoiding the role, and ditching the vuvuzela, can be read here.) The thing that these kids need to hear, Mr. Matheny writes, “is that you enjoyed watching them and you hope that they had fun.” And after the game, win or lose? A good sports parent takes the kid for ice cream.
An earlier version of this post misstated the position played by Mr. Matheny. He was a catcher, not a pitcher.