A primer for little league coaches, parents…

Posted on: March 04,2014

Despite this recent Arctic blast, spring is about to have sprung. I see a few blooms around the neighborhood. That means baseball, and, in particular, little league baseball. Depending on how it’s handled, little league baseball and softball can be one of the most treasured memories of lifetime. Unfortunately, due to overzealous coaches and parents, it also can be hell on earth. Several years ago, I wrote a column that included 10 commandments for Little League parents and coaches. I still get asked for it from time to time. Excerpts follow….
…It all depends on the grown-ups. And, all too often, parents and coaches screw it up.
Several decades later, I still remember one teammate’s trauma. He was 10 and he was a really good athlete. In practices, he would hit line drives ever which way and scoop up every ball hit his direction. In games, he was a basket case; he couldn’t hit, he couldn’t field; he couldn’t concentrate.
That’s because his dad, an intelligent, successful professional with a huge blind spot, would come right up behind the chicken wire at home plate and scream at him.
That’s not how I showed you!” he’d bellow. “Keep your dad-gummed eyes on the ball,” he’d shriek, red-faced.” One time he yelled his son’s name and followed with this: “You ought to just quit.”
One reason the kid couldn’t hit was that he couldn’t see through the tears.Whether the dad knew it or not, he had squashed his son’s self-esteem as he would a roach on the kitchen floor.
So, here at no charge, are my 10 commandments for a Little League parent…

  1. Thou shalt never scream — unless it’s encouragement.
  2. Thou shalt applaud all good plays — by both teams.
  3. Thou shalt never, ever yell at the umpires. (What kind of example does that set for your sons and daughters?)
  4. Thou shalt never question a coach’s decision — certainly not in front your little leaguer.
  5. Thou shalt always attend games whenever possible, but thou shalt let the coaches do the coaching and the umpire do the umpiring
  6. When you can’t be there, your first question should not be, “Well did you win?” or about personal performance.
  7. Your first question should also way be, “Did you have fun?”
  8. Thou shalt never place too much emphasis on whether or not your kid makes All-Stars. (Any is too much.)
  9. Thou shalt save your criticism for how he or she acts, not how he or she plays.
  10. Thou shalt always remember that your kid’s most rewarding, most memorable game might not be in uniform; it most likely will be in a game of catch with you.

And now, 10 commandments for coaches (written with the experience of having been coached and coached at the little league level…

  1. Thou shalt give everyone a chance to play and to try different positions.
  2. I re-emphasized No. 1.
  3. Thou shalt be long on encouragement and short on criticism.
  4. Thou shalt never let a prepubescent kid throw a curve ball, any kind of curve ball.
  5. Thou shalt never pitch a kid more than once a week.
  6. Thou shalt never make a scene with an umpire.
  7. Thou shalt make practices fun.
  8. Thou shalt emphasize fundamentals, teamwork and sportsmanship.
  9. Thou shalt feel free to gently criticize a player’s fundamentals or actions, but never, ever question his or her ability or character.
  10. I re-emphasize No. 1 and No. 9.

Most of these commandments will apply nicely to youth soccer, football, basketball, swimming, golf and tennis.
Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. And, when it’s not, something bad is wrong.
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