On the first day or practice, Rick Rambo encourages parents of his players to be active and root for the team from the stands.
“We encourage a lot of yelling and a lot of screaming,” said Rambo, a 10U kid pitch head coach for the Prosper Little League in Prosper, Texas. “I find that kids respond much better when they hear you and hear encouragement. I also tell them I would appreciate if you didn’t just focus on your kid. No one wants to go up there and just have his parents saying, 'great job.'”
At the opening practice, Rambo will also send his players to the playground and talk to the group of parents.
“I give them a very frank discussion of what is acceptable to me and what is not acceptable to me,” Rambo said. “I tell them what the consequences are going to be, and I’m very clear. ‘I will have no problem ejecting you from the field if you can’t control your behavior.’ I’m very clear in that very first meeting.” There’s nothing worse for a coach than a disruptive and/or overbearing parent.
“I don’t like coaching from the sidelines while there’s a game going on,” said Carlos Molina, who coaches in the Fountain Valley (Calif.) Pony League in the 9- and 10-year-old age group. “It’s rude. It’s disruptive to the child as well and confuses them. They don’t know who to listen to, mom or dad or the coach. It puts a kid in the middle, and that’s not cool at all.”
Evan Martin, who is an assistant coach for the Sting in the Mosquito Division (ages 10 and 11) of the Saugeen Shores Minor Baseball Association in Saugeen Shores, Ontario, couldn’t agree more.
“Interactive parents are good in helping with pitch counts, scoring, etc., but the parents who coach from the sidelines really undermine everything that coaches are trying to do,” Martin said. “They have put their kids in our hands to guide them through baseball, and if you want to coach come on out, take the courses we took."
In the league in which Rambo coaches, his team is put together via a draft. During tryouts, Rambo and his coaching staff critique each player for their on-field ability. The coaches also have an extra column on their assessment sheet that rates how the players interact with their parents. The coaches watch as the player puts on cleats and prepares for tryouts. Is mom and dad helping? During the tryouts, are the parents pulling the kid aside and yelling at them? The player makes a great defensive stop, but is dad still harping on the kid for an earlier error?
“I don’t want those parents,” Rambo said. “I don’t care if the kid’s a superstar and he’s outstanding. At some point, that negative parent interaction is going to effect the kid and it’s going to effect the team, and I don’t want to have any part of it.”
Molina encounters some parents who have never played baseball before or their kid is a first time athlete, so their approach is a little different than parents who have previously raised an athlete or were athletes themselves.
“If a parent isn’t a coach or on the staff of a team, I engourage them to let me know if they have a question,” Molina said. “You can email me. You can pull me aside after practice and ask me a question. If you can work with your child on the side and do drills, great. But if they’re doing something that’s condescending and going against what the coaches are trying to do, that’s not right. There’s a rhyme and reason for everything we do as coaches.”