If your children play baseball or softball, you want them to perform well, right? Of course. What parent wouldn’t be proud to watch their son knock in the game-winning hit, or see their daughter throw a no-hitter?
All too often, though, the well-meaning parent or family member can take their enthusiasm too far. Openly criticizing an umpire’s call, yelling at your team’s coach, or criticizing your child are just some of the negative ways parents can spoil what should be an enjoyable experience.
Here are five signs you may be taking your role as a baseball or softball parent over the top, and what to do about it.
You constantly criticize the umpire.
According to a survey by CoachUp, 95 percent of youth sports coaches say they have witnessed parents yelling at officials. This usually happens after what the offending parent perceives is a bad call.
Umpires in youth baseball or softball are often volunteers. Even if they aren’t, you should still give them professional courtesy. Officials aren’t machines; they are as human as the rest of us, and yes, they sometimes miss a call. Berating them in public isn’t going to change the outcome. It’s best to let the coach handle these situations.
You coach the game from the sidelines.
There’s nothing more annoying to a coach than a parent who yells out advice from the stands. Things like, “pull the pitcher,” “why didn’t you call for a bunt?” or “why isn’t my kid playing?” makes a coach look bad and is embarrassing to your kid.
University of Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea, who also led the U.S. Olympic Team to a gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, wrote an article for USA Softball titled “Let the coach, coach.” In it, he points out many volunteer coaches are leaving the sport because of parents who complain about their child’s lack of playing time or other issues. Candrea encourages parents to communicate with coaches, but to do so in a professional manner at an appropriate time. Even at the most competitive level, a coach has enough on his mind without having to worry about unwanted advice from spectators, even if it is well-meaning.
You brag about your child’s performance.
Whether it’s at a game or on social media, it’s easy to get carried away with boasting that your kid is the next Aaron Judge after he hit a walk-off homer, or posting excessively on social media about their accomplishments.
Wendy Grolnick, professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, says there’s certainly nothing wrong with being proud of your kids or their accomplishments. But there’s a fine line between parental pride and bragging. Grolnick advises parents to carefully consider your intentions before announcing your news. There are lots of ways to celebrate successes without making others feel badly.
You place too much emphasis on winning.
Yes, coaches are guilty of this, too. But the CoachUp survey also revealed that 75 percent of coaches believe parents are guilty of putting too much pressure on their child. This can be particularly damaging at an early age, when kids are first being introduced to sports. Other studies point to this trend as one of the key reasons many young athletes quit sports before their teen years. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to win, but it takes an entire team, not one player, to make that happen. Don’t make your child feel more pressure than he or she already does.
You openly criticize your kid or his teammates.
Writer, speaker and well-known sports psychology expert Rick Wolff calls such behavior “an absolute sin.” Constantly yelling from the sidelines not only humiliates your child, but may cause him to become so uptight, he may end up making more mistakes, or worse, losing interest in the game altogether. If you feel you need to say something, Wolff says, keep it positive. Better yet, cheer for the whole team, not just one player.
Youth baseball and softball have become more time-consuming and competitive over the years. Parents are investing a great deal of time and expense in their kids and their sports activities. But as Wolff points out, the games are all about your child, not you. Spotting these and other signs of negative behavior, and doing your best to avoid them, will go a long way to creating a positive experience for everyone involved.