Last week on our Facebook page, I threw out the idea of starting a weekly advice column for baseball/softball parents. Lots of you were all for it.
So here we go… the first of our weekly questions sent in by readers like you. And answered by veteran baseball and softball parents from across the country, just like you. This feature will post every Tuesday afternoon. Got a question you’d like feedback on, but would prefer to remain anonymous? This is the place.
Email your questions to us at email@example.com.
“My neighbor’s kid plays on the same team as my 9-year-old son. They’re good friends and we carpool together a lot. We’ve known the family a long time and they’re really nice people. The dad is a pretty intense on the ball field. And the boy always asks to ride home with us after every tournament to avoid his dad going over every play and what he needs to work on. I don’t mind the kid riding with us, but should I tell the dad that he needs to cool it with the post game analysis? If yes, what would you say to him if you were me?”
*Travel Ball Parents neither endorses nor opposes any of the responses below.
This could be tricky. It depends on how close the parents are with each other. If you’re not, I would say no. If you are, I would say yes. So when you get a chance to talk to him alone bring it up. Start by saying, “Hey ‘John,’ I noticed you’re really tough on the field during games and especially with little ‘Johnny.’I’ve noticed it and so have others. You tell him about everything he does wrong or what he could have done better. If you keep this up he is going to hate the game and maybe eventually quit. And that’s the last thing anyone wants to see because he is a good player.”
This is something I use all the time, I ask my parents and coaches, “Did you ever listen to the coaches at the Little League world series when they come out to the mound and talk to the pitcher who just gave up a few runs or a grand slam, or a player who just made an error in the top of the sixth that allowed the tying run to score?” The coach goes out and has nothing but positive words for the player. “Hey you’re doing a great job. We are fine.” Or ” that was a tough ground ball and you gave 100% effort in trying to get to it but I know you’ll get the next one.” Even make light of the situation by cracking a joke. The worst thing you can do is tell them what they did wrong. When you do that to a kid, their attitude and and everything else goes right down the toilet and then it could get contagious with the rest of the team. Just keep it positive and work with “Johnny” on the things he needs to work on without telling what he did wrong. Just keep them smiling and having fun, they are only a kid once.
—–Joe Walsh, baseball coach and dad, Springbrook Township, PA
I wouldn’t get in the middle, unless I was close friends with the dad. That might cause friction that could cause a problem with the boys friendship. I would talk to the boy and encourage him to talk to his dad, and let him know how the criticism makes him feel.——Cindy Costa, baseball mom, Turlock, CA
Someone needs to tell this dad to stop with the pressure. The kid already knows what he did wrong and what he needs to work on. I put more pressure on myself than anyone else can. Having a dad who points out everything I’m already mad at myself over would make me want to avoid him. —–Andrew Weight, 15, veteran travel baseball player
First are you Mom or Dad? I know that shouldn’t matter but it does. Men take things better coming from another guy. If you aren’t a man then you shouldn’t say anything to the dad. If you feel strongly about this and your husband is willing let him talk to the dad. Now if you are dad and you are close friends with the other dad then go ahead and talk to him. I can’t tell you exactly what to say because being female limits my ability to understand the male mind and I have no insight into how men communicate with each other about personal things such as this topic. That said if it were me I would ask my husband to talk to the dad ( he would probably refuse at first but I would wear him down) and tell him in the coolest guy terms he can think of, that is being an ass and his kid is only 9 and still just loves the game of baseball and that he better enjoy that while it lasts, because as a parent of a teenager boy, baseball gets darn serious really quick and the love of the game can be lost in the pursuit of perfection.
—–Wendy Lee, baseball mom, Walterboro, SC
Assuming you’re Facebook friends with his Dad. I’ve found through the years that public humiliation on social media works best. Post a pic of little Johnny riding home with you after the next tournament. Include a caption :” Little Johnny likes to ride home with us cause we don’t go over every play of the tournament on the way home.”
Then all your friends will comment about what a good parent you are. Some peeps will post a link about how to be a good sports parent. You’ll feel good about yourself from all the nice comments on the pic. Little Johnny’s Dad will feel humiliated and change his behavior. Everybody wins.
This is a personal, family matter. But you did say they were good friends. So, with good friends comes tough talk. And the reality is, you might need to mention to that father not how to raise his child, but how to approach a post game with his player. There is a difference.
I’ve known coaches who ask not to talk with the parents after a game because it can be so draining. Competition is intense on coaches. Now imagine what it’s like for a 9 year old who probably fails more than succeeds. That coach eventually addresses the game with parents, but not that day…usually the next day. Same should apply here.
It’s all in the approach. Explain the pressure and translate to that father how to approach “the player”. Ease into it. Don’t talk about the game right after. Give it time to marinate, to settle. Kids think a lot. Let that player reflect.
Maybe suggest some of the following:
Instead of teaching what they did wrong and what they need to work on, ask the player how they felt playing?
Teaching and “getting back to work” right after a tourney isn’t the way to go. It turns a 9 year old off. After all… he’s NINE. Let him de compress, take the skateboard out. Go play Super Mario for a bit. Be a kid.
Pull that dad aside. Mention motivation, not criticism. Remind him to let his son be a kid. Root, work with him after the pressure of baseball is over. Not 10 minutes after an intense tournament…. tomorrow. It’s much better on the child’s psyche. It won’t crush a kid’s confidence either.
That’s my take. It won’t be easy, especially if the father is a baseball fanatic, but hopefully, you can present it in a well thought out manner. It will help your friend relationship and maybe it will help that dad understand the difference between player and son.
—–Rob Monaco, little league coach, baseball dad, Bergen County, NJ
This is a tough one but please know that you are not alone. Everyone knows a parent like this. As hard as it may be to stomach, you should stay out of it in order to keep the peace between your families. If you are absolutely insistent on getting involved or just can’t take it anymore, I would possibly recommend for the family to read GameChanger: The Baseball Parent’s Ultimate Guide. Maybe mention it in passing and state that you have read the book and it was a great read. Or you can always purchase it for them and give it to them as a gift. Maybe pass it along to the wife as it may soften the blow. As intense as the father is about the game of baseball, he will be even more intense about his son and baseball.
—–Jessica Perry, baseball mom, Tampa, FL
As a coach I would talk to the dad about a few issues. First would be field presence on how I would expect my parents to act during a game .. Loud and negative is the wrong “Intense” for baseball. You should hear: “trust yourself, you can do it, great try, way to go, I believe in you, make an adjustment.”
Practice and lessons is when it’s time to discuss issues with mechanics. Personal criticism from their parents is last thing a kid wants to hear after a game. Are you their #1 fan or critic? Kids naturally want to make their parents proud. Is proud a hit? Sure! Is proud a diving catch? Absolutely! Is it the actual hit/catch or is it the effort they put into it? I believe it’s in the effort. When Johnny boots the ball am I less proud? No! What he does next is what I’m most proud of. Dusting yourself off and being willing to stand there and try again. A child understands perfectly well when they are having a tough day. Dad/Mom please do not remind them all the way home. Support the efforts and build on the weaknesses during practice.
—–Thomas Hall, travel baseball coach, rec ball coach and assistant director, Chesterfield, VA
This one is a little hard for me because I totally relate to the overanalyzing dad. As a coach, it’s hard to turn off the analyze mode and shift to parent mode, especially if it’s a long ride home and there’s not much else to talk about. I’m thankful that my teenager feels free to tell me when it’s time for me to be quiet and just drive. The thing is, most kids already know what they didn’t do right and what skills they need to improve for the next game or even long term. They really don’t need our help to figure it out. Something I try to do now (in a much more toned down and relaxed manner – at least I try), is ask her what two things she feels needs improvement in the next week and what two things she feels were really successful that game/tournament. This keeps the analyzing to a minimum and lets you know what they are thinking about. It also allows you to end the discussion with a positive tone. I would talk to the dad and suggest a different approach to post-game analysis that’s a little more low key. Just because it’s going through our heads doesn’t mean we need to share every detail with our kids. If he’s not amenable to your suggestion, just let the kid keep riding with you. Maybe the dad will figure it out.
—–Catherine Wrighter, volleyball coach and mom of an athlete, Lexington, SC