With 2 daughters in tournament/travel softball, my social media feed is often full of posts from teams looking for guest players, tryout dates, and tutorials and videos on batting and drills. In addition, there is a ton of advice from collegiate athletes and coaches on how to behave, interact with your teammates, coaches, and family, and present yourself because someone is always watching.
I appreciate all of the posts and would like to take this opportunity to add a few notes on what I, a parent, expect from coaches, because yes, someone IS always watching.
When my oldest daughter first started playing softball on our local recreational team, our goal was for her to learn a new sport, make friends, plus learn about teamwork, sportsmanship, and healthy competition where win or lose she was encouraged to try her best and to have fun.
During her first 2 recreational spring seasons she grew to love the sport and wanted to play in the fall season where local recreational teams were mixed up so that the girls could experience different coaches and play with girls from other nearby localities.
At the end of the registration from there were 2 areas that stood out. 1) Will softball be your daughter’s priority? 2) Comments
The answer to the first is only slightly complicated. While her commitment to her team is a priority, we have a plethora of other priorities that exceed sports including but not limited to health, family, and school. Most coaches understand this, and a coach who does not is simply not the right coach for us.
The comment section of the form was more complicated.
While many parents may not have much to say on the topic, my husband and I had plenty. After spending two seasons, watching and listening to some coaches berate, demean, and yell at young impressionable players who were there to learn not only skills to play a specific sport, but also learn life skills, such as teambuilding, sportsmanship, and perseverance through hardship, our comment section was comprised of a list of coaches that our daughter was not permitted to play for because they exhibited such negative behavior during the spring season.
During her final fall ball, season before making the switch to tournament and travel softball, a handful of coaches were trying to draft her onto their team. One coach pointed out to another, that he was not permitted to draft her according to “the list.” I am unapologetically sorry, not sorry.
Since then, after four years of travel ball, plus my younger daughter beginning to play, recreational softball followed by tournament softball, it has become more of a joke among my friends and our team parent families. When a coach on the opposing team goes “off the rails” at his players or an umpire, we just look at each other, and acknowledge that that coach would be added to “the list.“
In fairness, most coaches that we come across model positive reinforcement and the majority of the games that we play remain friendly. However, there are times when this is not the case and this is my advice to those coaches, who could use a little coaching on coaching:
1. Recognize that this is a game and it is meant to be fun. Of course we all want to win and your players should be putting in their best effort, but at the end of the day, it is a game and like it or not, the trajectory of your life and those of your players is not going to change based on today’s results. This game is not getting her a full ride or you a coaching position to a D-1 school, so chill out.
2. Understand that a players’ best is going to vary day to day and game to game. We all have off days and days when we’re unstoppable. If a player is off, talk to her respectfully or even remove her from the game if needed. But instead of insulting and embarrassing her from third base or the dugout, maybe quietly see if she’s ok or use the mistake as a teachable moment, not an opportunity to dance on her grave. Seriously. It’s not rocket science. It’s psych 101, basic human decency, and the golden rule. You know, the one about treating others how you want to be treated.
3. Take your ego out of the game. If an ump makes a questionable call, go ahead and ask a question. There is zero reason to puff up your chest, raise your voice, or slam your clipboard down. And once the final decision has been made, even if you disagree with it, take it in stride and move on gracefully.
4. And finally, if you, as a coach, feel it necessary to put down players on the opposing team in order to lift your team up, you are in the wrong field. You should be cheering FOR your team. NEVER against their opponents. If you can’t do this, have a seat on the sidelines, or better yet, stay home.
By the way, this same advice can be applied to parents as well. Just saying…
Looking forward to the next several years of cheering for my girls and their teammates!
See you on the sidelines!