During this time of year when the sounds of the diamond have quieted down, it is good to review what is best for our kids and how we can continue to improve their baseball and softball experience.
Baseball and softball are not just about teaching a child to bat, catch and throw. They are about teaching the entire community that sports is a part of life that enables our young people to grow to be responsible adults.
We believe that all kids gain confidence and a love for the game through positive feedback from parents, coaches and their teammates. Skills develop at different rates for kids, but having fun can always be achieved. Therefore, it is important for parents to take an active role in their child’s youth sports experience.
It is no easy task to be a parent of a young baseball or softball player. Not only it is difficult to help a child learn how to handle the ups and downs of competition, but you have to develop your own coping skills. As a parent, you experience a variety of emotions from triumph when your child excels to an emptiness when they lose. But you should never let your love for your child hurt their development. As parents, we have good reasons to push our children to succeed. However our greatest strength – our steadfast emotional support of our kids and our willingness to make sacrifices for their athletic advancement – could also be our greatest weaknesses.
There is a lot of material on this subject and we have found several ways to avoid this parental “trap”. Some of which we would like to emphasize:
- Provide encouragement for a good play or a base hit. Do not get upset or show frustration when your child makes an error or strikes out.
- Provide constructive criticism in an informal way. Never yell out advice from the stands. If you serve as a coach of your child’s team, it is important to make the distinction between being a parent and being a coach.
- Be a role model. Children learn the skill of self-control by watching you display good self-control skills. Your child can easily become intimidated if he or she hears you shouting at officials. Remember, kids learn far more from their own observations of adult behavior than they do from verbal instruction.
- A parent who remains calm and thoughtful in situations, such as when a touch call is made, provides their young athlete with an appropriate way to handle emotional situations. Remember you are a fan at a youth sports game, not at a professional sports game where yelling at players and criticizing officials is perceived as normal. There is absolutely nothing normal about this behavior at your child’s game.
- Emphasize fun and skill development, especially at an early age. Bad experiences with sports at an early age can turn a child away from sports involvement forever.
- Nourish the dreams of your child, not your own. This is their time for FUN and for MEMORIES to be created that will last a lifetime.
- Communicate with coaches. Teach your child to do the same. Accept the authority of the coach and become less prominent in the decision making. Focus on parenting rather than coaching.
As parents, we need to learn ways to express our support for our kids without detailing their limitations. Most kids know when they make a mistake, so they do not need us to point them out. Our role is to let them play and have fun. Leave the coaching up to the coach. Just be there for them no matter how they do at the game.
The main point we want to get across with this message is how important it is to have parents positively involved with their children’s sports. Negative involvement or no involvement at all by parents makes is hard for a young athlete to become committed to a sport. Being actively involved and talking with your children about their life is very important. Being proud of accomplishments, sharing in wins and defeats and talking to them about what has happened helps them develop skills and capacities for success in life. I know it is not always easy to follow these suggestions, but we must make a conscious effort to do so – our children’s welfare and development is at stake. And the result is well worth it: A GREAT TIME TO BE HAD BY ALL!