It’s natural for parents to idealize their children, and to believe their child has great potential to go far in everything they do. It is not uncommon for a parent to think their Little League player will achieve the pinnacle of achievement in baseball, perhaps even play in the major leagues someday, if only the coach could see what they as parents see. But coaches see their players performing drills and playing in the game, and their assessment of the child may be completely different than the parents. Have you ever wondered how to deal with parents as a little league coach?
Parents get emotionally involved watching their child play, and may go so far as to yell at the umpire, or other parents in the bleachers. It’s a natural thing for a parent to be protective of their child, and even imagine their little player has been treated unfairly, and this is when their parenting instinct kicks in.
Little League coaches want their players first and foremost to learn how to build their skills, and to have as much fun as possible playing the game. Once you make it clear to parents that you hold the same interest in the children as they do, and you want only the best for them, it gives you the control and authority you will need to ensure fun, excitement and a winning record.
There is nothing more important than talking to parents face to face. You can send the season schedule home with the child, and include your contact information, but this does not replace a one on one conversation with the parent or parents.
Parents may not be aware of the fact that coaches must maintain a leadership role in handling his players. If you maintain your authority, both you and parents’ expectations have the best chance to be satisfied. Meeting with the parents before the start of the season gives you the opportunity to lay out your plans for the season and what you expect from each player.
Tell Parents you are aware of their interests
Parents can be overzealous, but if you let them know that you understand they are passionate about their child being successful, they will place their trust in you. Communicating is also about empathizing with parents, letting them know that you know how they feel. Often, parents will get agitated because they don’t think the coach understands them. When you let them know that you are aware, it calms them and makes them trust you more.
Let Parents Know What you expect From Them
Make it clear to parents that they are responsible for getting their child to practice on time. You also need to discuss the following.
- Their child needs equipment such as baseball cleats, uniforms and baseball gloves.
- Emphasize the important of practice at home. Suggest to parents that there is affordable gear they can get such as pitchback nets, batting tees, wooden and composite baseball bats, and blemished baseballs that are much less expensive than regular baseballs.
- Do your own research into baseball gear, and be a great source of information for the proper size baseball bat for their child, gloves and cleats. You are not promoting any brand or product, you are just providing specific information to make sure they obtain the appropriate gear for their child.
- Let them know they are an important part of the team. Be inclusive, but also assert your authority. Let them know you have their best interests in mind, as discussed earlier.
- Make sure they know when practice will be held, and game times. They are responsible for getting their child to practice on time.
- Go over your school’s athletic department policy. Discuss fees and rules they’re responsible for, such as player eligibility.
- Your Expectations
Establish you rules and impress them on parents. Let them know what days and times you’re able to communicate with them.
- Do you want your players to discuss any issues with you before talking to their parents?
- Can parents talk to you before games or after?
- What are your rules about missing practice or players coming late to games? As a faculty member, your rules can be as stringent as those teachers have.
- Think of baseball as another class in school, and extension of the school’s physical education program.
- You are not responsible for dropping off players after practice. However, the decision is up to you. Do other members of the faculty drop off kids?
- You are not a carpool service. You’re the coach and that is where your responsibilities begin and end.
- Parent’s Behavior at Games
After empathizing with parents, letting them know you know how they feel about their children, you need to take a leadership position. When parents are overzealous at games, it interferes with your work. Let parents know this.
Inform parents that they must be on good behavior during games. They can be great motivators for their children by cheering them on. The more positive behavior they show at games, the better their kids will play.
Parents should not yell at umpires, and cannot insult other players, even those on the opposing team. They are also forbidden to criticize you or the other team’s coach. Tell them to discuss any issues they have with you at pre-determined times when you will be available.
Parents are not allowed to be sideline coaches. Their only job is to help create a positive environment. When they yell out to players what they should do, it only confuses them and in the end, it creates a negative environment. Under no circumstances should parents tell you or your players what to do.
- Put you Expectations in Writing – A Contract
This may seem like overkill, but parents will understand your expectations much better if everything you’ve discussed with them is in writing.
Have parents read and sign off on the contractual agreement you made with them. It is better that you personalize it this way, because parents rarely read the team handbook.
Keep your contract short and sweet, and keep it focused on your expectations. The signed document is essentially an agreement between you and the parents. If any conflict arises during the season, you can refer back to the document they signed, and that should settle disagreements that arise.
When parents don’t conform to the rules in your document, you must bring it to their attention.
If you have Microsoft Office, there are templates available for coaches and parents contracts for you to create.
Sample Wording to use for Parent Coach Agreement Document
Parent Name _____________
- I will always show support for my child no matter what happens during the game.
- My main purpose of attending the game is to enjoy myself and support my child and the entire team
- My son’s time playing baseball is fleeting. I will help make it a time to remember.
- I will allow the coach to coach my son.
- I will not interfere with any decisions the coach makes.
- I will encourage my son to seek out his coach first for a private meeting
- I will refrain from shouting out instructions during a game.
- When any situation arises pertaining to a game situation, I will follow the chain of command and only get involved when asked. This does not include player injuries.
- I will bring my child to practice on time. I will not be late except in extenuating circumstances.
- I will not expect the coach to carpool players to and from practice or games.
- I will arrange meetings between my son and the coach.
- I will arrange a meeting with the athletic director to discuss any disagreements I may have.
I/We agree to the above terms and will live up to them to the best of my ability.
Parent(s) Signature_____________________________________ Date_______________
- Parents Can be Part of the Team
You have a special attachment to your players that’s different than the relationship they have with their parents. You, as a coach, want the best for each and every player on your team. Your affection and admiration for them is real, and parents need to know you only have the best interests of the player in mind.
Parents need to know your job involves developing the skills of all the players on the team. You identify the skill set each child comes with, and know their strengths as well as what needs to be worked on. Inform parents in meetings what you’ve observed about their child, and encourage them to work with him at home to help develop needed skills.
Parents can play a part by helping their children outside of practice. If a player needs help fielding, parents can ask him to practice fielding on their own with a rubber ball and a wall, throwing and catching ground balls and pop flies.
Encourage their involvement with their child at home and they will feel more connected with the team and the process. This is the best way for a parent to become part of the team.
Coaching Philosophy and Your Objectives
Your letter to parents should start with an introduction that details your coaching philosophy. Below is an example of the writing style you can use.
I’d like to share with you my goals for your child and the team for the upcoming season. Baseball is an exciting and fun opportunity for your child and every player on the team. It also grants me the opportunity to develop your child’s skills, so he can feel he is an important part of the tem.
Although being part of the team is fun and exciting for everyone, parents’ expectations can be vastly different than mine. This creates a negative and stressful atmosphere for all, especially your child. We try to create the most positive experience possible for everyone,
If you feel my approach does not meet your expectations, this is the time to let me know. I’ve provided you with my phone number and school email address. Please contact me and we will arrange a time to meet and discuss our differences.
Here is my approach to coaching baseball:
- Kids gain confidence and a love for the game when they get positive feedback from their parents. Nothing is more beneficial to your child than encouragement
- Every player on the team comes with a different skill set. Your child can possess more natural ability than another player, or less. I work hard to encourage players to improve their skill set, and through player drills and practice at home, your child and all the members of my team can make the experience more positive by practicing whenever they can.
- I try to make time to talk one on one to every player on the team, including your child. I may not always be able to talk to them on a daily basis, but it’s important that they know I admire each one of them as a person, regardless of any playing issues, I’m already impressed with them simply due to the fact that they are on the team. I’m always genuinely interested in what they have to say.
- I try to make practice a fun time for your child. Practice is a mix of having fun and developing skills at the same time. I try to balance it out so players improve and enjoy the experience at the same time.
- My practices are structured and organized, so players feel they are part of something special. Kids will gain respect for their coach if they see how much effort he has put into an organized practicing experience.
- An important part of every player’s experience is developing their sense of teamwork, and how important it is to work together towards a common goal. Kids who support each other become a formidable force. They learn to solve playing issues on their own, and encourage each other to get better.
- Playing baseball is a competitive activity. I don’t stress winning as much as making players able to compete at a high level. .Their lives ahead will involve competition of one form or another, and playing competitive baseball is a great start for them to learn life skills.
- Parents need to encourage their children to do the best they can. We win games with effort and a positive attitude. If this approach happens in every game, we are likely to have a better record at the end of the season.
- Parents should not encourage the idea that “winning is everything.” This puts negative stress on a youth who is doing the best he can to contribute to the team. Parents should only encourage a positive attitude, and turn the focus away from winning and losing.
- I will work on teaching fundamentals and skills during practice. When it’s game time, however, it’s their time to shine. I’ll give instruction during the game if I believe it will help improve their performance, but my focus is on them enjoying the game, regardless of whether we win or lose.
- In my team post game meeting and pep talk, I don’t single out players and tell them what they did wrong. This turns a positive experience into a negative one in less than a second. Enjoyment turns to negative self-conscious thought, which the child will constantly think about. I don’t ever want any player on my team to feel inadequate or unworthy.
- I hope you as parents do the same. If a child misses a ground ball, tell them how proud you are of the effort they made to get into fielding stance and how great it was that they tried. Your job as parents is to make them feel good about all the contributions they made to the game.
- My goal is to have every child feel that they played a great game that day. Kids can so easily go off track when they commit an error. I strive to avoid this from happening.
For this age group, these are my primary objectives:
- Help your child develop the necessary skills to have success at this level.
- Prepare your child for the next season.
- Have fun so all my players fall in love with the game of baseball.
- Imbue them with a sense of the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship.
- Positive reinforcement for effort instead of results.
- Provide a safe and healthy environment for everyone on the team.
Important Issues to Discuss with Parents
You need to either discuss one on one or include in your letter the fact that Little League players are drastically different in their skill levels. You want to give each player the opportunity to play a number of different positions. Make parents aware that their child will have the chance to play every position on the field.
In the end, you’ll know the best position for the player, and during practice, you will evaluate their fielding and hitting skills, and create the best batting order based on their individual skill set.
Let parents know you will work developing your team’s skills, and if a child informs you of his interest in a specific position, you’ll guide and instruct them on how to improve enough to play the desired position.
Your objective is to ensure the players are having fun and are giving their best effort. Let parents know that you expect your players to show respect for you as well as parents and other players on the team. Remind parents that you strongly encourage players practice outside of regular team practice.
Let parents know:
- You expect them to get to practice on time. Let them know as well that there are often extenuating circumstances which prevent them from arriving on time. You only want the parents to give their best effort to be timely.
- Encourage parents to volunteer to either support the team or the school’s athletic program. There is always the need for people to devote some time to volunteer activities.
- Tell parents to get involved in playing baseball with their child. Kids love when their parents get involved. Playing catch at home, or taking kids to a batting range helps the player improve his skills as well as getting more excited to play. They need to work on the skills they learned at practice at home. Repetition is key.
- Parents need to support all the players, and never insult other players or even those on the opposing team. Remind parents in the letter that they are not to yell out instructions. The player gets confused, and your work is being interfered with.
- Parents need to encourage good sportsmanship.
- Most important, tell parents to let you know if they have a problem with you or something that is happening. Also, you’ll want to know if their child is unhappy about anything he’s involved with when he is with you. You want to clear up the situation with the child before it worsens.
- Remind parents that Little League players can be negatively affected by the smallest and most insignificant things. The good news is that they can be remedied very easily.
Invite Parents to Baseball Practice
While it seems inviting parents to attend a practice session is a recipe for disaster, it offers great advantages. Parents can see for themselves how you conduct practice and the issues you face with each player. This leads to a deeper understanding of the process. When it’s game time, parents will have a greater knowledge of what is happening and will be less inclined to shout out instructions.
Inviting the parents will make them buy into your coaching philosophy when they see the results you get. You as a coach are selling yourself to parents, and nothing is better than a demonstration to sell your approach and confirm how qualified you are for the job.
You can invite parents on the condition that they remain silent. This is a time for them to quietly observe your work, not to talk or offer suggestions.
Watching practice also informs parents about how they can help their child when practicing at home. When they see a child doing repetitions with a batting tee, they observe the child’s strengths and weaknesses in hitting. When at home they can further develop their child’s skills by working on their problem areas.
Stand Up for What You’re Doing
You are bound to hear complaints from parents. It’s simply unavoidable. Although it’s important to listen to what parents have to say, you need to keep an open mind, but only to a certain limit.
When you believe in what you do, you must defend it in no uncertain terms. Parents work at a variety of jobs, and none of them involves coaching baseball. You are the authority, and you must impress upon them that you believe in your approach.
It may sound extreme, but if a parent strongly objects to what you’re doing, you may need to suggest that they enroll their child in another program. It is unfortunate, but in life there are moments when you realize you will never come to an agreement with certain people and when that happens, it’s best to cut the cord with the parents, for everyone’s benefit, especially the child.
If you decide it will not ever be resolved with a certain parent, you must hold your ground. Never get in a position where you are defending yourself. This will give the parent an opening because they sense a weakness on your part.
Simply hold your ground, and understand the time will come when nothing you say will convince them. Don’t ever become agitated. Proudly state that your program is the result of years of trial and error, and you stand by your approach. Period.