Coaching T-Ball And Dealing With Parents & Young Players

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”-Theodore RooseveltI’ve been coaching for 22 years and it happens every year. I receive at least one phone call and it always starts out with the same beginning…”Hi Marty, first of all I want to say I think you are doing a great job with the kids, but… “And there it is. Right after the “but” it comes out from the parent.”Why did you bat my son seventh?”"Why didn’t my son start after getting two hits last game?””Why does my son always play second base and Phil’s son plays shortstop every game?””When they called my son out at second, why didn’t you argue? He was obviously safe!”I learned long ago that you cannot be friends with everyone or make everyone happy. I see the best coaches who, like me, are coaching well beyond when their kids left the league, and all of a sudden they quit, and when I ask them why, it is usually the same answer:”I can’t take the parents anymore.”As a t-ball coach you want to come across to the parents as someone who is competent and someone who will be a positive role model for their kid(s) for about 5 months. Right from the beginning you need to exhibit an air of confidence to the parents of your players. Parents want to know that their kids will have a positive experience. With that said it always has amazed me how parents will do everything to change teams because of something they do not like about the coach. I have noticed the same parents who insist on a particular coach or team are the same parents who go into school demanding a different teacher when their kids are assigned a teacher during the early summer months. What is going to happen when these kids are grown up and have jobs and they are not crazy about their boss or supervisor? Are they going to walk out on their job? Are they going to call their parents in and demand that the corporation their grown up son or daughter works for be given a new supervisor or boss? Heck no! Sometimes in life, we all have to face the music. It is in the best interest for your team, parents, and players to make it the best atmosphere for everyone. Remember, everyone has certain pressures they have to deal with. For instance I find that most people do not really like their jobs. People are also under constant financial pressure in these hard times. We are caught in the middle with pressures from work and pressures at home. Sometimes life is very hard but we have to make the best of it and appreciate that we are here on this earth.I’ve seen the frustrated ex-jock reliving his life through his kids on the ball field. I’ve even seen it start at t-ball, which may be the first organized sport this parent is involved in since he played college or high school baseball. I’ve seen some parents use youth sports as a forum to vent their frustrations about life right at the youth baseball field. I’ve seen different degrees of this and I’ve seen some situations get ugly and uncomfortable and authorities have to be brought in. We all read about different episodes that happen in youth sports all over the country. It’s a shame but it is a reality of the times we live in. Can we prevent every major issue with parents? Of course not, but if we come into the season, even at the t-ball level, and express our own philosophy to the parents and what we expect from the players and the parents and what they can expect from me, the coach, you have a better than average chance you will enjoy the season and have a good degree of success. With a few months off you are ready for next the season.Even youth baseball coaches have to work on looking the part of a coach. I am constantly working on this and know for someone like myself it takes an extra effort. The way you dress to the way you organize your practices and speak to the kids will give you credibility with the parents of your players.If a problem arises with a parent, take a pro-active approach and contact the parent as soon as possible. It is much better to get everything out in the open right away in the season. I remember when I was t-ball commissioner I received a call from a few parents that this one particular coach was always playing the same kids in the infield and the same kids in the outfield. The parents complaining were of course parents of the kids who were always stuck in the outfield. I called the coach to address the situation. His feeling was that there is more action in the infield and his response to me was that he was playing the older kids in the infield because he was concerned about the younger ones getting hurt. Of course his own son was one of the older kids. I told him that this was not acceptable and that is not how and why t-ball was structured. I mandated to other coaches that in a three inning game, the coach has to rotate the infield and the outfield every inning. When I did this I had another coach call me to say that this was ridiculous and that they wouldn’t win one t-ball game with all the errors his team would make when putting certain players in the infield. Again I had to explain how and why we are running t-ball uncompetitively.Once I was coaching and there was a situation with one player who I took out after three innings. The father was not at the game but that night I got a phone call from him and we went at it pretty good back and forth for about 15 minutes. My wife was right there and she knew both parents of this player and was trying to calm me down afterwards telling me that, “You should have heard yourself.” I told her that you should have heard the parent that I was speaking to. As it turns out I thought about the situation and decided to stop by their house unannounced the next day, which was a Saturday. When I went over there, the family was quite touched that I took time out to speak to them. The first words out of the parent I spoke to on the phone the day before were an apology to me. He told me the day he spoke to me was one of the worst days he ever had at work and that his own behavior was uncalled for. So I guess as t-ball coaches or any youth sports coach, if you go the extra mile and stop over at the family’s house, people appreciate this.There is no magic bullet that will help you get through the season dealing with irrational parents. T-ball is the first experience for many families in organized sports and you as coach have to show that you are up for the task. It is never really easy and I have found that in even the toughest years I have had as coach dealing with parents, the positives still outweigh the negatives. Your preseason preparation and in season adjustments on the field and off the field will help your season run smoothly.