As a parent or coach it can be challenging at times to know the best way to talk to your kids. Everyone starts the season with the thought that they just want the kids to have fun, make new friends, and learn the game. But once the games start (even in rec leagues) even the best of us can get wrapped up in the play on the field. So how do the adults have positive communication with their kids?
Watching kids play baseball can simultaneously be the most fun and stressful times for adults. I’ve seen the most mild mannered parents develop a near psychosis watching their kids play baseball. Move beyond rec ball and the situation only becomes more common.
Almost every parent I’ve ever met starts the season calm and with a clear picture of what they hope for from the season. Generally, they want their child to:
- Have fun
- Learn how to play the game
- Make new friends
- Learn teamwork
All these are proper goals to start a season. But what happens as the season progresses that changes their behavior and, in turn, affects their relationship with their child around baseball?
Getting Sucked into the Vortex
The biggest problem I see is the pack mentality. All it takes is a few parents with an overly competitive spirit to slowly, but surely turn the pack. One parent usually doesn’t do it. But get two or more and be on the lookout!
It’s an easy trap to fall into. You’re a good parent who wants your child to grow, learn the game, be a better player, etc. so you decide to push them to practice at home. While they’re practicing you see something that needs correction. You heard what the coach had told your child so you remind them. And then again. And then again. And then again.
Your child gets frustrated with you and no longer wants to practice. You’re now frustrated with them for quitting. You tell yourself you need to push them to learn the value of hard work and commitment. So you keep pushing them at home.
Then at the next game you see them at the plate not implementing the skills you’ve been working with them on. You shout a quick reminder to them. They don’t do it. You shout it again. And again. And louder. And louder.
How Do You Avoid the Vortex
It can be very hard for parents to avoid getting sucked into this vortex. The good news is it’s never too late to jump out. I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of great parents who are grounded very well. There are two recommendations that I’ve heard given that I’ve used as a parent that have completely changed the relationship I have with my boys surrounding baseball.
Ask You Child How They Would Like You To Cheer For Them
Recently one of my boys played on a team that I wasn’t coaching. This had not been the case for a long time. I was struggling in my own head with how to handle myself at games. I was fortunate to stumble across an article that encouraged parents to ask their child “How would you like me to cheer for you?”. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find it to share.
This was incredibly powerful for me and my son. It was actually a really interesting discussion that I may have to write a post on soon.
But he and I worked out what he did/did not want me to do from the stands. I committed to him that I would abide by it. I’ll be the first to say that I struggled with it. Several times I had to walk away from the field during games to keep my commitment to him, but I did. It can be tough to go from coaching to just a parent…I did the best I could.
So talk to your son or daughter about how they want you to cheer for them. Ask if there’s anything you do that they wish you didn’t. Ask if there’s something they wish you did, but you don’t.
Then remember this is about them!
The Only 5 Words You Need to Say
The 5 words are simply…I LOVE WATCHING YOU PLAY
It is beautiful in it’s simplicity and power. I do my best to use this as a parent and a coach. I’ve been amazed at how well this has helped my relationships with my kids and players. Rather than having a pre or post game talk, simply telling them that you enjoy watching them play the game lets them know what you value.
A Game of Failure
Baseball is a game of failure. It will beat up your kids on it’s own. If they make an error they know they made a mistake. They hear the other team cheering. They see the other team taking extra bases. They don’t need their coach and/or parents yelling at them too.
As parents and coaches let’s commit to giving the game back to the kids. There’s a reason when you register for sports you sign up your child, not yourself. The game is for them. Let them own it.