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Don’t Hate the Coach

327For 5 years I have dedicated myself to coaching my Son’s baseball teams, but this week was the most extreme event of all.   A seventy five year old Grandfather threatened to hit me in the face.  I’ll get to this later, but first I want to share with you my journey as a Coach.

Five years ago I walked into a youth Baseball Park to sign my then 6 year old son up for recreational youth baseball.  I was immediately asked if I would help coach a team and I reluctantly said yes but was unsure of my ability.  Soon after I agreed to help coach I was asked if I would be the Manager of that team,  The park wasn’t able to get enough managers, I once again reluctantly said yes.   Over the past 5 years and 14 different baseball seasons I have either coached or managed the team my son has been associated with, with what some would consider decent success.  As a highly competitive person, coaching youth sports becomes a huge balance between player development, player happiness, competitiveness, parent satisfaction, personal interest and team success.  It is difficult to achieve all of these at the same time without one of the other aspects suffering a bit.   I always use the term, “everyone can’t play shortstop”.

Lets talk about DADDYBALL for a moment.  Often parent’s claim daddyball when the coaches son always pitches, plays shortstop or bats towards the top of the lineup.  Daddyball is certainly a real thing and if egregious should be addressed, but often I find that the coaches children are at the top of the skill level on most teams.  I also know there is a phenomenon we should call BleacherDad/Mom, this is where the parents seem to want to control the coaches decisions from the other side of the fence.  Please know that as coaches, we are cognoscente that you are out there, have opinions and 2nd guess everything we do.   This is simply the greatest challenge that a coach with a heart, feelings and desire to do the right thing struggles with the most.   Every parent in the stands focuses on their child while in the field or up to bat and is always biased towards the betterment of their child.  I have never seen a parent take a photo of another persons child and post it to social media.  Youth coaches don’t get paid, rarely are thanked and expose themselves to extreme scrutiny season after season and guess what they also have a bias towards their child and must struggle with it constantly.    When things are equal or close to it, it is likely that a coach is going to express bias towards their child.   As much as no one wants to hear this, it is true and maybe that is the payment a coach gets for sacrificing thousands of hours of coaching.   Every parent of a child playing baseball wants to control where and when their child plays but unfortunately for those in the stands only the coaches can actually control this; hence the DADDYBALL effect.

So this week, I was screamed at, cussed at and threatened with physical violence from a grandparent of a former player.  I was told that “I was a horrible coach”, “his grandson knows more about baseball than me”.  Most of the things that were said are a blur because I was screamed at with a finger in my face for more than 20 minutes.   Not sure what to do or how to handle the situation, I merely stood there with my hands behind my back and let the man vent until he allowed me to speak.   The crux of the issue was that the player was removed from the team for many reasons including the mother expressing to one of the coaches that “he is going to stop playing baseball and focus on basketball”.   Apparently missing several games, practices and showing lack of commitment to the team isn’t acceptable reason to replace a player.  After sharing with the grandfather all the reasons that the team decided to go a different direction that weren’t given to him by the mother he reluctantly seemed to accept what I told him, kinda apologized and shook my hand.  Regardless of how it ended I was hurt and disturbed that a parent/grandparent was so angry with me and believed that I affected his grandson so badly that he wished to do me harm.   After pondering if coaching is worth the scrutiny, stress and hatred that comes with it I seriously considered stepping aside and listening to my wife who has preached that coaching only makes people hate me.   I have realized that the desire to share the youth baseball experience with my son is so much more important to me than those that I may offend, I will continue to coach.  This decision came from the result of multiple conversations with parents, coaches and trusted individuals.

Remember most coaches that volunteer their time, resources, knowledge, compassion, passion, finances, emotions and heart are doing the best they can.  Just as there is no book or class on how to be a parent there is no real book on exactly how to  coach each and every team. Coaching is a very fluid situation with many people, feelings, opinions and outcomes.  If you believe the person who is coaching your child is trying their best cut them some slack and if you don’t then volunteer yourself.