Stomper: Blame it on Mom – Keeping the Rock Em, Sock Em Out of Youth Sports

o-BASEBALL-BAT-facebookOur esteemed administrator has been on me to offer another piece and I fear that my obsession with politics is painting me into a corner so…

Time to branch out. And while I’m confident Chuck will take issue with this, I try to limit my writing to topics I feel somewhat competent  to offer opinions on.  This is why you never – or at least rarely – see me comment on the Royals, Chiefs, Sporting, radio station ratings, concerts or Dwight Sutherland‘s movie and book review pieces and the numerous other topics that KCC brings to the forefront.

Then it hit me.

Why not share some of my experiences with my life apart from work? My kids are now well into their 20s, so it’s been a while since they were involved in youth sports.

But being a hands on dad, and living with the misconception that I was qualified and had something to offer, I got them involved in youth sports when they hit kindergarten or first grade and became their coach in most of those sports.

I coached them in baseball, basketball, and football.  They participated in wrestling and soccer as well, but I let others more competent than myself (even though I wrestled in college) take the lead there.  Youth sports very quickly became a passion with me.

And when it’s handled correctly – and adults don’t screw it up – youth sports really can do a lot for a young person.  It all revolves around the head coach that has his or her head screwed on correctly. 

Certainly sports are competitive and if you’re going to play, you should play to win. However a good coaching staff will also teach kids things like teamwork, discipline, how to win and lose with class, to put the team ahead of the individual, respect their opponents, and good sportsmanship.

Children's ice hokey match called off in Russia after most players sin-binned for brawling - videoThese are life lessons kids can use even if they never again cross the white line onto a competitive playing field. 

Coaching young people is a privilege, not a right and it has serious responsibilities. And unfortunately, with many young males, their youth sports coach may be the best example of a positive male role model they see all week. So coaches need to reach out to the kids on their team and try to make a personal connection with each of them.

Hey, the kid that doesn’t have a clue one year may be the team’s best player in a couple of years or vice versa.  It’s really a rewarding experience to run into a kid you coached maybe 20 years ago and have him still call you coach, tell you that you had a positive influence on his life, and then tell you one of his greatest memories wasn’t winning a close game or scoring the winning run, but something stupid that happened in practice one day that you didn’t even consider to be important.

parents-fightingI will concede that youth sports today is very different than when I grew up and participated. I have strong memories of my little league baseball coach. He usually had a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and was constantly cussing at our mistakes. Even kicking butt on occasion (and I mean literally kicking butt).

Things are way more politically correct today.  A coach making physical contact with a kid today in youth sports would not be acceptable.  Using alcohol and/or tobacco around kids today in youth sports would be an issue as well.

With the number of the sports and leagues my kids participated in, my passion got me involved not only as a coach but I became more active in the organizations.  I’ve served on the boards of a number of them and remain very active in one still today.

stompsI wear a few different hats but the one I want to share here is my involvement with sportsmanship. 

On game days, I’m usually at the fields from start to finish monitoring sportsmanship.

Translated, that means keeping adults in line.

I’m sure you’ve all seen horror stories in the news, an out of control parent rushing onto the playing field to confront a coach or an official.  Or parents getting into all out fist fights in the stands.  Really ugly and really sad stuff.

That’s not how we want to be teaching young people about how adults should deal with conflict resolution.

In the 15 years or so I’ve been volunteering to monitor sportsmanship, I’m continually amazed at how adults who are rational in 99% of their lives seem to go insane when their child crosses the white line onto a playing surface.

Certainly adults are expected to be advocates for their kids and be as protective as possible at all times but some of the things I’ve seen adults do at youth sporting events go way past acceptable.

And while there are always surprises, there have been a few consistencies I’ve noticed over the years. We do a pretty good job of keeping parents back from the playing fields and we have a group of individuals that can get to the field pretty quickly when scorekeepers alert us to rising tensions,

However every once in a while we get parents taking it to the level of physical confrontation.

bamaThe first consistency is that a majority of the time when things get physical, it’s the moms and not the dads. 

I guess it’s a male trait to puff up your chest, point your finger, and get vocal, but it’s normally the women in my experience that take it to the next level. The worst fights we’ve had to break up have involved moms.

And the one that comes to mind first is when we had a mom go to her car to get a baseball bat and then come at us when we tried to break it up. I got lucky that the guy working with me got hit and not me.

Funny now, but not so much at the time.  I’ve got many more stories to tell that would amaze you but limited space.

The second consistency is it’s usually the younger parents that cause the problems.

Our league competes by grade from kindergarten to 8th grade and consistently it is the parents of the youngest level that give us the most problems.

I guess that makes sense that the first experience parents have with youth sports is when behavior problems come up because they have not yet learned how to act.

A  2nd grade game is treated like a professional level competition and parents feel they can verbally assault the official or yell across the field that one 2nd grader was intentionally coached to hurt their 2nd grader.

At our youngest levels, we don’t keep score but all the parents do.

The kids are too busy watching a caterpillar on the grass or a hot air balloon in the sky to know what’s going on in the game but the moms are in the end zone swinging away.

I’m guessing there are more than a few parents here whose kids have been involved in youth sports and I’m sure you have stories to tell as well.  I hope none of you have been part of the problem but human nature being what it is, I’m thinking maybe many of you probably did some things at youth sporting events – watching or maybe even coaching – that your child and you are not proud of.

If you have the opportunity to volunteer in youth sports, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life and I encourage you to do so.  Just remember, the kids are watching.  And winning isn’t the most important thing in youth sports.

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13 Responses to Stomper: Blame it on Mom – Keeping the Rock Em, Sock Em Out of Youth Sports

  1. the dude says:

    Yep, used to help coach little league and high school wrastlin’ when I was in school.
    Had the pleasure of coaching Bob Orton’s little kid for a while, you may know him.
    Sometimes ya gotta give back to complete the circle.

  2. chuck says:

    Nice article, enjoyed it! Sounds like you should be getting combat pay.

    🙂

  3. Rosco says:

    When parents refer to their 2nd grader’s team as “we” as in , we won that game that no score was kept, they are over invested in the event. When the parents want to break down the game on the way home and point out all their kids shortcomings, they are likely to meet silence and resentment.

    If you want some black comedy, sit and listen the advise given to 10 year old kids at the plate in a baseball game. On every pitch, voices reign out from the bench and stands. See the ball, choke up, , move up, wait on it, drive it, be aggressive, etc…. It is a wonder that any kid looks forward his next AB.

    A better use of our fields would be to drop the kids off and pick them up 2 hours later. No parents, coaches, umpires, just kids playing their own games.

    • mike t. says:

      you mean (gasp!!) let them be KIDS???

    • Stomper says:

      You make a strong point, Rosco. I’m biased a bit in my perspective. If there is a league that oversees the formation of teams, the appointment of coaches, and the monitoring of activities. and ESPECIALLY focuses on the training of and expectations for coaches and parents, then youth sports can do really good things for young people. On the other hand, if this sort of control is lacking and coaches/parents are allowed to operate without positive supervision then Rosco nailed it. In those types of situations, youth sports can actually do HARM to kids. It’s a bit unfair to paint with a broad brush and throw all youth sports into the same bucket. Some leagues do a pretty good job but many teams operate outside any controls. Bottom line is parents need to step up and make youth sports work properly. Same with life in general. If you are going to be a parent, then take it seriously and do what’s right for your kid, and all kids.

      Didn’t really address it here but another problem with youth sports is dual rules for kids. Coaches that permit the best athlete to get away with behavior that he won’t tolerate for the rest. Coach is not doing any favors for that kid as he may hit the wall down the road when his talent can’t raise him to the top anymore. That’s a whole different topic.

  4. Hot Carl says:

    I’ve coached youth sports for over 25 years and the kids never change. They don’t care if their record at the end of the season is 12-0 or 0-12. All they want to know is who brought the after-game treats and “Can I go spend the night with so-and-so.”

    I’ve coached great athletes, awful athletes, fat kids, skinny kids, kids who’ve gone pro (Darren Sproles) and kids who were tiny, 7th grade nose guards that turned into famous comedians (Rob Riggle).

    The only thing that ever sucked about coaching was when parents gave me unsolicited advice. Either volunteer to help coach or shut the f*ck up. Stomper, I applaud you.

    • Stomper says:

      Thanks Hot Carl, I had heard that Darren played in our league for just a year or two as a younger kid before moving to a more competitive team and face better competition since we are fairly restrictive on team formation (pretty much done by high school districts) . The Olathe North guys that had him related that he pretty much scored every time he touched the ball. Thanks for your service as well. I’ll bet you’ve got some stories !!!

  5. Orphan of the Road says:

    Back when we were kids, and dirt was new, we could go to Ford Park for a pickup game of baseball, football or basketball.

    Today unless a kid is in a league there is no room at the park for them. And god forbid there is a softball league for adults as it will make it even tougher.

    Probably should be law that no parents can attend a youth game.

    My sons had coaches who would tell the less skilled kids to stay home (everybody on the team had to play at some point, I’d make sure those kids got to the game), who took their teams to a playoff/championship which didn’t exist.

    But the prize coach was the one who kicked my kids off his baseball team because they also played lacrosse. His son was real good and a pitcher.

    The head of the association had to tell him it was a fun league, not a traveling team, and put them back on the team. In the two-weeks they were kicked off the team, they lost 2/3 of their players due to the coach.

    Somehow we ended up in the championship game. My kids were no jocks but they contributed a lot to that success.

    So their coach was in charge of buying the trophies. He had his teams name engraved on the biggest trophy as we were the overwhelming favorite.

    As the game progressed, the other team was right there. As they came up to bat in the last inning, the coach had lost it. Screaming and yelling at these fifth-graders, parents ready to lynch him.

    Two outs, full count on the batter and he hits it back to the pitcher (the coach’s son). He picked the ball up and just kept tossing it into his glove as the runner on first rounded the bases with the batter right behind him.

    The son totally put his dad in his proper place.

    And those big, second-place trophies were all left at the field.

    It was one of the few good days of Springfield Athletic Association youth league baseball.

  6. Stomper says:

    Great story, Orphan!! Thanks for sharing.

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      Thanks, Stomper.

      Sports have been a great help to many of the folks I grew up with here. They have also been a great help in turning many more into complete a-holes.

  7. KCMonarch says:

    One of my favorite childhood memories is the time my pee wee league coaches (they were siblings) got into a fist fight over how practice should be run. We all knew it was wrong but damn it was entertaining to watch.

    • Stomper says:

      Too funny ( not really, I guess). Reminds me of a 3rd grade game we had and at that level we allow coaches on the field. The offensive team was coming off the field along with the offensive coach and the defensive team was coming on with their defensive coach. Think the offense had just fumbled, giving the ball to the other side. The defensive coach thought the offensive coach called a stupid play and told him so as they passed each other. Immediately got into a fist fight right in front of their bench, players and parents. THIRD GRADERS !!! WTF !!!

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