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Let the players play and the coaches coach !

Perhaps you played a particular sport at a high level and hope to pass that knowledge on to your children.

By all means do it. But remember, there is a time and a place for everything. Your kids are tuned into your

voice, so if a play is going on during a game and you are shouting instructions, your child is going to hear

them. What do you think is going to happen if the coaches and other parents are shouting as well? Maybe

you all are shouting the same instructions or maybe you are shouting three different sets of instructions.

On the field, when the game is being played, the players should be listening to their coaches – for

better or worse. Otherwise they may do something that disrupts the team, and as they get older they may

not respect or listen to their coaches the way that they should. It’s okay when you are playing in the

backyard at home or watching a game together on television to point out different methods of doing

certain things on a ball field. Those are great teachable moments that allow parents and kids to bond

through sports. But, when the game starts, the coach is the designated authority figure, and it’s important

for kids to understand the importance of respecting and listening to those in positions of authority as they

grow up.

Stay out of the dugout or bench areas - The dugout or bench area is for the team and the coaches. It’s

a place where they go to listen, observe, support their teammates, be taught and unite as a group. Give

them their space and let them become a team. This area is the coach’s domain. Sometimes things need

to be said to athletes of all ages that are not necessarily what parents want to hear. Sometimes kids say

things that parents don’t want to hear.And sometimes, coaches must have brutally honest conversations

with players or about players that they should be able to have without worrying about who is standing next

to them listening.

Make sure your kids have everything they need – equipment, water, sun screen, sports drinks and so

on with them on the bench before the game starts. From that point on, they are part of the team. You

are there to support them, but not to take care of them. They need to understand the necessity of managing

their equipment, paying attention to what is happening on the field, supporting their teammates and giving

their undivided attention to their coaches. These are the responsibilities that come with being on a team,

and understanding them is an important part of the maturing process. It is not only inappropriate for

parents to be walking in and out of the bench area with snacks, ice towels, sun screen and drinks, but

also it causes confusion and really hinders a coach’s ability to communicate successfully with his or her


If you really feel that there is an urgent need for you to talk to your child or to give him or her something,

wait until there is a stoppage in play and ask the kid to come and see you, making sure that he or she is

back on the bench before play starts up again. Remember, there is going to be a day in the future when

you can’t be there to do everything for your child. The time to begin preparing for that day is now. He or

she has the team to depend on when something goes wrong or when a need arises.

Teach your kids to respect the coaches - Coaches are educators, plain and simple. Just like a teacher, a

good coach is someone a child is going to look up to and potentially remember for the rest of his or her life.

Because kids generally enjoy sports and look forward to their games and practices, they may remember

all of their coaches – good and bad. While it’s okay to teach your way at home in the backyard, remind

your child that when he or she is on the field the coach is the boss. Your kids should go to practice

understanding that they will try their best at all times to do what the coach asks of them – even if it’s

different from what Mom or Dad says. Nothing turns a coach off more than a kid who says, “My Dad says

I should do it this way.” Enough comments like that from kids will drive an adult out of coaching

altogether, which is not healthy at a time when it is hard for youth leagues to find truly committed coaches.

I doubt that many parents would send their kids to school without teaching them to respect the teacher.

There may be more than one way to solve a math problem, but imagine what would happen if a kid

refused to perform a task that was being taught to the entire class because mom or dad said to do it a

different way. There are great coaches out there who have so much to offer kids and many instances

of successful adults citing coaches as the most important influences in their lives. Because of the time

they are committing and the impact they can have on your children, they deserve the respect of you

and your kids.

So make sure you give them – and your children – the space they need to be successful.

Cal Ripken Jr.

Ripken Baseball - Parents & Coaches Clipboard 

Parentally Speaking: Give Kids and Coaches Their Space!

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