Usually, teams have one coach.
But it turns out this isn’t always true on most youth baseball teams…
Enter your nearest field and listen closely during any game, and you’ll quickly find out most youth sports teams actually have 8 – 10 coaches surrounding the field…
Unfortunately, only one of these is the real coach.
The other 90% are parents who have tagged themselves with an assistant coaching role and now feel the need to shout out their own instructions to the players on the field.
Don’t get me wrong…
Most of these parents do have good intentions.
They sincerely believe they’re helping their child’s performance on the field when they’re yelling out commands from their seats in the stands.
But they’re not.
And the parents coaching from the stands epidemic needs to stop.
Here’s what you need to know…
Understand and Respect Your Role at Every Game
Let’s start with the basics…
There are four main roles at every youth baseball game:
Every person who attends a game can fill only one of these four roles.
- If you’re the coach, you coach the team.
- If you’re a player, you play the game.
- If you’re an umpire, you umpire the game.
- If you’re a fan, you watch the game and cheer for your team.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
It’s incredibly important that every person who attends a baseball game understands and respects the role that they’re required to play throughout the game.
Where some people get confused is they don’t understand that their role can change at different games…
Some parents will assume that because they’re the coach of their son’s Little League team, they have the right to coach from the stands during their son’s 12U Select Team game.
Their role changes between coach and fan, depending on which game they’re attending.
And while we’re on that topic…
Your Coaching and Playing Experience is Irrelevant.
Unfortunately, some adults feel entitled to voice their opinion from the stands if they have previously coached or played at a high level. But previous baseball experience doesn’t change your role.
You’re still a fan even if you were good enough to play division 1 college baseball 25 years ago…
You’re still a fan even if your son’s coach doesn’t have the same level of coaching experience as you do…
You’re still a fan even if you claim to “have been around baseball for 40 years, and you know what you’re talking about.”
Parents must understand this:
If you’re not the team’s coach during the current game, you still have no right to coach from the stands.
Let’s break down the main reasons why parents coaching from the stands is hurting youth baseball players…
4 Reasons Why Parents Coaching From The Stands Must Stop
1. Confusing Players with Conflicting Instructions
Put yourself in your child’s shoes for a minute…
Before the game and in between innings, the coach will talk to the team about situations and may give each player specific instructions to give the team the best chance of success.
And then, as soon as a player gets out on the field, parents start screaming out conflicting instructions that go against the team’s strategy and the player’s role on the team.
This leaves the child in a tricky situation…
- Who should they listen to?
- Which adult do they choose to make happy?
- Which adult do they choose to disappoint?
Players are forced to choose.
And since they don’t want to get yelled at on the car ride home, most players will listen to their parents and go against the team’s strategy.
This will lead to poor team performance and could even lead to the player receiving less time on the field.
2. Stealing Their Decision Making Opportunities
Learning how to make smart baseball decisions through experience is crucial for development.
To give specific examples of baseball decisions, this includes:
- When to swing.
- What base to throw the ball to.
- When to steal a base.
- When not to swing.
When a parent screams out instructions from the stands, they take away the learning opportunity from the player.
Here are the type of phrases I’m talking about…
- “Throw the ball to second base!”
- “Run right now!”
When adults are constantly feeding players this “do this, do that” information, players can quickly start to rely on their input instead of thinking for themselves.
Instead, parents should sit back and allow their children to make decisions — which involves allowing them to make mistakes.
Each player must know that they’re not going to be criticized when their decisions do result in mistakes.
If a player knows they’re going to be yelled at each time they commit an error or strike out, their anxiety levels will shoot through the roof.
There’s no way they’ll be able to make decisions and then learn from their mistakes in that environment.
3. Takes Authority and Respect Away From the Coach
If a coach is willing to give their time and expertise to coach your child, please let them do the coaching.
A parent screaming out instructions from the stands just makes their role even more difficult than it already is.
If you absolutely need to voice your opinion all game, wait a few months and put your hand up to coach the team next season.
But most aren’t willing to do that.
They’d rather voice their opinion without the extra responsibilities of:
- Arriving 30 minutes before practice to set up.
- Spending several hours each week running practices.
- Taking the time to plan out each practice.
- Struggling to teach players the fundamentals.
Coaching youth sports takes up a large chunk of time, and doing it well is much harder than it looks.
Appreciate and respect those willing to devote their time and effort.
4. Makes the Umpires Worse
When coaching from the stands, some parents do more than scream out instructions to the players on the team…
There are many who decide to yell at umpires, too.
Here are a few of the main negatives to doing this:
a. You’re teaching your child to make excuses
When your child notices you complaining to the umpire, they’ll feel like they’re allowed to do the same thing.
Instead, teach them to immediately move on to the next play.
b. The umpire will get worse
With a bunch of angry adults yelling in their direction, you can guarantee that the game’s umpiring will quickly deteriorate.
Parents (and coaches) must understand that an umpire will never change their decision just because you angrily let them know your opinion from the stands.
Lead by example and keep your thoughts on the umpires inside your head.
Parents Should be Supporting New Coaches
Have you ever heard a parent say this:
My son’s coach has no idea what he’s doing!
Well, for the moment, let’s say they’re right…
Maybe your coach doesn’t make the perfect decision every time, and the players don’t get exactly even playing time…
Maybe your coach doesn’t understand the minor details of every fundamental and situation the team comes up against…
Maybe your coach isn’t familiar with all the advanced baseball lingo, and they fumble their way through it…
Just like players, many coaches are still learning.
In fact, tens of thousands of parents with very little baseball background step up each season to coach simply because there’s no one else to do it.
Stop expecting your son’s under-10 coach to be perfect.
Stop sitting on the sidelines, shaking your head and rolling your eyes.
We have to do our best to support new baseball coaches as they gain experience and develop their coaching knowledge.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
So, What Should Parents Do Instead?
A parent’s role as a spectator is very simple…
Be a fan, watch the game and encourage the players on the field.
Watching the game is self-explanatory and doesn’t require further explanation.
But perhaps being a ‘fan’ and ‘encouraging’ does…
Being a Fan & Encouraging does not mean:
- Giving coaching advice.
- Yelling out to any of the players or umpires.
- Over the top celebrating.
It means enjoying the game and occasionally clapping and cheering for the team.
Here’s a rule of thumb to remember….
As soon as you stand out from the crowd, you’re doing something wrong.
Overall, here’s the point:
When parents are yelling out from the sidelines, they’re making each player’s youth sporting experience less enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong…
99% of youth sports parents are fantastic.
Personally, I’ve had to politely and professionally address this extremely sensitive topic with the parents in my organization. I’m very thankful and appreciative that those meetings and conversations have gone well. Unfortunately, there’re others in the youth development space that never get beyond the parents as foes.
But, as with every sport, there are a few bad eggs among the parents who might greatly benefit from reading this.
Parents who continually confuse their child with unnecessary coaching advice, embarrass their child with over-celebrating or complaining, and even parents who slow down their child’s baseball development by making them nervous about committing a mistake.
To improve the youth baseball experience for players everywhere…
Parents need to take a step back and do a better job of understanding their role. Be a fan, not a foe!
Your kids aren’t going to be playing youth sports forever.
Sit back, enjoy the game, and let the coaches do the coaching.