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Softball Coaching Bible

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Sports, Kids and Parents

I started playing competitive sports when I was very young. One or both of my parents came to most of my games.

I learned the awful truth at the very start. My parents' voices, coming from the stands, had a major impact on my concentration on the game.

I had been raised, as I hope all kids are, to listen to everything my parents said. The same went for my coach. Anything that one of those three distinct voices of authority said, I listened. Even if the words were not directed at me, I listened. Even when I did not want to hear them, I heard them loud and clear. When a kid hears one of those three voices, he cannot ignore them.

When I was nine years old and there were 10 people in the stands, I heard them. It broke my concentration.It took some of the fun out of the game for me. It would sometimes distract me so much that it ruined the whole game for me.

When I was 24 with 1,000 people lining both sides of the field yelling, I still picked those three voices out from all the rest. It is impossible to tune those three voices out.

Every parent wants their kid to be the best at everything they attempt. They want to be there to show their love and support for their kid and mine were no exception. Every kid wants to make their parent proud, I was no exception to that. That's the natural way of things and especially true when it comes to parents of kids on a sports team.

At nine years old I found out I was going to have a major problem with my parents. We had to sit down and have a serious talk about how much their voices were affecting my performance.

After we talked it out we came to these conclusions: There are two kinds of people at any sporting event,players and fans. A player is an active participant in the game. Team members, coaches, umpires and/or referees fall into the player category. A player either plays a position, coaches or calls the game. A fan is a non-participating observer. They neither play, coach nor call the game. Their sole purpose is to cheer on their favorite team and players. A parent is a fan, unless they happen to be one of the coaches on the field. Any attempts by fans to become players are not acceptable.

I would step into the batters box and my loving and supportive dad would yell out something like, "Follow the ball all the way to the bat." I was getting psyched up to bat. Now I'm staring at my dad wondering if he thinks I'm stupid. He's only yelled that to me 50 times before. It broke my concentration.

If the embarrassment had only stopped there. I struck out. On the way back to the dugout, of course, my loving and supportive dad had to try to console me, "You'll get 'em next time slugger." I wouldn't have been any more embarrassed if he had stood up and yelled, "Oh, my poor sweet baby. How terrible you must feel. Come on up here and let daddy give you a big hug and make it all better." If we were real lucky we would all strike out so only three of us would have to go through that public humiliation in an inning.

What just happened? My dad, one of those three voices I could not ignore, just gave me coaching instructions and changed from a fan to a player. He broke my concentration, had an effect on my performance and possibly the outcome of the entire game. If this happens to your kid and their team loses, this is exactly what he will think too. It can take all the fun out of your kid's games.

Instead of being able to focus on being the best player and team member they can be, they have to stop and regain their composure and concentration. That is not what they signed up to do. They are there to play the game and have fun doing it. If they constantly have to worry about impressing their parents, it may be just enough pressure to suck every drop of fun out of their game.

All parents want to coach and advise their kids at their games; but It should never happen while the kids are on the field. It will not be taken well at all. If it is something that absolutely must be said, say it when your kid is on the bench or in the dugout. It will be received a lot better there. Do it in a quiet and supportive tone of voice. Never yell anything from the stands in a stern or angry voice.

When a kid reaches the point that their parents take the training wheels off of their bike, one of them will still run alongside with their arms out, to catch them if they should fall. Parents try and do the same thing from the stands too. You must come to the realization that your kid is fielding a position on a competitive organized sports team, just like the adults and professionals do. That is a very adult kind of thing for a kid to do.

A parent must give their kid the chance to prove they can do it by themselves. It may never happen if they are constantly given the feeling their parents are right there ready to catch them if they fall.

It is almost impossible for a parent to not yell these kind of things during their kids' game. If the coach has done his job well, the kids know what they are supposed to do. They also know when they don't do it quite right. During the game, the last thing a kid wants to hear is one of their parents publicly pointing out what they did not do quite right. It just pours salt in their wound.

A good coach will go over the errors in the dugout or after the game. Every adult must choose their words and tone of voice very carefully during the game.

During the game it is very easy for a kid to perceive an adult yelling something to them, as the adult yellingat them. No adult should ever yell anything during the game that might humiliate a kid in front of their parents. That can be devastating to a kid.

Some parents still haven't figured this out. If you ever make the mistake of yelling out constructive criticism to some other parent's kid, don't be surprised if that other kid's parents start yelling some constructive criticism back at you, or worse. Remember, your voice is not one of the three voices that other kid is tuned into anyway. Let his parent make his own mistakes. Rest assured, whatever you yelled was heard by your kid. If a mature adult can take your words that strongly, how do you think an impressionable young kid is going to think and feel about them.

Supportive cheers in general, directed at the entire team, are always welcomed by players. A comment to a player that has just done something good is also welcomed by all. While the kids are on the field, leave the coaching to the coach. It is the only coaching the kids want to hear while they are on the field.

Be the supportive fan your kid needs and wants you to be. As long as they know you are there, they will play their hearts out to make you proud. However, if you remind them you are there too much, they won't be able to do that.

Always remember, your kid will tune into your voice because you have done your job as a parent very well.

Now, do your job as your kid's biggest fan just as well and make their game just as fun for them as you can possibly make it.

If you, as a parent, do not make their game as fun as it can be, your kid will give up. Your kid will quit. Your kid will feel like a loser. If your kid doesn't have a lot of fun, they can never reach the point that they love the game. If you do not allow them to reach the point where they love the game, they can never reach the point where they are the best at the sport they can possibly be. Find every way to make your kid's game as fun as it can be.

I have been playing for well over 30 years because, when I was a kid, my parents made my games just as fun as they could possibly be. I came to love the game and then I became passionate about it.

Because my parents did that for me, here is what I did for them. I kept playing and now I am an ASA Men's "A"' Division national championship winner. I was also voted the ASA Men's "A" Division Most Valuable Pitcher in the nation. I am very proud of that. I am even more proud to say that, before all of that, I was and I will always be my parents' kid.