By Cal Ripken Jr.
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 team.
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.
Ripken Baseball - Parents & Coaches Clipboard
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