We all want our kids to play great. We all want to see our kids perform at their very best every time we hit the field. We have all invested a great deal of time, energy and money into helping our kids get on the field in the first place.
So does that make it OK for parents to coach their kid from the bleachers, backstop or behind the dugout?
Well, before we answer that question, let’s talk about why some parents feel that it’s OK. They may have been very good athletes themselves. Because they were great players, they feel qualified to share their knowledge and expertise with their kid any time they think it could help.
Maybe they have coached their kid at another time or place. Having coached your child at the rec league level or entry level of travel ball does give you some insight into things that have worked for your kid in the past.
Or maybe the parent has no self-awareness or self-control and even though they realize in a calm moment that they aren’t really qualified to “coach” their kid right now, they just can’t help themselves.
Whatever the reason, my answer to the original question is no, the parent is not right to coach their kid from the bleachers because this creates all kinds of problems for everyone involved.
We put the athlete in a very difficult position where they are in a tug of war between their parents and their coaches. When a parent is coaching from the bleachers, it’s rarely the same message that the coach is delivering on the field. Do we really want our players trying to play this already very difficult game trying to decide whether they should listen to their coach or their parents? Of course not!
Coaches, you need to set your expectations early with the parents of the players on your team. Explain to them why you expect their cooperation and show them why it is important for the team to be on the same page. Follow that up with a set of guidelines explaining your expectations and consequences for parents crossing the line. This gets everything out in the open are removes the “I didn’t know” excuse.
And finally, restrict parent access to the players during the games. Especially as players get older, they should be responsible for themselves. They shouldn’t need to be asking mom and dad for a water, or towel or hot dog or whatever. If you keep the parents removed from their kids during the games, you have gone a long way to solving the bleacher coach phenomenon.
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?