The Child, Parent, and Coach Relationship, Done Correctly
Earlier this week, I had an email exchange with the father (Jeff) of one of the boys (Wyatt) I began coaching the night before. I was so impressed with Jeff’s approach toward his son’s athletics – an approach that seems common sensible to many, but has become radical thinking next to the overbearing, overinvolved, and experience diminishing majority we see today – that I’d like to share.
Managing different personality types of players takes a great deal of work, but handling outlandish demands and unrealistic expectations of parents can make the job of a coach overwhelming.
“I just wanted to thank you for giving Wyatt a pitching lesson last night, and let you know that he’ll be coming regularly from now on,” Jeff began the email exchange. Common courtesy is steadily being replaced with entitlement. Jeff thanked me for a lesson for which he had paid – in the eyes of many, being a paying customer is a ticket to scrutinize, and is not a reason to display gratitude.
“[Wyatt] told me on the way home that he wants to stick with you, so you definitely made a positive impression on him. Thank you for that. I just want to make sure that you feel like he’s a good fit for you as well,” Jeff wrote.
None of that statement had anything to do with Jeff. He was happy that his son was pleased. Too often, we, as parents, are injecting our own thoughts and emotions into situations that have little (if anything) to do with us. Not that I think 11-year olds should have free reign over all things, but shouldn’t their opinions be considered regarding some decisions that affect them directly? Furthermore, Jeff considered whether I, as a coach, thought his son was a good fit for me. Consideration that deep displays even further that this decision has nothing to do with Jeff, and everything to do with his son. Everyone says they want what’s best for their child. How many of us actually live it?
“As far as baseball goes,” Jeff continued, “I’ve watched enough Little League games to know that [Wyatt] has a special talent. My goals for him are no different though. I just want him to be the best he can be.”
I’ve seen enough baseball to know that Wyatt has an extraordinary talent. After our first lesson (before I knew whether they’d be back for a second) I came home and told my wife, “I may have had the pitching version of Bryce Harper stumble across my website.” In my email response to Jeff I mentioned something I have seen become universal truth, “I can tell you that Wyatt’s talent will only take him as far as it is matched with a passion to play the game. Big talent excites me, I won’t lie, but I have no desire to put ‘my stamp’ on your son. His talent is his own, and I have no goals for him other than that I hope he loves to play baseball.”
The talent of the player is too often equaled by an overbearing nature of the parent (i.e. the greater the talent, the more involved the parent would like to be with every aspect of training and games). This was not the case with Jeff. He was almost standoffish, even though I invited him to come as close as he’d like (I like another set of eyes and ears on my lessons whenever possible). Jeff never injected opinion into Wyatt’s lesson. He was merely interested in exchanging ideas. I thought he asked appropriate questions and allowed me to coach his son.
I often wonder how and when disrespect for authority (our teachers, coaches, police officers, etc.) became so rampant. Maybe if we, as parents, weren’t so quick to backtalk, degrade, and berate authority figures, this never would have happened. Maybe if we handle our business a little more like Jeff, we can help bring respect back to those who are attempting to positively impact the lives of others.
Ryan Speier is a professional pitching instructor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He played professionally for 12 seasons, was a member of the 2007 National League Champion, Colorado Rockies, and has coached at the NCAA Division-I level. Ryan is a dad, husband, and follower of Jesus Christ. Find Ryan on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/SpeierBaseball/