Still more about playing time and parents

We continue to get questions sent to us about our article about parents and their kids’ playing time. Below is one received yesterday, and our response. We can only hope that the parents of this coach-pitch level boy are slightly exaggerating the behavior of this coach. We have a feeling they are not.

I just read your article on playing time and while I agree, in theory, with your point about parents not intervening regarding playing time – what do you think parents should do if a coach is really out of control?

My older two boys (15 & 12) play travel and high school baseball. My husband and I have NEVER discussed playing time with their coaches. When they were or weren’t getting playing time – we have left it to them to earn more or talk with their coach. My husband has coached for years, my brother is a high school coach, and we have fantastic friendships with our other boys current and past coaches.

My eight year old is on a team this spring with the same coach he had last year. For the first time in 10 years of having kids playing youth baseball we requested a different coach and somehow ended back with this guy. Quite frankly – he is a jerk. Yesterday was the first game and he had his kid and his kids two best friends play 6 innings in the infield while there were other kids on the team who played two in the infield and two on the bench (which is actually against league rules). Last year he let my son play short stop while his kid was taking a bathroom break and when his kid came back he pulled my 7 year old out mid-inning and said loudly enough to be heard by the audience “X sit down – X is back now and he is better than you”. He laughs at kids when they make errors. This is in an instructional/recreational (not travel) coach pitch league with a five run limit per inning where the final score is often 25-25. Nothing is at stake except the kids feelings and development.

My husband and I are trying to figure out what to do. Do you think that when an adult is behaving this badly and the kids are this young – parents should still do nothing? I am really struggling with this because while I believe kids need to learn to navigate these situations themselves – it seems that parents should protect kids from adults who are abusing their power.

I am assuming that you have gotten feedback from your article so I would love your perspective on if it is ever appropriate to say anything to the coach or even the commissioner?

Our response:

Thank you for your note and your comments. You are correct, I do get a lot of feedback from my article. Very often my advice is probably not what the parent wants to hear, because I “read between the lines” in their complaints and can tell that the reality is that the coach really isn’t being unfair, but the player is simply not deserving of playing time based on performance and/or effort, isn’t working hard enough, etc. But in these cases we’re talking about older kids than yours.

The fact that you have older sons playing, your husband coaches, and that you say you have not ever complained about playing time leads me to believe that this is an unusual and difficult situation. My article was aimed at the parents of older children. Of course, I would not say that an eight year-old should have to talk to the coach about his playing time. Especially if this guy is as big a jerk as you describe.

At that age, all kids should be rotated around to all positions. Maybe the positions shouldn’t be 100% equal in distribution, but no one should play the entire game in the infield, nor the outfield. And no player should ever sit out a second inning until everyone else has sat out his first.

So the part where I provide advice is a little tougher. I have a feeling you don’t want to be the complaining parents, that this isn’t your style. And if the coach were following the rules to a T, but was just a snide, unpleasant guy, I’d almost say you’re going to have to put up with it. However, if he is breaking the rules in terms of playing time and/or positions, it absolutely should be reported. Again, I can only take you at your word about how big a jerk this guy is, but from your description it seems unlikely that having a conversation with him will bear fruit. I would definitely report what he is doing, (the rules part) to the commissioner and I think I’d fill in the other details about his demeanor as well. You may want to ask that the commissioner not mention who reported the information so that there is less chance of retribution against your son.

Of course, the best-case outcome means that the coach will have to follow the rules to the minimum standard, which still might allow him to be unfair about rotating player around, (just not AS unfair) and it is unlikely he will stop being a jerk. So the only three options beyond this I can think of would be to see if your husband can volunteer to help as an assistant, (which this guy may not accept), or just make the best of if or, if it gets too bad, pull your son off the team.

I’m sorry that this is happening and wish I had more to offer. I hope this helps and thanks again for writing.