Tension between parents and league

This story is three years old, so hopefully things have been resolved by now. But it illustrates the issues of field use and communication youth leagues often go through.

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Message to baseball parents from John Smoltz

Newly inducted Hall-of-Famer, John Smoltz is the first-ever inductee to have had ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, better known as “Tommy John” surgery. Smoltz finished his induction speech with an important message for parents of youth travel-ball players. Take heed moms and dads. Smoltzie knows what he’s talking about.

Question from travel ball parent about playing time

We received this email recently from a reader who had read one of our blog posts. Below is his question, and our response:

Just read your article because I am concerned about playing time for my son.  He plays on a travel team that is professionally coached.  Let me say first, that I don’t believe politics are a problem on this team.  I want to speak with the coach about what my son can do to earn more playing time.  For instance, I want to see if its a matter of work ethic or attitude?  Does he need private instruction for hitting or pitching?  I have coached youth sports so I would like to think I understand the pressures of being in that role.  I basically want a plan from the coach on how we can get my son prepared to offer more for the team.  In your opinion, is that not setting a good example for my son?  Helping him to understand how to ask for help and get better at something?  Any ideas on best way to communicate with my coach about this or do you recommend my son has this conversation?

Thanks,

Our response:

Thank you for your message. I understand your concern.

In order to better answer your question, it would be helpful to know what age we are talking about. If your son is eight years old it is a little more difficult to advise him to approach the coach about playing time than if he’s, say, 13. With that said, however, I still always recommend the player go to the coach rather than the parent. As I wrote in my article, if we as parents constantly intervene to clear the path of obstacles for our kids, then they will be less equipped to handle adversity on their own later. The other downside to parents approaching the coach is that if players do begin getting more playing time, we will never know if it was deserved or if it came as a result of our stepping in. Plus, if we talk to the coach and this leads to more playing time for our child, that means another boy gets less. Then, do his parents approach the coach? It would be difficult to coach a team if every parent was trying to jockey for position on their son’s behalf.

I’m not saying this is what you’re doing by the way. I know you’d like to see if there is something you son can do better/different to earn his time. I’m sure lessons and extra practice won’t hurt. You might want to watch some of the team’s practices and see if you notice any issues with work ethic or attitude. But, in a nutshell, I believe it would be best to have the player talk to the coach, at least initially. You may get all the answers you wished for, while at the same time teaching your son a valuable lesson in handling difficult situations on his own.

Hope this helps. Good luck.
(The reader replied, “Thanks, Coach. Good advice. BTW, He is 11U so will be 11 in April.  Thanks for your response.”)