I am not completely serious about saving youth sport, but, what if two youth coaching rules prevented many unfortunate situations. Often a day does not go by, when I do not read, or hear, of some obnoxious parent(s) on the sidelines. Their offensive behavior ruins the sport experience for many, especially youth players, and specifically the children of the unruly parents. Yet, little, if anything, occurs to prevent those unpleasant situations and, unfortunately, those type conditions seem to have gotten worse over the years.
Team coaches have the ability to help the situation, but many either do not know what to do or are afraid to do it. The responsibility of keeping parents within the bounds of perspective and sportsmanship is not a pleasant one, but coaches are in the best position to do something.
Maybe, the greatest coach, John Wooden, often said that the coach has the best possible motivation and disciplinary tool available the bench. Sure, it is youth sports, and all kids deserve the opportunity to play, but when people take the enjoyment of playing away, coaches have a responsibility to act by benching players. Using Coach Wooden's advice, coaches must bench any player whose parent is out of line.
Coaches should institute two youth coaching rules from day the team has tryouts or the day the team gets together for the first time, when no tryouts exist. Rule #1 Players of parents, who rant during games at their child, another player, the referees, the opposition coaches, and/or opposing fans, gets their child an immediate spot on the bench.
Once again, coaches must make this rule clear to parents before tryouts or with the first formation of the team. With that, parents, who feel they cannot abide by the clearly expressed rule, should not have their child try out or remain on the team.
Facetiously, coaches can use the yellow and red card, as soccer referees do, and give parents an initial warning that if the behavior continues, their son or daughter will sit for the remainder of the game. The point is that once a parent's behavior becomes uncomfortable and effects players, coaches need to extend that message to parents that their attitude must change quickly, or the coach must use the bench for their child.
Of course, there is some subjectivity to the coach's decision, but at the youth sport level, there should not even be borderline obnoxious behavior, period. By volunteering to coach, the coach has earned the right to have rules that are for the players' benefit. Coaches must even be willing to play shorthanded, if need be, to make a point and stop unnecessary, inappropriate behavior. The benching of a player for that reason may, and probably will, cause additional problem. The unruly parent may create a second scene with the coach, which is another issue coaches must address from the beginning with another mandatory rule.
Rule # 2 Parents cannot confront the coach with issues before, during, or after games or practices. Issues are only to be discussed with a phone call or at another mutually arranged time with other coaches present. Parents, who break this rule, get their child an automatic suspension from the team.
At the high school level of sport, this agreement should come in writing with parents signing a paper agreeing to the rules. The child may suffer a little embarrassment from the benching, and it is unfortunate they pay the price for their parents' behavior, but the embarrassment is not nearly as much as they have from watching an out-of- line parent embarrass everyone, including them, the child, the team, and the sport.
Leagues and organizations must help coaches have and institute these two youth coaching
rules. Preventing even half these common youth sport incidents would be a step in the right direction of more enjoyable youth sport experiences for all. Finally, coaches are often the source of disruptive behavior themselves, so it works the other way, too, when parents should hold coaches accountable with their behavior - a story for another day.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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