THAT Youth Baseball Parent (You Know the One)
The story goes that a well-known umpire in our area some time back was the target of some verbal abuse from a youth baseball parent or two during a game. This umpire was generally regarded as a decent umpire and was part of the youth baseball landscape in our area. However, he was the target of great animosity on this particular day.
The story goes that two dads followed him across the parking lot to his car after the game. They intended to continue to express their displeasure for the job he had done in their sons’ game. The umpire placed his bag in the trunk and turned around, pistol in hand. “I said, ‘ball game.’” I suppose that was his way of preparing for THAT youth baseball parent.
I cannot confirm nor deny that this incident took place as the rumors said. Nevertheless, I’m not surprised by stories of physical altercations and rampant verbal abuse of umpires, coaches, and players that are abundant. This threatens the integrity of the game I have loved as far back as I can remember.
That’s why I’m writing Coach Dave, a book for dads and sons to read together.
Instead of lashing out at everything that is wrong with youth baseball, I am instead highlighting some of the best aspects of coaching and parenting that I have in my experience through my forthcoming book, entitled simply Coach Dave. If you are new here to the values storying blog, allow me to briefly give you a little background on my love affair with baseball:
- I began playing youth baseball at six years old and played until age 12, the oldest age group in our Little League program.
- My high school’s first year as a school was my sophomore year. I was a starter on a team that didn’t win a game my first year, played in the South State tournament my junior year, and played in the state tournament my senior year. When my last game was over, I was satisfied that I had played at the highest level my talent would allow. “Building a Baseball Program from the Ground Up” was one of my favorite chapters to write in my first book, Lines in the Gravel.
- I began to coach youth baseball after my freshman year of college and decided that I wanted to be a high school baseball coach. I coached at that level for 16 years. Trust me, I had many encounters with THAT youth baseball parent.
- I have two boys, known as Older Brother and the Little Fella on the blog. Older Brother is a senior submarine pitcher at a successful local high school program. The Little Fella is 11. He plays in a local recreational league in addition to countless neighborhood games.
- I provide color commentary for Older Brother’s team’s internet broadcast. My partner was a college All-American. Many of our conversations over the last three years have been to lament the worst of youth baseball and celebrate what’s still good about it…and to do our part to preserve it.
A Confession from THAT Youth Baseball Parent
Before I go into too much depth about my credentials to write about what’s wrong with youth baseball, let me make a confession that I have been THAT youth baseball parent.
- I have been the coach who was too driven, who micromanaged the game, who didn’t always make the game fun for his players.
- I have been the coach who cared more about wins and losses than about what was going on in his players’ lives.
- I have been the coach (and THAT youth baseball parent) who mercilessly ridiculed the ineptness of the umpires.
- I have been that inept umpire.
- I have been THAT youth baseball parent who coached his son through the fence, sometimes with the blessing of his coaches but oftentimes not.
I’m not the youth baseball parent that acts like that so much anymore. Don’t get me wrong, inept umpires still having a way of piercing even the thickest of my skin. And I still want to give my kids that little pointer during the action that will make a difference in their performance. But most of the time, the best thing I can do is be a dad and my boys’ biggest fan before, during, and after the game…no matter the result.
The Values Storying Potential of Baseball
I am still learning the lesson that I try to teach my boys: Baseball is a great game but a very poor god. It will let you down. It will break your heart. It will let you go before you’re ready to let it go.
But baseball also has the potential to teach great life lessons. It has the potential to encourage teamwork and camaraderie that players never forget. It has the potential to be a truly helpful microcosm of life.
I have seen tremendous examples of baseball coaches building character into their players. Coach Dave draws their best practices into one coach. It is a book for dads to read with their sons, a conversation starter about what the most noble goals of a baseball career should be.
I will be posting baseball posts here on the blog on a regular basis in the coming weeks as I prepare for a mid-spring release of Coach Dave. That is not a break from values storying, the passing of values from one generation to the next. Instead, it is a focus on one of the best vehicles I know for developing stories and encasing values in them. I hope you enjoy them and share them with every parent you know who has a son playing baseball at any level. Because you wouldn’t want them to be THAT youth baseball parent, would you?
What are some of the best and worst aspects of youth baseball that you have witnessed?
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.