Ever dealt with a crazy baseball parent? You know, the kind who yells from the bleachers, berates the coaches, and makes fun of the kids trying to have fun on the field?
Or, maybe you've gotten a bit too caught up in the competition yourself? Have you found yourself screaming from the stands, bad-mouthing your child's coaches, or raging against the umpire's call?
Whether you're dishing it out or taking it, Little League Parent Syndrome (LLPS) is a real thing. Seriously. Coined by psychologists, it describes the irrational way that some adults behave during youth sporting events.
LLPS dampens team spirits, places too much pressure on kids, and ruins what would otherwise be a fun learning experience. Let's stop LLPS dead in its tracks this season! Read on to find out more about how to be a good and supportive baseball parent.
Ten thousand youth athletes were asked to rank various aspects of athletic competition by importance. Do you know where "winning" ranked?
Turns out, most kids want to play organized sports so that they can hang out with friends and teammates. They like the confidence boost. And they enjoy the chance to learn something new.
But there's a flip side. The parents of these youth athletes were also asked to rank organized sports by benefits. Where did parents rank "winning"? As you may have guessed, winning came right at the top. The focus on triumphing at all costs is where the problem lies...
Kids have the wisdom and discernment to see baseball for what it is, an enjoyable experience. And baseball parents need to be brought around to this way of thinking. It only takes one parent exhibiting signs of LLPS to ruin the game for everyone.
So, what causes some parents to flip the switch on LLPS? Psychologists believe a mixture of factors could be at play. For one, some parents project themselves onto their children. They attempt to re-live their own baseball dreams through their kids.
Comparing your son or daughter to anybody, including yourself, is unfair and harmful. Instead, recognize your children as the independent, autonomous human beings that they are. Your kids have strengths and weaknesses all their own. They have their own interests and dreams, too. Never try to recapture a piece of your own youth through them.
Other parents heap unbearable pressure on their kids. They want baseball to "pay off" through a college scholarship, professional contract, or both. But what are the odds of actually earning a baseball scholarship? Or, a pro contract? They're right up there with picking the right lotto numbers.
So, start guessing...
That's not to say that little leaguers don't go on to play in the pros. But those who do have developed a serious love of the game. And they respect their teammates and sportsmanship. They're not the kids whose parents mortified them from the bleachers with violent rants.
Finally, there are those adults who measure their worth as a parent on how well their kids perform. The truth is, though, how well your kid plays ball is not a reflection on your parenting skills.
But you know what are indicators of effective parenting? Whether or not your kid behaves on the field, how well they participate, and if they can lose with grace.
Every baseball parent gets frustrated now and then. After all, little league adds stress to your life. You have the gear to buy, practices to attend, and volunteering to do.
We've all witnessed what looks like coach favoritism or unfair ump calls at some point. We all want to make sure that we get our "money's worth" out of the season. When our team loses or our child becomes a benchwarmer, it's easy to feel disgruntled.
This is when it's important to ask yourself how you're giving back...
Are you actively volunteering with the league? Are you paying fees on time and making donations when needed? Are you modeling good behavior for your kids by following field rules and being respectful?
Instead of second-guessing every move your team's coaches are making, remember to thank them for volunteering their time. Learn to trust them and respect their decisions. After all, it's impossible to know what the strategy is let alone read a coach's mind from the bleachers.
Still feel like you have a better approach than your kid's current coaches? Then, why not become during a future season?
You'll soon realize that it's a tough, often a thankless job. But if you're in it for the love of the game, your reward will be the experience. Coaching little league puts the game back in perspective.
If you're irritated by something that is or isn't happening in your league, offer to lend a hand. Little leagues are notoriously understaffed and could use the extra help. Getting involved "behind the scenes" or as a coach will help you gain perspective.
How baseball parents behave directly impacts whether or not their children grow up to love the game. The baseball field should be a welcome place where kids build confidence, learn discipline, and work as a team. It should be a place for fun, experimentation, and growth.
Good parenting involves providing our kids with opportunities to try, fail, try again, and eventually succeed. It involves teaching them how to be patient, deal with disappointment, and develop self-reliance. Winning has very little to do with baseball in the large scheme of things.
Model the behavior you want to see in your kids from the bleachers, in the dugout, and on the field. Stop focusing on umpire calls, player positions, and the score. Instead, use baseball to teach important lessons about conduct, teamwork, and resilience.
After all, it's not about winning. It's about developing life skills and build self-esteem. It's about creating memories that last a lifetime.