This article was written by:
former Head Baseball Coach
University of Kentucky
04/05/1996 Collegiate Baseball issue
Recently, when coaches talk to me about the most pressing issues concerning
their baseball programs, ranked near the top along with gender equity,
scholarship reduction, and finding a quality left-hander, is the increasing
problem of parents interfering with the coach-player relationship.
Fortunately, in most cases, parents train and support their young players;
and then at the high school and college level, they turn them over to
professional coaches. It is a wonderful thing to see a parent teaching a
seven-year-old how to catch, throw, or hit a baseball, but it is downright
embarrassing to see a parent yelling instructions from the stands or
coaching behind the dugout during a high school or college game.
Everyone, except the parent and especially the player, is embarrassed by
this type of interference. Even more out of place is the parent who
complains to the coach about playing time or where his/her son should be
hitting in the lineup. The conversation usually end with, "I would not want
him to know we discussed this."
Why donít they want their son to know ? Their son wants to be a man and
handle his own problems, if there really is one; unfortunately, some parents
want to "fix" everything for the son, not allowing him to grow up. I wonder
how many calls Gen. Schwarzkopf received from parents discussing the
strategy of using thousands of 18 and 19-year-olds during the Persian Gulf
One coach of a national championship team recently shared with me a story
about returning victorious from the College World Series in Omaha only to
receive a phone call as he was walking in the door of his home from a
complaining father about the lack of his sonís playing time and playing time
and possible transfer.
Whatever happened to the team concept ? I have had other successful coaches
share similar stories. One very successful Division I coach recently
resigned, citing parents with unrealistic expectations and interferences as
one of the major problems. He said, "IT JUST WASNíT FUN ANYMORE."
We all have roles to play in the development of these young athletes. As
coaches, we are so blessed to be a part of their lives. Our role as a coach
is to provide an opportunity for the athlete to fully develop the skills
needed to become the best he can possibly become while fulfilling the
important task of fitting into a team concept thus ensuring success for the
Some suggestions for coaches who may encounter the "Parent Syndrome":
- Communicate openly with your players about potential problems. Let them
know that you choose not to discuss strategy or playing time with their
- If parents call or write, let them know immediately of your policy not to
discuss strategy or playing time with them. Also, make sure you make the
parents aware of your desire to discuss academics, or any personal problem
that may help you work with their son.
- Alert the player that any phone calls received from the parents that
concerns playing time or strategy will be discussed with the player. Also
let them know that any negative letters received from parents will be shared
with the player.
- Treat your players the way you would want your son treated. Make fairness
to players and parents priority. Remember, the young man in your program
will be your player for just a few years, he will always be his parentís
Some suggestions for parents dealing with your sonís baseball career:
- Baseball gives a young person an opportunity to compete and play within
the framework and guidelines of a team concept. Encourage your son to be a
team player. Spend as much time discussing the team as you do his individual
- Help you son to grow and mature by allowing him to handle his
relationship with his coach by himself. Unless the coach is placing your son
in danger of hurting himself, let him handle his problems. You may suggest
to your son positive ways to approach his coach and the respectful way to
discuss the problem, but donít interfere. If a coach is forcing your son to
play with a serious injury or allowing him to throw too many pitches on too
little rest, they you have every right to step in.
- Talk to your son more about effort and less about performance. Otherwise
you are expressing conditional love, i.e. "If you go 2-for-4, I love you. If
you go 0-for-4, I donít love you."
- Praise a positive attitude regardless of performance. Make your son aware
of negative attitude and negative body language regardless of performance.
Attitude is a choice, performance isnít.
- It is encouraging for a player to see his parents in the stands cheering
for team. It is embarrassing for a player when his parents try to help coach
or when they try to get too close to the coach. Peer pressure can be
devastating if your sonís teammates see you as someone wanting special
favors from the coach.