Fessing Up on Less-Than-Perfect Sideline Behavior

The Sporting Dad admits to a few instances over the course of 15 years.

Google gives 74,900,000 results when the phrase youth sports parents is entered. You can narrow it down to: 18,600,000 by adding violence; 5,180,000 if you replace violence with fighting; 3,090,000 by swapping fighting for out of control; 2,870,000 for trading your lack of control for guns; 2,720,000 means ditching the gun but adding pressure.

 Although not particularly scientific, it does indicate that a whole lot of people realize that we have some serious issues here in Youth Sport’s Land. Almost as scary are the people I’m finding who are in complete denial.

 With so much focus, and so much attention on these problems, why haven’t we solved them? Some are all too common. We’ve all seen them. Yet the stories seem to get more bizarre by the week.

 We hand out manuals to coaches, and pledges to parents. But as parents and coaches — as adults — it’s crucial to everything else going on around us that we act appropriately.

 OK, so now I have to confess. I haven’t always been the perfect little parent spectator that I should have been. So I’ll share the few instances where I did not act properly and then we can discuss how I should have handled them later in the comments.

 My Bad #1: The Boy (10 years old at the time) is scheduled to pitch from a portable mound. During practice it sinks as he pushes off the rubber (he was the size of most 12 year olds). The opposing coach agrees to let him pitch without it. When the umpire arrives (also a league official), he demands the mound be put back. I argue. He argues back. Oh, our voices get kind of loud too.

My Bad #2: A football game. I feel as though the opposing team is running up the score on my son’s team (I’m a spectator and not coaching). At the time, I am on the league’s board as are the two opposing coaches. We all know the rules that are in place. I yell across the field, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU ARE STILL PASSING THE BALL?” One of them yells, “OH, DON’T LISTEN TO HIM!”

 My Bad #3: A playoff baseball game. I am coaching first base. Lightning is flashing in the distance. A week earlier I had researched and finished the “Lightning Rules” for our youth football league. Much of it is taken from Little League Baseball’s website. So why are we still playing? I get a little loud. OK, I whipped the parents into a frenzy and lead a chorus of chants directed at the umpire. I know, I know, I should have sent the kids home at the first sound of thunder or flicker of lightning. But the umps control the game.

 Incidentally, this past year I was at a high school football game where lightning could be seen in the distance and the refs allowed the game to continue until it was directly above us. For the record, I kept quiet even as all the voices inside of my head were telling me to jump the fence and talk to the officials. Months later I ran into the head official and asked why the game continued. He said they did not see the lightning. So should I have said something at the game?

 How many is “a few”?

 My Bad #4: The Boy is riding the bench way too much for a 12 year old (at the time). He’s not the only one. Classic scenario of Coach’s buddy’s kids playing more. While I don’t use specific names, I go on Facebook and voice my displeasure after the last game of the season. Oh and I also note the number of innings he’s played and how many fewer times he’s batted compared to the others. I’d forgotten that Coach was a Facebook friend.

 Remember, these are stretched out over 15 years.

 My Bad #5: Baseball again. I’m a spectator. Out-of-town team is ripping us apart. It’s late in the game and their first base coach is still having his kids steal and take extra bases. I ask him if it’s really necessary to rub it in. He’s now in my face. Using potty language, he tells me to mind my own business. I say (so only he can hear), “It is my business, and you, sir, are a poor example of a coach.” More potty language from him as I walk away.

 So there they are. All of them could have been handled better by both sides. Any one of them could have had an explosive outcome. None of them did.

The only way I can think of helping to cut back some of this craziness is by talking, writing, showing, and using personal examples. The Boy will be playing high school sports next year and I will strive to be the perfect sideline parent.

 Something will inevitably trigger some of those same emotions, but I’ll think of My Bad #'s 1-5. I have to. We all do if anything is going to change. Just ask Google.





David Richardson March 23, 2012 at 03:31 PM
i dont remember making a mistake while coaching little league baseball. And all the umpires should apologize to me. But thanks for your experiences.
Ron Goralski March 23, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I actually believe you. How about this: I want to apologize for being a jerk when we played Little League and one game I sat in my team's dugout and was yelling every time you went into your windup. It's because of that memory that I made sure the players I coached in later years didn't make a sound once the pitcher was in his windup. I've become a stickler for players being good sports since (1975?) when you pitched for the Indians.
Ron Goralski March 23, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Plus you could have beat me up but didn't. And we went on to become great friends!
Lisa Gillette March 23, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Hi Ron, This was great to read! Let me share a story! Lost our best friends, over a little league playoff game, back about 6 yrs ago! My husband was the coach, we were playing my son's best friends team, and his best friends parents were our best friends! We were together all of the time, away from baseball, socially - the kids alway hung out, went to school together! During the game my husband saw my son's bf miss third base on what would have been the winning run! He brought it to the attention of the ump, (coulda woulda shoulda) not so sure he should have. However, all had witnessed this missed bag and were pressuring my husband to say something. My son's bf's dad was also a coach on the other team! Needless to say, we did everything in our power to appoligize and wanted to hold onto what we thought was a true friendship! But nope never spoke to us again, never answered the phone, his bf was not allowed at our house! So who did they really punish? Maybe my husband should have kept that missed play inside, then what is he teaching our son and the boys he was coaching. My son and his friend have manage to hold onto their friendship, thankfully! I only wish we could have done the same. Owell... my son will be playing baseball at Stonehill College in the fall.... so I guess maybe my husband was a pretty good coach and Dad! Take care Ron. Lisa Gillette
Ron Goralski March 24, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Hi Lisa, Wow-wow-wow! What a couple of idiots. They don't deserve good friends. If the kid missed the base - he missed the freaking base! Yup that's part of the problem if some of you out there think I'm being too harsh on some of the coaches and parents. Grow up out there! It's not about you! A coach has the obligation to question what was seen by everyone else. It's part of the game! Lisa I'm sure one day this couple will realize that they are morons. What a terrible lesson they are teaching their son. Good for the boys for keeping the friendship going. Great that your son is moving to the next level. I'd like to get a chance to talk with him about his path to college ball and pick his brain a bit about his thoughts on a few subjects.


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