As the 2010 baseball season approaches I felt like I should remind all us Coaches, Dads, parents and fans of a few guidelines that keep the game in perspective.  (adapted from an article by Gwen Diaz in the Sports Spectrum Winter 2010 issue.)

“Too many parents and coaches are vicariously reliving unfulfilled sports careers through the lives of their kids.  Or some may be  nurturing fantasies of a tuition-free college education. They don’t want their children to merely participate in a sport, they want them to play on the “best” teams, become the biggest starts and stomp out all their opponents in no uncertain terms.” Our emotion can quickly crowd out the facts, stats and future for our kids as we become loud and obnoxious on the field or court.

I was sitting with a wise sports enthusiast watching a game recently when the coach of the team ran on to the court yelling and waving his arms at the referee.  To which he received a technical foul.  To which my friend also immediately asked me “that coach did not make it as big in his career as his ego thought he should go, did he?”  I looked at him in a questioning way to which he responded “most of the time the coach who yells and is that demonstrative on the court of field is a control freak living vicariously through their kids.  Their goal is to make up for their own inadequacies or failures in their career or athletic abilities.  He probably wasn’t that good in high school.” I sat in quiet as the game continued and my mind contemplated what I had just heard.

Following that discussion I felt it necessary to share some guidelines for all us coaches, dads, parents and fans to keep us from getting the greatest “technical foul” from our kids and friends.

1. Remember the real reason we are at the game: to watch our kids grow, develop, learn teamwork and have fun.

2. Restrain yourself from being overly concerned with the outcome: it should be about the emotional, social and spiritual lessons our kids can learn than the trophies they bring home. (Last week parents were discussing what to do with all their kids old, dust gathering trophies that cover their rooms)

3. Resist coaching from the sidelines: it usually just embarrasses your child anyway.  “if you’re that good of a coach, sign up to coach next season!”  Pacing and yelling only draw attention to you, be supportive and give compliments to your child or the kids you coach.  I once had a coach who would make notes the entire game. In the team gathering at the end of the game he would share from his notes a great moment of the game for each player in front of the entire team.  (Thank Roger for this example)

4. Refuse to take part in toxic behavior: Negative comments spread rapidly like a virus and can affect the entire team and crowd. They cause dissension and distrust.

5. Remain positive despite the outcome, the lonely ride home: pointing out areas of skill that need improvement only makes a child feel unsuccessful.  Why not ask: “Did you do your best?” Did you have fun?” “Were you a good teammate?”  Usually they are more concerned with getting in the pool, riding their bike or where we’re going to eat, than the outcome of the game.  I loved coaching at the coach-pitch level for this very reason.  The fastest some of the kids ran all day was to the concession stand after the game for their ‘team coke.’

6. Respect and honor others: parents, coaches, referees, umpires, and other players are watching you.  Especially YOUR child!  Outburst and complaining at the game or even on the way home is showing your child what the example for an adult.  Do we really want them copying us on our bad days?  Disrespect and demeaning others, whether in public, in the car, or in print does not show our best side or help our kids become better adults or parents (of our grand kids).

Gwen is author and teacher.  Her husband is Florida Area Director for Search Ministries and serves as the Spring Training Chapel Leader for the Detroit Tigers.