The following email was received the morning after a game. Immediately after the game, I was verbally abused by the player’s mother in front of the players and the parents.
Email from Dad to ALL Parents and Coaches
“I’d just like to recap what happened at yesterdays game for those of you with blinders on. With our game excruciatingly out of hand at 14-3, these “wonderful” coaches told a 10 year old in the 5th inning, that you are not going to go to bat this inning, thus purposely pulling him out of the line up and denying him his 2nd turn to hit. Again, the score was 14-3!!. Never in my 44 years of playing, coaching or watching baseball, have I witnessed any move by a coach so cruel. 10 year old baseball folks.
Now on this Father’s Day, I have to comfort my son and try to explain to him why he had been humiliated in front of his family, friends, and most especially, his teammates. Great job you wonderful coaches!”
The background is that I coach a U11 team. We’re in our third year as a team and I’m proud to say we have all the same players we started with. The first two years, we made the parents aware we would have equal playing time and allow players to play multiple positions. Prior to this year, we told the parents that playing time would not be equal, and we’d start having the players play positions they were best suited for to compete. We play in an A division competitive league. League minimum playing time is 6 defensive outs per game, no at bat rule, and we’re allowed to use an extra hitter to bat 10 players (I have twelve on the team) which I do.
This parent’s player fits into what I’d say is my developmental group of players (about 5 of the 12) who typically play 4 innings a game while the “starters” typically play the whole game (which is six innings). I track at bats throughout the year to make sure players get equal at bats within the groups, but playing time in the field is not equal. In this game, we weren’t hitting and several players had gotten up only once, including this parent’s son. In the normal course of substitutions, I removed his son in favor of another player who hasn’t gotten as many at bats this year. So this parents son batted once, as did several other players on the team during the game, while the player I substituted batted twice. It happens all the time when we’re not hitting, and in some games players haven’t gotten any at-bats which I make sure to address in the next game with line-ups and batting order.
COACH HENZE’S ANSWER
Thanks for the question Bob!
Based on what you have submitted, it is my belief that the parent acted totally out of line by verbally abusing you post-game (in front of others) and sending an irate email to all of the coaches and parents. There is NO place for that in youth sports whatsoever!
To be honest, I am 100% certain that most of the other parents want nothing to do with this parent’s behavior. They are probably embarrassed by the whole situation and I am guessing that you will probably receive some supportive comments from many of them.
How to Respond?
I think you should respond with something like:
Thank you for the note. I understand you have some concerns about my coaching style. Instead of involving other families, as you have in this email, I would feel more comfortable if we could meet personally to discuss your concerns.
Would you like to meet for coffee tomorrow morning? If that doesn’t work, please let me know when you are available.
Always start your email response with a “Thank you.” It sets the tone that you are respectful and will listen. It will make him re-think how he has treated you. He is trying to “bait” you into responding irrationally so he has more “evidence” against you. By keeping your cool, he has nothing!
There is a good chance that he will not respond or that he will not want to meet with you. That is his choice. However, if he does want to meet, be sure to meet in a public place (he will be forced to act more maturely) and be sure to have your ducks in a row. Make sure that you have notes that remind him about your pre-season conversations about playing time and calmly tell him how you see the situation. If you are following “league-ok’d” rules, you have nothing to worry about.
If, after you meet with him, he still wants to act irrationally, that is his choice. Simply move on and coach your team. You should also notify your organization about the problems you are having with this parent. They should have no problems supporting you as long as you are following their rules and have always been up-front with this parent.
Overall, just remember to stay calm and stick to the facts. Don’t allow him to “bait” you into becoming irrational yourself. It is easy to fall into that trap, but stay strong.
Wow… Coaching youth sports should be fun, but this happens much too often. I hope things get better for you and your entire team (players, coaches and parents). Let me know how things go or if you have further questions.