One of my first experiences dealing with a youth sports parent happened while I was the head coach of a high school baseball team. During that season, our team would normally stop to get a bite to eat after an away game. This had been a normal occurrence during my five previous years as a baseball coach in the program. It was an excellent opportunity for the baseball players, coaches and team managers to build some team unity. Especially after a win!
During the middle of that season, we were on a trip that was about an hour from home. The game had just finished and we had won. The players agreed we should stop and get something to eat on our way home. Some of the team parents had also made a small bag lunch for the players to eat, but it wasn’t very much food. It was a nice gesture, but most of our players were still hungry and wanted to go to McDonald’s.
As we were loading the bus to leave the game, one parent stepped on the bus and asked me why we were planning on going to McDonald’s. I explained to her that most of the players were still hungry and wanted to stop quickly. The youth sports parent then told the bus driver that heSHOULD NOT stop at the restaurant! I couldn’t believe it!
After the parent got off the bus, I told the bus driver that we would still be making a quick stop at the restaurant. He shook his head in disbelief that a youth sports parent would actually come on the bus and tell him that. I don’t think that had ever happened to him before that.
At the Restaurant
We arrived at the restaurant and about two-thirds of the baseball team got off the bus to order food. One of the respectful traditions on our team was that the players would always let the coaches order their food first. If a player went in front of a coach, the team would do a little more conditioning at our next practice. “More conditioning” at practice was not very much and the players knew that it was more fun than punishment. Again, more of a tradition than anything else.
In McDonald’s that day, one of our players decided to order his food first. The rest of the players were kind of laughing, as were we (the coaches). The players knew that they were going to get a little more conditioning the next day, but they were not upset and neither were we.
After all of us coaches got our food, we ate while the players ordered their food and went to the bus with it. We needed to stay in the restaurant to supervise the players. When all the players were done ordering, we followed the last ones out and got on the bus. We went home.
Next Day – Athletic Director Wants to Talk With Us Coaches
Unbelievable! The next afternoon, the high school athletic director wanted to talk with us. He told us that the parent had called him and complained. Below is a list of her complaints:
- We showed disrespect to her by bringing the team to McDonald’s and not listening to her.
- All the coaches made the players sit on the bus while we sat inside and ate our food. She knew this because she was eating at another restaurant across the street. Obviously this isn’t true. We ate our food in the restaurant while the players ordered their food and took it to the bus.
- We are controlling coaches because we make our players run more if we don’t get to order our food first! This contradicts her previous statement. Obviously, the kids WERE in the restaurant and ordering with us. And, yes they did run a LITTLE bit more, but it was all in fun.
The athletic director was extremely supportive of us and our decisions. Part of the athletic department philosophy is to have the “Full Experience” of sports, which includes out of town trips on busses and eating at restaurants with the team.
Moral of the Story
Dealing with a youth sports parent is something you will have to do at some point if you coach a youth baseball team. Always act in a calm and respectful way and do what you know is right. Be sure you are an organized and prepared coach by:
- Holding a pre-season player and parent meeting where you explain to parents ALL team rules, policies and expectations. If you are prepared for this meeting and do a good job of communicating, many possible future parenting issues will be taken care of.
- Be sure your “boss” (athletic director, organization director, etc) has been informed and supports all of your rules, team policies and expectations before the season. That support is imperative!
To make a long story short, coaching youth baseball is a very rewarding job most of the time. However, you do need to be prepared to deal with an angry youth sports parent from time to time. If you know that up front and are prepared, you will do great! Have fun coaching!