REGGIE HAYES: New Year’s Resolutions for ‘woke’ youth sports parents

Fort Wayne Cardiology players mob McLean Trieglaff at home plate after he hit a home run to help his team win the 2008 Little League city tournament championship at St. Joe Little League's ball park. (news-sentinel.com file photo)

Fort Wayne Cardiology players mob McLean Trieglaff at home plate after he hit a home run to help his team win the 2008 Little League city tournament championship at St. Joe Little League's ball park. (news-sentinel.com file photo)

Do you drive your kids from home to practice to Dick’s Sporting Goods to games? Do you repeat that routine in various orders more than once a week? Do you regularly eat 9 p.m. “dinner” at the drive-through?

You might be a youth sports parent.

I have some New Year’s Resolutions for you.

Anyone can follow through on vows to lose weight, exercise more and avoid Facebook debates about free speech and Nazis. Few can make the resolution to be a better youth sports parent and stick to it all year, let alone the next sports season.

But you can do it. I know you can. All you have to do is pick up the most precious yet elusive commodity known to youth sports parents: Perspective.

Take a deep breath, exhale, and make these five resolutions:

1. “I’ll sit back and watch in silence.”

This is first on the list because it’s the most difficult. Your child benefits when you shut up. This applies to, but is not limited to, the following topics: coaching decisions, officiating calls, your kid’s missed shots or mistakes, another kid’s missed shots or mistakes, scoreboard operators, opposing players’ perceived attitude problems, opposing coach’s demeanor and the weather. OK, you can talk about the weather. The occasional “Let’s go!” is also acceptable. But don’t use a sarcastic tone.

Helpful tip: If you can’t keep completely silent, count to 10 before commenting and chances are the game will have moved on. The one exception is first-year players’ pitch baseball, where snails grow impatient with the pace of the game.

2. “I’ll refrain from post-game analysis of the coach.”

This is almost as tough as the first one because it’s pretty obvious the coach is a moron who only cares about his own kid, who just happened to take the most shots in the game. Yeah, the coach’s kid made eight of his 10 shots, but those misses were ridiculous, am I right?

We’ve all been tempted to second-guess the coach. Why did he call that play? Why did he make that substitution? Why doesn’t he realize my kid’s the best player on the team, held back only by his coaching incompetence? (Say that last one aloud sometimes, and watch other parents slowly back away.)

Depending on the level, the coach is either a volunteer or modestly paid. Either way, the chances of him or her undermining your child because of an “agenda” is highly unlikely. The coach will make mistakes. The coach might use a different lineup than you would if you were coaching, but don’t forget your own biases when assessing that. And the less you say to your child, the better.

3. “I’ll drop my child off at practice, and pick up a book.”

Unless you’re volunteering to coach, drop off and pick up. There’s nothing worse than a parent who spends practices watching his or her child and coaching them from afar, either with words or non-verbal cues. Let you child know the coach is in charge. Treat yourself to some free time to put your mind on something else. You’ll both benefit, as will the coach.

4. “I’ll quit obsessing about the travel team.”

There are good, bad and indifferent travel teams. Too many parents get suckered into the idea that they have to invest thousands of dollars in team fees and travel to ensure their child gets the best possible sports advantage. “But, but, this could lead to a college scholarship!” Yes, it could, in theory. But consider the money being spent for the travel team. Parents can easily spend $2000+ per year over four, five or six years. Add that up. It’ll sound similar to most scholarship deals for athletes other than the Division I basketball and football players. Most of our kids aren’t Division I players. Many skilled high school players end up playing at the lower levels in college, which can be a great experience. Many of those same athletes can land academic scholarships, if they’ve spent as much time in the books as on the court.

Additional tip: Travel teams for children younger than 10 years old are idiotic. That’s as mildly as I can put it.

5. “I’ll let my child start conversations about his or her sports experience.”

We’ve spent two hours watching the game or, more accurately, watching our child play in the game. We want to rehash it. Talk about the great plays. Talk about the mistakes. Talk about everything that happened along the way. Here’s the issue: Sometimes our kids want to let it soak in, think about something else and revisit it when it’s more distant. They’ll be ready to talk like crazy after the great moments, the wins and the championships. But that doesn’t happen every night. Some nights, the game stinks. Some nights, our kid’s play stinks. Let your child initiate. Don’t analyze, don’t criticize, don’t even rationalize.

My best advice for those resolving to be better youth sports parents? Remember it’s your child’s experience, not yours.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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