Another weekend of the 2015 summer travel softball season has just passed. And with it, sadly, more stories of the unbelievable behavior of parents. From a coach jumping a fence to break up a fight to a mom using her vehicle to block the tournament gate, you cannot make up the kind of lunacy that happens all too frequently at youth sporting events.
I had a long conversation with a couple of Division 1 college coaches this weekend who reiterated, with emphasis, what I’ve been told over recent years: PARENTS ARE BEING RECRUITED TOO!
Parents are being recruited at all levels of college softball. And yes, I have mentioned this in numerous articles before. And it is becoming more common for travel coaches to do the same. The bottom line is this: No matter how talented your daughter is, if a coach anticipates that you may be a thorn in his/her side, they’ll want nothing to do with your daughter.
After a coach decides they are seriously interested in a player, they attend a game and watch the parents. Some parental behavior has been so far off the charts over the years that this is actually one of the early steps in a player’s recruiting process. Just think about that for a moment. It’s not, “Okay, let’s see what her ACT or GPA is.” It’s, “Are her parents well-behaved?”
Okay, so there are some obvious displays of bad behavior like those mentioned above. So, here are some things that you may not realize could raise red flags for coaches:
- Helicopter Parent – A parent who is simply unable to allow their daughter to play the game without constantly hovering over them. They maintain nearly constant direct communications with their daughters during the games.
- The Coach – A parent who fails to recognize they are not their daughter’s coach, or for that matter the coach of any of her teammates either. They constantly shout instructions to their daughters (and teammates) during the game.
- The Umpire – A parent who constantly rides the umpire throughout the game. Umpires are human, make mistakes and are going to miss some calls now and then. It’s part of the game. I usually here something like, “Yea, but that ump really sucked. Blah, blah, blah.” Okay, so let’s say the ump was not the best. It’s the first game of a 4-day tourney early in the season. Do you think this will be the only time this ump calls one of your daughter’s games? So, by showing the ump who's boss, you’ve screwed your daughter and her entire team for the rest of the summer. Not very smart.
- The Pacer – The parent who cannot sit comfortably to enjoy a youth softball game. I’m not talking about a parent who stands to stretch their legs. I’m talking about one who paces frantically around the field, stopping and glaring onto the diamond, then storming off with their hands on their hips.
- The Smartest Person - The parent who loudly talks during the games questioning everything in the game, from the coaching strategy, player substitutions, lineups, their daughter’s teammate’s abilities, bad mouthing people, etc. The key word is loudly. If you’re going to do this, keep it quiet and spectacle free.
- Parent/Player Interactions – Before, during and after the games, how do you and your daughter interact? If you’re in constant direct communications with her, odds are that at some point in time she’ll give you the evil eye or snap at you. She’s competing in a game of failure. Simply asking her if she needs a water, might result in her letting you have it.
Those are some common forms of red flags for college coaches. College coaches see and hear things as they sit quietly watching the games. And they talk to all the coaches in their circles about it. The question to ask yourself is this: Do you want your behavior to negatively or positively affect your daughter’s chance to play college softball?
My Disclaimer - Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. I wrote about my former bad behaviors of backstop coaching and lectures in the car. I'm just thankful I figured it out before her college recruiting years.