When Charles Phoenix is not a lawyer, he can often be found coaching. Charles Phoenix is a lawyer with a love for the game, and he has been involved nearly at every level of youth baseball. He has even served as a league president.
If you are currently a youth coach or are thinking about becoming one, Charles Phoenix will be the first to tell you that part of the job will be dealing with parents. Now, in most cases, the parents will be fine. But there are others who may be a little more demanding. Some parents are “helicopter parents” who become excessively involved out of self-interest. Other parents are “spectator partners” who are almost completely uninvolved, but gauge results in wins and losses versus improved technique.
They almost all have good intentions, but they could impede your ability to coach and make sure everyone is safe, having fun, and developing good habits. There are other parents who can just be downright nasty.
Charles Phoenix offers the following advice to prevent a bad situation from occurring:
Maintain Clear and Open Communication with Parents from the Beginning: Have a parents’ meeting at the beginning of the season, so you can outline your coaching philosophy and learn more from the parents. You should encourage parents to seek you out if they need anything, but they should only do so in a respective manner. The topics for this meeting will be different depending on the agree group. As an example, Charles Phoenix discourages parents of children 10 and under from cheering for walks or shouting out “good eye.” Instead, Phoenix says, parents should cheer on swinging strikeouts for several reasons. First, kids are pleasers – they want to do well to please their parents, friends, and coaches. So, when they strike out, they feel like they let their team down. Second, Charles Phoenix says, the most important thing kids can learn at this age is what they can hit, but they can’t learn that without swinging. Third, fear of getting hit by the ball is a factor, which can freeze some players into not swinging. By encouraging kids to swing, even at balls that bounce or sail over their heads, fear breaks down. Walks, Charles Phoenix says, might help the score or an ego, but they do nothing in the long run for developing very young players.
Teach Parents about Player Safety: As a lawyer, Charles Phoenix understands the fear parents have that their child could get injured. Yes, mild scrapes can occur, but major injuries are a rarity in baseball. In fact, you can call an emergency room doctor and ask what sports have the most injuries and which the least – you and your child might be surprised to learn that doctors regularly say that they see very, very few baseball injuries. It’s probably a good idea to talk with parents who you feel may be a tad overprotective and reassure them that their child will be safe. You can also discuss ways to increase safety even further if you feel that will help.
Give Parents a Role: Empower parents to be a part of the solution by suggesting ways that they can help. For example, you could point them in the direction of fundraising or even officiating. You can also suggest things they can do at home, like making sure the child gets good nutrition and practices.
Many parents, like spectator parents, want to be involved, but don’t know what to do. Charles Phoenix figured out something very basic long ago: believe it or not, kids love playing with their parents and, likewise, parents love playing with their kids. Unfortunately, in the busy world today, not enough of that happens, but the ballfield is a great place for a fun atmosphere for the players and their parents. Charles Phoenix likes to create practices that are mini-camps, with players divided into groups of 2 or 3. He gives parents roles at stations and rotates the groups thru. He tells parents what to look for, what to encourage, and what to note for future improvement. Meanwhile, the coach rotates around the stations, sort of like a manager, observing the training at each station. In a young team, for example, a mom could hit tennis balls with her racket to the outfield station – tennis balls aren’t only harder to catch (encouraging soft hands), but they also remove fear from the equation (allowing players to focus on the ball and develop technique and confidence for the real game). There could be a tee station and other stations. At the end of practice, kids will have gotten more reps, everyone will have had great fun, and parents can take what they learned home to reinforce until the next practice.