Coaches and Parents in Travel Baseball

The end of the school year is quickly approaching. For many families with younger children the end of the school year also represents the beginning of a new season.

Summer travel baseball season. 

That's right, the days of your child playing in a local league with many of his peers from school or the surrounding towns is almost all but obsolete nowadays. There are tournaments you'll be traveling to each weekend, hotel arrangements to be made and meal responsibilities to be shared with the other parents on the team. This is all after a long winter of fundraising your team has done to help drive down the cost per player (or family). If your team does not have any kind of backing from a company you're doing this fundraising year round. But you do it without questioning it, because it is for the benefit of your child.

It's just the right thing to do. 

Your child has to play on a travel team, it is the only way they are going to get better and see competition that will speed up their development. At least that is what you're led to believe. Granted, seeing better competition consistently will absolutely be better for the maturation process of a young athlete. But just playing in general is going to help. Some kids tryout for a travel team and don't make the cut. What do they do? Play PS4 all summer?? No, they end up on a different team or in the local league if that is still around. This is all just as important and should be applauded. Just playing the game is a big deal.

Let me qualify where I am going with this by giving a little background of myself. Otherwise, I'm just some guy running his mouth. 

Well I am that.... 


I coach high school baseball locally where I live. I have done this for five seasons. Prior to that I coached one of the elite travel teams in the Northeast Ohio area. Many of our players on this team became college athletes. It was an embarrassment of riches at times with the talent that we had on this squad. It was easy to coach that kind of team. You could almost just pull names out of a hat and that could be the batting order. Playing against other teams that were not as talented did offer me a perspective that I found to be equally important. 

There are a lot of poor coaches out there (I'll touch on this in more depth later), and there are even worse parents watching these games. And when I say bad parents I do not mean bad parents to their children, I do not have children so I can't even really speak to that. I'm speaking in terms of parents as fans. Some of the things I have overheard at games from parents have left me dumbfounded. Most statements are coming from a place of entitlement, which in my opinion is an awful characteristic to have in team sports. It breeds selfishness and will absolutely tear down a team. Many of these feelings stem from the fact that all this time, money and effort have been put in trying to raise money and get the child to be on this said team. I can see where this can happen to a lot of people. I will say though once these thoughts start creeping into your head, you're doing this for the wrong reasons. 

The priorities of a parent watching their child play should be the following:
  1. Support everyone on the team
  2. Give positive reinforcement
  3. Protect your child from misuse (overused pitching, catching every inning on a weekend)
That is it. That is the best thing you can do for your child. Children emulate their parents. If you're constantly ripping on the coaches about decisions they make (you might even be right, I know I've done some dumb things coaching before) or complaining about lineups/playing time your child is going to see that and believe it as fact. Kids are not stupid. That is the main thing I always try to remember. I once did an exercise with our players where we had them write down their starting lineup and the bench players. They were only allowed to bring fifteen players. The answers that we got were unbelievable.  

Onto coaches now, I'll just start with the obvious. If you're a dad who coaches and you have no other previous coaching experience, you're probably better off being a dad and following the three bullet points I laid out above. Your heart is probably in the right place but this usually doesn't end well and the kids either end up resenting you or quit playing the game itself. The latter is the real problem in this scenario. 

Baseball is really hard. Not everyone can do it, and even less can do it well. Putting young players in a position where they won't at worst have a good time is going to drive them to easier sports. There are more and more baseball fields across America that are becoming soccer fields. That is a travesty in my humble opinion. Acting like a psycho in the dugout, ripping players after a game for 20 minutes all that leads to a bad experience and undoubtedly will drive them away from the game. The best thing a coach can say to his players after a game is, "Our next game is at this time, show up at this time and try to enjoy the rest of your day." Kids checkout mentally once the game is over. There are so many other things running through an adolescences boys head. And I can assure you, it is very rarely baseball related. But that is okay, save the big speeches and the coaching points for before the next game. Have these conversations, just don't have them after the fact. 

Last point I want to make to coaches, If you aren't having fun night in and night out... quit coaching. I guarantee you that for as much fun you aren't having, your players are having even less.  
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