“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”
Parents can work with you or against you. Do not forget when you play at home they’re there, and when you go on the road they follow. I’m not knocking fan support, because I adore it. Although, I am knocking fan detriment. I want as many parents at our games as possible. I want them to come to our games and enjoy seeing their young man or young lady represent his school and town to the best of his or her ability. I also want them to support the other players on the team and the program as a whole. No one needs a college of coaches in the stands that criticize players, coaches, and officials. Talk about bush league, that’s the worst.
At the beginning of a season I host a parent meeting. I require players to have someone to represent them at this meeting. A mom or dad may not be able to attend in some cases. So I tell my player to get an alternate, like a sibling or a grandparent. I’ve never had a parent meeting last longer than a half an hour. The discussion topics are the team rules for players, the schedule, travel procedure for road contests, and parent expectations. That’s right, parent expectations. I expect them to be part of the team. My rules for them are:
1) Be positive at home.
2) Don’t address officials.
3) Be a booster, not a rooster.
Be positive at home. Parents need to cultivate the team concept at home when their son or daughter is not around me. If his or her child comes home after striking out 3 times, he/she doesn’t need someone talking down to them. Nobody feels worse than the player. As well, maybe someone’s child didn’t play that day. Of course, that kid feels bad about it. I’d be disappointed in a player of mine that didn’t. A parent that tears down the coach or another player to give their son some false pride isn’t sending a very good message. Parents at home need to encourage their boys when times are good and bad. Encouraging their children to work harder at practice and be more involved in off-season activities is the best thing a parent can do.
Don’t address officials. If something needs to be said to an umpire, I will say it. I have only seen rude and obnoxious comments from the stands work to the advantage of the other team. You think the strike zone was tight before, just wait. Umpires are human. There is no instant replay. We must live with their calls. 99% of them are trying their hardest to be impartial. If an umpire is hustling and calling the game consistently for both teams, no one can complain. I feel there are good and bad times for a coach to talk to the umpire about calls. There are no good times for parents to do so.
Be a booster, not a rooster. I make mistakes. We all do. Hopefully, we learn from them. No coach needs some know-it-all former little league coach critiquing his every move. Those type of parents are like pussy cats waiting to pounce on a mouse. They view the game with negative glasses. And like a rooster at 5 AM, begin cackling their head off with some foolish coaching advice. No one in the crowd is impressed. In fact most of the other parents separate themselves from that type of fan. These roosters always like to crow at the worst possible time. For example, during a regional game, after a lead-off double, I had a player wander too far off 2nd base on a ball hit in front of him and get caught in rundown. Prior to the miscue, I said all of the right things to him to remind him of the situation, and of course he acknowledged me. We all know the teenage mind is one of mystery, and he did the wrong thing. In the rooster’s head, I’m sure he was elated. He began to ruffle his feathers, stick out his chest, and crow sarcastically, “Nice goin’ coach, way to teach base-running.” He was right. It was a poor base running play. I was sure excited that he pointed it out and so was the player and his parents, I’m sure. We went on to get 5 hits, 2 stolen bases, and score 3 runs that inning. He shouted no compliments for our team. We went on to win the game 5-1 an advance to the regional championship. The rooster had magically turned into a hen. Encourage your parents to disagree with you in private. Shouting disapproval during a game helps no one.
A parent meeting is really an attempt to preempt any miscommunications between the parents and the coach. Your expectations for your players are made clear on an in person basis. A coach that hosts a parent meeting will find that he has a more positive relationship with the parents than the coach that neglects to do so. The parents will be more likely to give you help when you need it. As well, they will support you on disciplinary issues with players, because the rules were explained clearly ahead of time.