Are You Really Helping Them By Yelling?

Imagine that you are in the most stressful situation that you could possibly be in with all of your family and friends watching. Imagine that you are asked to do something that is so physically difficult that most people fail three times more often than they succeed. Then imagine that the people that you respect and admire the most in the world are screaming at the top of their lungs at you while you are trying to do this difficult task. Sound Tough? Well,… welcome to the world of youth baseball.

I believe that this issue has stunned me more than any other issue we have talked about. I guess that I must have grown up in a cocoon or something, but I played hundreds of games as a kid, and there were never parents and coaches screaming like they are now. I guess that it is due to the pressure of trying to get your kid the scholarship, or the pride of having them accomplish something that you were not able to. But, whatever the reason, it is ugly…Just ask your kids.

It had been a while since I was at a youth game, and when I showed up, I couldn’t believe what was going on. There were moms and dads screaming at Johnny Jr. to “get his elbow up” and to “stop swinging at the high ones.” The coach on third base was telling him that his “elbow was too high” and the first base coach was telling him the old “keep your eye on the ball.” Poor kid didn’t know which end of the bat to grab by the end of it all. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for all of them, because they were all trying to do their best, but failing miserably.

As I talk to everyone in the game from current players, to Hall of Fame-er’s from our past, I always ask them, “How did your parents act at your games?” It is overwhelming and near unanimous that they never heard a word from them. A couple, myself included, would hear a distinct whistle, voice, or clap that they recognized after they did something well. But there was never any screaming or yelling, or instructing coming from their parents during the game. Coincidence that all the people I talked to had the same kind of parents? I don’t think so.

My point? Let’s get back to the fact that less than 1% of the kids that play youth sports go on to play that sport in high school, let alone, collegiately or professionally. Let’s talk about the incredibly fortunate ones who do make it all the way to the highest level. They will tell you that the best thing their parents did for them was to be a silent source of encouragement during the game, and an ice cream buyer after.

For the 99% who are just playing for fun, please let them have fun. If you think that yelling (even encouraging words) and mechanical instructions are helping your child, the odds are that you are making it more difficult, and more stressful for them. They have the rest of their lives to learn about pressure and stress. Let them have fun. You will be amazed how much more enjoyable the game will be for you, when you take the pressure off yourself to be worlds best hitting instructor, and to just be a spectator, and fan of your child doing something that they love.

…I’ll bet I rattled the hornets nest a little with this one. I look forward to your responses. Positive and negative.

Mike Matheny
Manager – St Louis Cardinals