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 Famers 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.

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  • I completely agree. Mike,

    I completely agree. Mike, when is it the right time for kids to start playing sports? I remember playing since I was five. I played on traveling teams all summer. By the time I was in HighSchool I was tired, and didn't want to play anymore. Now I wish I did but I was burned out. What's your opinion on traveling teams as well? When is the right time to start?
  • I am in High School. My

    I am in High School. My parents never really yell they just cheer. If they did yell it would frustrate me. I don't really like when coaches yell but they sometimes have too.
  • I totally agree with you. I'm

    I totally agree with you. I'm in 7th grade and my coach was batting me lead off, every pitch even when I hit a line-drive he would be yelling at me. Then there were those parents in the stands that know absolutely everything there is to know about baseball, or so they think. They would scream at me when I hit a triple off the fence, "Swing harder Kolby, and that would've been a home-run." Take it from my point of view, it doesn't help your children to scream at them. Tell them what they are doing wrong in a calm manor.
  • Kolby

    No coach should yell in anger at their players - let alone a youth player No parent /sibling / friend should coach from the stands - they do not know what the player has been taught nor what his coaches want him to do. I coach 8U Pony ball- during s playoff game last night, a parent they I do not know was hanging over the fence in left center and was talking to our center fielder (my son, who was having some sportsmanship issues to begin with) - I shouted out between batters "Sir, excuse me, please get off of the fence during our game." To which he replied "Why?" All if the parents & coaches I spoke with say they wound have apologized and moved on. I responded that I did not want my players distracted, to which he shouted "I was helping him out!" - I said, "No, you're not - please move on, thank you . Man some people just don't get it!
  • I love this. I find myself

    I love this. I find myself guilty of raising my voice at times. I have found my son does much better at settling in to the batters box or making a nice play at 3rd when I'm just telling him good job & I believe in him. Great advice Mike.
  • I have to admit I am guilty

    I have to admit I am guilty of this from time to time. I am certainly not a huge offender but I am sure both of my boys would tell you they have heard me from time to time. I can honestly say I thought I was being helpful but hearing what you had to say has me thinking. Don't gey me wrong, my kids also hear a maximum of positive cheering from me too. But, you make a valid point and I will definitely stop myself and think at the next game. P.S. Love the Cardinals and think you are doing a great job with them. Go Cards!!
  • As someone who has coached

    As someone who has coached youth baseball and softball for past 17 years or so, and who was a " yeller" in the beginning, I can say without any doubt you are exactly right. I only wish I would have had it all explained to me, as you have so brilliantly done, before I started coaching.
  • Thank you for taking the time

    Thank you for taking the time to write this Blog. My daughter is just starting out in sports. It's good to know the positive and negative behaviors so I can recognize them before they are an issue.
  • It's not just sports, it's

    It's not just sports, it's everything. Kids nowadays can't be kids. They get shuttled from one activity to the next by a taxi service (their parents) who are trying to give their an upper hand but are actually stripping them of their childhood. Sad.
  • I had coached 3 sports at

    I had coached 3 sports at the boys and girls club for about 4 years. There are only two times I can ever justify myself yelling at a kid. First, when the crowd is loud and I must yell for the kids to hear me. Second, (mainly in basketball) to position the kids on the court who might not know where their spot is. Neither circumstance is out of anger or a lack of self-control.
  • I agree Mike! I don't have

    I agree Mike! I don't have kids, but I played ball since I was 4 years old. Parents of my friends and I remained relatively quiet aside from the occasional "come on boys!", or something of that nature. I can remember playing against other teams where parents would yell the entire game. I remember even as a kid how foolish they sounded.
  • Thank you coach for writing

    Thank you coach for writing this. As a coach, your perspective is spot on. We just need to spread your message further! We, as coaches of all levels, need to always keep in mind, they are just your children, or someone's child, and what your doing isn't creating professional athlete, it is spending quality time with that child teaching them life lessons they will use forever.
  • Great Post! We have been

    Great Post! We have been working on this with our 9 and 10 year olds. We as coaches don't find yelling or even raising your voice to be much of a motivator. Getting the parents in line is critical to providing the kids with an environment that is conducive to playing their best. It's simple. Not too mention the fact that trying to give technical instruction in the middle of a game is pointless.
  • OK. I'll be the guy who

    OK. I'll be the guy who disagrees with everyone. There is not a set way to talk o your kids in sports. I have two daughters who play travel sports - one likes me talking to her all the time and one can't stand it. You have to know your kids. When dealing with the first one, I always encourage and stay positive - that's a given. BUT, I do talk to her all the time.
  • While I respect your opinion

    While I respect your opinion and agree that each young athlete is unique in how they respond to feedback, you should think twice about what message you are sending by "talking to her all the time" while she is playing her sport. First - who and what should she be paying attention to while she plays the game? You, the game, the coach? I'm pretty confident, of those three options, you, in a parent role, is the last thing her attention should be focused on. At the VERY least, encourage her to be focused on the game and learn to manage her play on her own...empower her to be a problem solver and rely on her self-confidence. If there is a voice she SHOULD be hearing during the game, I would suggest you encourage her to look to her coach for feedback, not you. As a baseline it teaches her to respect her coaches. There are certainly opportunities for you to help your daughters grow in the game away from practice and games but, in those moments, you are teaching her a much more valuable life lesson by taking the focus off of you.
  • Agree

    I will agree wtih the guy who disagrees. I do think this orignal post is insightful and even made me tear up because I was screaming at my sons soccer game today and my husband continued to tell me to be quite. I never thought I would be "bothering" my son. I will now go ask my kids exactly what they want me to do so i am more aware because the last thing I want to do is to make them feel frustrated or pressured. It is all about having fun.
  • Let the hornet's nest be

    Let the hornet's nest be rattled because this is so true, not just in baseball, but all youth sports. As a former Jr. High basketball coach and daughter of a coach, I have seen the mental stress that kids suffer from when pressured by family, peers and sometimes their coaches. I'm all about teaching kids how to be competitive but I also believe they should have fun and enjoy the sport.
  • As a high school coach, you

    As a high school coach, you can always tell which parents know the game. They are the ones that keep quiet, and then mention things in private. Then you have the parents that throw out the typical cliches and tell you how great they were when they played. Thank you for the blog. It is an enjoyable read.
  • There's so much pressure even

    There's so much pressure even coming from the coaches. Starting at the earliest of age. By the time your kid gets to jr high, there's no missed practices for holidays, no missed summer camps for family vacations, and if you have an injury, if its not broke, then you play. Or you are done, the kid, the parents are looked down upon like you aren't in it to win it, your kid doesn't get to play the position he's best at because he missed a day of summer camp, you literally have to watch your kid play in frustration and pain because its been ingrained in them that they would be quitting by walking away even when it's best. And you watch the coaches kick kids off the team for these reasons, not even giving them or their parents enough respect to know when enough is enough, or when not playing a football game on Good Friday seems to be inappropriate, keeping you from visiting family. That's how competitive, political, stressful, real it is from as early as 3rd grade up. By the time my son gets to college, I even wonder if he'll still love the game, or be physically capable of it. That's on top of the yelling, the stress, the importance that the parents, coaches put on these kids. There's nothing I love more than watching my son win, whether its on a football, baseball team, or wrestling and running a race in a track meet. I'm glad he still thinks its fun and loves it. I hope he can still think that for four more years, and beyond.
  • As a former high school

    As a former high school soccer coach, I learned quickly that it is fruitless to "coach" during a game. Critique form and fundamentals during practice, do it with respect and integrity without yelling and screaming that you will regret on the way home, and let the game play out based on what you have practiced. Show the kids you have faith in their abilities, and they will show up. Make adjustments, encourage at halftime, but don't try to lecture them about details during a game. It only brings the team down.
  • All 3 of our kids played

    All 3 of our kids played sports through High School. Our youngest, a girl, has started at the varsity level in soccer since freshman year. Although she was a starter again this year, her senior year, she quit the team before the games started. There is a new assistant coach this year and he screams at the girls all the time. Our daughter decided it just wasn't worth it (she had already decided not to play in college). We backed her 100% and after talking with her teammates, are very glad she quit. They are frustrated, humiliated and have a losing season for the first time in years. I don't think it is a coincidence.
  • I agree, all 4 of my kids

    I agree, all 4 of my kids play sports.....I entourage them to do the best they can do-but have fun in doing so. I must share this with my boys dad, one of my son's play catcher, one of the most challenging spots in baseball, he criticized and ran him down so much after practice that you could tell that it "broke his spirit". I hate people like this, they are just kids not pros...let them have fun and cheer them on whether they played to your expectations


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