Friday, May 03, 2013

Dear Coach

I was at every practice…every game. Yes, his fathered worked at an office and wasn’t able to attend…but I was there and I saw it all. I watched as my son learned the fundamentals and started to love the artistry of the game. We were there to try our best. We were there to have fun. And then he was assigned to your team…where yelling and insults were the language of every day. Where the encouragement was always secondary to the overwhelming pressure you put on the shoulders of nine and ten year old boys. Yes, they ARE just boys…and this IS just a game.

He knew he was never going to be a superstar, but he still tried SO hard. He spent the days managing his asthma so he wouldn't have an attack at practice and be seen as “weak” (your words). He practiced with his dad whenever he could find the free time. He never once complained that you played him the minimum number of innings required by Little League rules. He never once complained that your kid got more playing time. And until the very end, he never complained about your constant criticism of his dugout behavior as he sat there...inning after inning after inning. He only ever expressed self-doubt over his inability to meet your standards…and confusion over your anger that he wasn't “getting it.” During every lap you made him run, he talked to himself, using words like "stupid" and "idiot" and "sucky." He pondered how he could teach himself, even consulting YouTube for pointers…because you surely weren't going to put in the time on a kid “like him” (he's not stupid, he fully understood your attitude toward him).

On that final play, when he failed to heed your screams to “slide SLIDE SLIIIIIDE!” he ran through the tag and smiled at his own shortcomings. Your response was to scream, “What do YOU have to smile about?” That’s right…his mere smile irritated you. More than that, his ability to find humor in his screw-ups made you angry and we were all treated to your very loud diatribe about how YOU felt unappreciated and YOU felt disrespected.

Guess what, coach? It isn't about you. But you clearly think it is...since you never called, or asked to meet, or even spoke to my son again. You didn't care that he quit. Based on your lack of interest in discussing his feelings, I almost think that was your goal all make him quit. You're relieved he's off your team...maybe even happy. That might make you a good coach to some...but we think you're a lousy coach and we're not going to remain silent about it any longer.

My son had one more year before baseball would get competitive. He had one more year to play ball with his friends before his inabilities would no longer be tolerated on the field. I trusted you to use this time to teach my child to have fun, be healthy, and learn new things. Instead, you ruined baseball for him. He quit because he was no longer having any fun. He doesn't want to play. He doesn't even want to watch. You did that. Are you proud?

I suppose I should thank you for teaching him one very valuable lesson though. MOST PEOPLE ARE ONLY CONCERNED ABOUT THEMSELVES…EVEN PEOPLE WHO ARE CHARGED WITH CARING FOR OTHERS. Yep…he learned that one well…from you.

Good job, coach.

My post was inspired by this post making the rounds on Facebook. While my son's experience wasn't part of Dynamite Cal Ripken Youth Baseball, I strenuously object to that program using its public platform to attempt to demonize parents who care about how their children are being treated by "volunteer coaches" (as if the volunteer status somehow makes them above reproach). I was wrong for not speaking up sooner for my son...and I certainly won't apologize for speaking up now.


Michele said...

I'm a volunteer coach for cross country and I love my kids. I don't care whether they run fast or slow, win or lose, or anything in between. I care that they love the sport and that they want to be there. I work hard, on the track and field, and off of it, to make sure that happens. And I'm thanked by beautiful smiles and invites to special family gatherings. Coaching those kids gives me another purpose and another reason for waking up.

It makes me SICK to see the behavior of some coaches. The yelling, the nastiness, the insults to children (and honestly, to anyone- it's just not okay). Volunteer or paid, you just don't treat folks that way, especially kids that you want to encourage.

On behalf of all us coaches who love our kids and do our best to do best by them, I am so very sorry. It's not okay, it's not right, and I hope that you complain to the league about this guy.

lorem ipsum said...

The coach's treatment of Sam makes me sick to my stomach. Your letter should be shared widely—at your discretion, of course.

Beruriah said...

I didn't realize you'd been posting again. I've seen some of this one Facebook, but this post really makes it so painfully clear. I'm so sad that someone put your Sam through this. Horrible. My husband Josh talks about experiences like this back when he was a shorter-than-average, not athletic child. It's so wrong. So wrong. It makes me sick. I hope he finds some place, some way to make playing a sport fun again.