With the start of a new baseball season, kids are hitting the field and parents are taking to the stands. In Squeeze Play, Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. coaches kids--and their parents--on being good sports.
Growing up, my dad was a manager of minor league teams in the Orioles' organization and as a result, we were exposed to the game in a unique way. Most people believe that Dad stood over us and created young ball players. The opposite was actually true. He was there for us but never pushed, and while he was on the road with the team, it was Mom who took us to practice and watched most of our games. And she, like Dad, was very supportive; never the kind of parent who took the joy out of the game.
In my most recent book, Squeeze Play, we were able to take a look at the role parents and mentors play, and how their response in the stands and off the field could negatively affect their kids and teammates.
So many times, parents overreact to everything that happens, the positive and the negative.
I believe in a simpler approach. Kids notice all of their parent's actions at their games, so while it can be challenging, I would encourage parents to react to all things on the field the same way and minimize the highs and lows.
In Squeeze Play, the goal was to make parents aware of how some of their responses in the stands affect their kids and teammates. I also wanted to give the kids ideas about how to deal with that. Confiding in your coach or another adult could help you deal with these types of situations.
Let me stress that the vast majority of parents who behave this way don't realize what they're doing, and most have the best intentions. Once they are made aware, they want to change their behavior and depressurize the situation for their children.
Another issue I am often asked about is specialization and when kids should focus on one sport.
I'm an advocate of kids developing by playing multiple sports. There are mental and physical advantages to playing other sports.
Mentally, you don't get burned out if you're not doing the same thing over and over again. New sports keep you fresh and give you different challenges. Physically, you can develop your athleticism by having other sports challenge your athleticism differently.
I played soccer in high school and, looking back, I believe it kept me in great shape and developed my hand/eye coordination. Putting the glove down for a while always allowed me to maintain my love of the game and avoid burn out.
Encourage your kids in sports; let them have fun, and the rest will take care of itself.