#1 Establishing a Coach-Parent Partnership
Research is clear that when parents and teachers work together a child tends to do better in school. There is no reason to think that it is any different for Little Leaguers. Following are guidelines for how parents can cooperate with their children’s coaches for the best possible Little League experience for their children. 1. Recognize the Commitment the Coach Has Made: For whatever reason, you have chosen not to help coach the team. Coaches commit to many, many hours of preparation beyond the hours spent at practices and games. Recognize their commitments and the fact that they are not doing it because of the pay! Try to remember this if anything goes awry during the season.
2. Make Early, Positive Contact with Coaches: As soon as you know who your children’s coaches are, contact them to introduce yourself and let them know you want to help your children have the best experience possible this season. Offer to help the coaches in any way you are able, such as being a “team parent” responsible for coordinating car pools or snack schedules. Getting to know the coach early and establishing a positive relationship makes it easier to talk later if a problem arises.
3. Fill the Coach's Emotional Tank: A Little League Double-Goal Coach® fills players’ emotional tanks (like a car’s gas tank, when people’s “emotional tanks” are full, they can go anywhere, and when they are empty, they can go nowhere). But coaches need their tanks filled, too! When coaches do something you like, let them know it. Coaching is difficult and many coaches only hear from parents when they have complaints. Truthful, specific praise that fills coaches’ tanks will contribute to their doing an even better job. Also, if you’ve given credit where credit is due, it will be easier to raise any issues that occur later. Many coaches do a lot of things well. Take the time to look for them.
4. Don't Put the Player in the Middle: Imagine a situation around the dinner table, in which you complain in front of your children about how poorly their math teacher teaches fractions. Wouldn’t that affect your children’s motivation and respect for that teacher? Same with your children’s coaches. Conversely, when parents support coaches, it is that much easier for players to compete wholeheartedly. If you think your children’s coaches are not handling situations well, do not tell your children. Rather, seek a meeting with the coaches.
5. Don't Give Instructions During a Game or Practice: You are not one of the coaches, and it can be very confusing and un-nerving for children to hear someone other than the coach yelling out instructions during a game. If you have an idea for a tactic, quietly discuss it with the coaches and let them decide whether or not to heed your advice. Remember, getting to make those decisions is a privilege they have earned by making the commitment to coach.
#2 Empowering Conversations With Your Children
Conversations are the glue between people, the essential element in a strong relationship. Many parents fall into the trap of thinking that in a conversation with their children, it is their job to talk and their children’s job to listen. Actually, it is both parents’ and children’s jobs to listen and talk in a conversation.
It is important that parents proactively seek conversations about the Little League experience with their players. Here are some suggestions for how to engage your child in a conversation about sports.
1. Establish Your Goal—A Conversation Among Equals: Conversation occurs between equals. Prepare yourself for conversations with your children by remembering baseball and softball is their thing, not yours. Support your children and let them know you’re on their side. Your goal in conversations is not to give advice on becoming a better player, but conversing about their Little League experiences.
2. Adopt a Tell-Me-More Attitude: Adopt the attitude that you want your children to say more ("I really want to hear what you have to say"), and then listen to them -- even if you don't agree and don’t like what you hear. Think of these conversations as an Olympic event with judges. A conversation that rates a 9 or a 10 is one in which the children talk more and the parents listen more.
3. Use Open-Ended Questions: Some questions lend themselves to one-word responses. "How was school today?" "Fine." To get your children to talk at length, ask questions that elicit longer, more thoughtful responses.
o "What was the most enjoyable part of today's practice?"
o "What worked well in your game?"
o "What didn't turn out so well?"
o "What did you learn that can help you in the future?"
o "What do you want to work on before the next game?"
4. Also ask about life-lesson and character issues: "Any thoughts on what you learned in today’s game that might apply to other parts of your life?" Even if you saw the whole game, get your children’s perspectives.
5. Show You Are Listening: Make it obvious that you are paying attention through nonverbal communication, such eye contact and nodding, and verbal "listening noises" ("uh-huh," "hmmm," "interesting," etc.).
6. Let Your Child Set the Terms: Right after a game, when emotions may be riding high, consider waiting until your children show they are ready to talk, instead of forcing conversation. Boys may take longer than girls to show their readiness. If your children prefer briefer discussions, occasionally defer to their wishes. If they feel every conversation is going to be a long one, they’ll likely try to avoid them. Be comfortable with some silence. Stick with it and your children will open up.
7. Connect through activity: Sometimes the best way to spark conversation is through an activity your children enjoy. Board games or puzzles allow children the mental or emotional space to volunteer their ideas about the last ballgame. This especially is true for boys, who often resist a direct adult-style of conversation.
8. Enjoy: The most important reason why you should listen to your children with a tell-me-more attitude: Because they will want to talk to you, and as they (and you) grow older, you will find there is no greater gift than enjoying conversations with your children.
These approaches help ensure that parents and children share common values and expectations for what they want from the Little League experience. In turn, that means players are more likely to maintain their enthusiasm for baseball and softball and perform better on the field. Of course, parents and children alike benefit from generally strengthening their relationships.
#3 Guidelines for Honoring the Game
The key to cultivating optimal adult behavior (and reducing misbehavior) in Little League is “Honoring the Game.” To remember the tenets of Honoring the Game, use the acronym ROOTS, meaning respect for Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and Self.
You don't bend the Rules to win. You understand that a worthy Opponent helps you to play to your highest potential. You respect Officials even when you disagree with their calls. You refuse to do anything that embarrasses your Teammates. Even if others fail to live up to these standards, you live up to the standards you set for your Self.
Here are a few ways “Second-Goal” Parents can contribute to a positive Little League environment so that children will keep having fun and keep returning to baseball and softball, where they can learn the life lessons they will need long after their Little League careers end.
Before the Game:
1. Make a commitment to Honor the Game in action and language no matter what others may do.
2. Tell your children before each game that you are proud of them regardless of how well they play.
During the Game:
1. Fill your children's "Emotional Tanks."
2. Don't yell instructions during the game. Let coaches coach.
3. Cheer good plays by both teams.
4. Mention good calls by the umpires to other parents.
5. If an umpire makes a "bad" call against your team, Honor the Game -- be silent!
6. If other parents yell at the umpires, gently remind them to Honor the Game.
7. Don't do anything in the heat of the moment that you will regret after the game. Ask yourself, "Will this embarrass my child or the team?"
8. Remember to have fun! Enjoy the game.
After the Game:
1. Thank the umpires for doing a difficult job for little or no pay.
2. Thank the coaches for their commitment and effort.
3. Remind your children again that you are proud of them -- win or lose.
This information is brought to you by Positive Coaching Alliance. To learn more, please visit www.positivecoach.org.