Interacting with Helicopter Parents as a Youth Baseball Coach

There are two guarantees in life: death and taxes. For youth sports coaches, helicopter parents could be added to this list. It is only natural for loving parents to want to remain as involved as possible in their child’s activities. After all, some youth athletes begin playing before they enter elementary school. A major part of the youth sports experience is learning to play well with teammates and listen to one’s coach without the presence of a parent. So how can coaches work with parents to create a positive experience for young baseball players?

Today, we will review what helicopter parenting is, how parents can overstep boundaries in youth sports, and some tips for volunteer coaches to work with parents to create the best experience for young players.

What is a Helicopter Parent?

A helicopter parent is a parent who takes an excessive, sometimes unhealthy interest in every detail of their child’s life. The “helicopter” aspect comes from the idea that these parents are constantly “hovering” around their children. Of course, each family is different and there are no hard and fast rules to parenting.

Helicopter parenting only becomes a problem when it either is detrimental to the child or is detrimental to others around the child. This is a fine line. Rather than taking a defensive or accusatory stance, youth coaches may opt to address helicopter parents directly in order to get to the root of the issue.

When it comes to youth sports, helicopter parents can become an issue when they attempt to contradict or supercede the coach. Often times, this manifests by yelling instructions to players on the field or telling their kids to ignore a coach’s instructions. This can become a major pain for coaches who are trying to get their players to follow a game plan and work together as a unit.

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Helicopter Parents and Youth Baseball

Youth baseball and helicopter parenting are as American as apple pie. As a volunteer baseball coach, you should expect some amount of helicopter parenting. Here are some examples of helicopter parenting (and some of toxic parenting in general) to look out for this season:

  • Helping their child with every aspect of practice, such as putting on equipment, unpacking gear, etc. (This certainly does not include youth players who require special assistance to participate).

  • Physically shadowing their child in baseball practices and games to make sure they can keep an extra close watch on their every move.

  • Giving players instructions which may directly contradict a coach’s instruction.

  • Insisting on special one-on-one attention for a child during practices and games.

  • Demanding that a youth player gets special consideration when it comes to playing time, position, batting order, and so forth.

Volunteer Coaches Set Expectations for Parents

As a coach, what can be done to combat this issue? Thankfully, there are a litany of ways to tackle the problem of helicopter parenting and remain calm as the coach. Some useful tactics include:

Setting a kick-off meeting to establish guidelines for the season. Nipping the problem in the bud may be the best solution. Some parents will assuredly ignore this effort, but it cannot hurt. Before the team ever takes the field, many baseball coaches will have a phone call or in-person meeting with the parents to review the goals for the team, guidelines for parents, and more.

Youth coaches making themselves available to parents (but not during games). Many helicopter parents just want to be involved and be heard. To accomplish this, youth coaches may want to offer email or phone communication outside of practices and games so that parents can calmly and coherently express themselves. Getting on the same page is key.

Encourage players to bring problems to the coach rather than parents. One of the great things about youth sports is the maturation it can bring in young players. This can be reinforced by a coach asking players to communicate with him or her directly without involving parents unless absolutely necessary.

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Keeping Youth Baseball Fun and Productive

As discussed in the previous sections, youth baseball coaches are virtually guaranteed a run-in with helicopter parents. C’est la vie. Rather than getting discouraged by this fact, instead we can re-focus on the game we all love and provide a supportive environment for players. Setting expectations, remaining open to parents, and keeping a positive attitude, are all great ways for youth coaches to get the most out of the upcoming baseball season.

Here are some useful tips to keep in mind to reinforce with players and coaches alike:

  • Youth sports is meant to be fun, first and foremost.

  • Winning isn’t everything, nor is getting the most hits, home runs, etc.

  • Coaches, teammates, and opponents are all to be treated with respect.

  • Every child deserves to play, regardless of ability.

As a final note - most helicopter parents don’t realize they are helicopter parents. A youth coach should remember that 99.9 percent of parents just want what is best for their child. With the right approach, invested parents and coaches can work together to provide a great atmosphere for youth baseball this year.

Felipe Leon