Youth sports: Parents gone wild

Thanks to Reddit, this sign from Glendale, Wis., is racing around the internet, confirmation that a lot of people have a problem with a few parents — the ones who take their kids’ baseball games too seriously.

“The sign was our attempt to tamp down that vocal minority of parents who take the outcome of a youth baseball game too seriously,” John Diedrich, the league president who is also a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, writes.

A few years ago, Mike Matheny, now manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, coached a youth baseball team for a year and addressed this issue to parents in a now-famous letter. It begins, “I always said that the only team that I would coach would be a team of orphans, and now here we are. The reason for me saying this is that I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents.”

But many parents won’t listen.

In North Carolina, a parent was so unhappy on how it was going for his kid that he sat on the bench to give the coach the “what for?” .

  • Jack

    Parents can take the fun out of a lot of activities. I know – I watched my son play for years and was exposed to the parents who were convinced that Johnny was going to make it big time.

    The parents (mostly dads) would cajole the coach to focus on their kids. Even worse was when the kids had one of those dads as a coach. They always let the teams know that some of the kids were only on the team because someone had to “draft” them.

    Was I sad when our son stopped playing organized sports? Nope.

    I just wonder where all those phenoms went. Not seeing any tearing up the field or floor in college or the pros.

  • Rob

    Standard equipment for all kid coaches should include a Taser. And the
    parent in that video looks like he could stand to run a few laps.

    • jon

      I’ll add that there should be a line in the waiver the parents sign regarding the use of that taser…
      Or we can go simpler and just give them a paintball gun, a modern day scarlet paintball splotch of shame might help… never mind that’d require those parents to have shame in the first place…

      • MikeB

        A penalty box for parents. For baseball it is 50 yards beyond the right field corner.

      • Rob


    • Jerry

      Fat shaming? Really?

      • Rob

        More time running laps, less time getting in the coach’s face.

  • Mike

    The sign is excellent, especially #5. The way parents act at children’s events is all the proof one needs of how toxic the whole culture of sports really is. This extends all the way from parents’ behavior to the social and financial entitlements we grant elite athletes to the largesse of taxpayers that politicians are ever ready to bestow upon team owners.

    The fact that masses of people apparently believe being able to throw or catch a ball is more important than their children’s proficiency in academics, music, art, or any other aspect of endeavor speaks volumes as to how primitive human beings really are. Glorified monkeys with a cerebral cortext… that’s us.

    • David Rolfson

      As the father of a baseball player and the husband of a music teacher, I can tell you that parents can be just as bad in the realm of fine arts. Don’t make the mistake of believing that one is not as bad as the other.

  • Mike Worcester

    We’ve been wringing our hands and gnashing our collective teeth on this issue for many years now. That we still have to talk about it shows that we’ve not done enough. Has the time come then for more radical solutions? Such as not allowing spectators at games? Or just saying “no more” to youth sports?

    A couple years ago City Pages ran a great series on youth hockey in Minnesota and how recruiters for semi-pro teams scout kids as young at 12. Makes me glad I don’t have to deal with any of that.

    • ec99

      Universities scout 7th and 8th grade hockey players and get verbal commitments from 9th graders. Of course, there’s no thought as to how they might actually do academically, since one and done and two and through has become the norm.

  • Barton

    Why don’t I recall this issue from my years in youth sports (late 70s thru 80s)? Is it b/c I was too busy paying attention to the game itself to not hear the parents, or is it that we just didn’t have the same issue?

    I do realize things are different now: I played soccer at Catholic Leagues in St Louis (only way to do it back then if you were female), or local community athletic teams and the one traveling team for the whole city. Now, kids sports are a money making venture: multiple – MULTIPLE! – traveling teams in municipalities, paid coaches even for elementary kids, and training costs galore. No more hours of you just kicking the ball against the garage door, or practicing layups by yourself.

    So, does these crazy costs lead parents to want to get their monies worth? Is that one of the issues?

    And again, I am glad I am not a kid today.

  • BJ

    Minnesota Youth Soccer Assoc has a training course all parents go thru. PACT training.

    As a soccer Coach I have 2-3 parents who have expressed that they think there son should be playing at a higher level. Maybe. How about we all play to the best of our abilities and learn to love the game.

    • Mike Worcester

      //How about we all play to the best of our abilities and learn to love the game.

      Not that I don’t disagree, but wow when you see the parents who have dreams of professional $$ in their eyes, that love turns to obsession. I’m willing to entertain theories on how we got to the point where every parent thinks their child is going to be the next greatest in whatever.

      • BJ

        // parent thinks their child is going to be the next greatest in whatever.

        I watched one parent actively seek out another team in our club – 2 levels higher than our team. I had offered 2-3 times to discuss how to do individual improvement plans this winter, nothing. I know why his kid isn’t at the higher level, and I could have articulated it. Problem is the kids is one of the better ones on the team and a lot better than the worst kids on the team.

  • Anna

    I think a lot of sports parents try to live vicariously through their kids.

    Maybe if my kid excels at sports it will make up for my failure to excel and achieve my dream of playing professional sports.

    Abrasive sports parents sometimes have issues of low self-esteem and self worth.

    Kids don’t want the embarrassment of a parent who is out of control.

    Parents out there who fall into the the category of “parents gone wild”, do yourself and your children a favor—put a lid on it.

    You’re ruining it for everyone else including your child.

    My question is: If they are this out of control at a ballgame, what’s going on at home?

    • Bob Sinclair

      It isn’t just sports. How many child-actors or musical “prodigies” have been ruined by their obsessive parents?

  • Lonny Goldsmith

    Really loved this piece. It’s a great reminder of the soccer tournament I coached a team in 19 years ago. Our parents were so horrible (to their own kids, as well me, a 23-years-old volunteer with nothing but a love of soccer and coaching), that the kids asked me to tell their parents to cut it out. I told them they could be supportive, be silent, or watch from the parking lot. They sat silent rather than cheer their kids on.

    Coaching my 8 year old now, I’ve told the parents (and reinforce) that I don’t care about score, I don’t care about wins and losses. I care that they had fun and got a little bit better each time out. If that happens, I’m happy. It’s led me to believe that setting realistic expectations is the key to success. And sanity.