Are You Really Helping Them By Yelling?

Imagine that you are in the most stressful situation that you could possibly be in with all of your family and friends watching. Imagine that you are asked to do something that is so physically difficult that most people fail three times more often than they succeed. Then imagine that the people that you respect and admire the most in the world are screaming at the top of their lungs at you while you are trying to do this difficult task. Sound Tough? Well,... welcome to the world of youth baseball.

I believe that this issue has stunned me more than any other issue we have talked about. I guess that I must have grown up in a cocoon or something, but I played hundreds of games as a kid, and there were never parents and coaches screaming like they are now. I guess that it is due to the pressure of trying to get your kid the scholarship, or the pride of having them accomplish something that you were not able to. But, whatever the reason, it is ugly...Just ask your kids.

It had been a while since I was at a youth game, and when I showed up, I couldn't believe what was going on. There were moms and dads screaming at Johnny Jr. to "get his elbow up" and to "stop swinging at the high ones." The coach on third base was telling him that his "elbow was too high" and the first base coach was telling him the old "keep your eye on the ball." Poor kid didn't know which end of the bat to grab by the end of it all. I couldn't help but feel sorry for all of them, because they were all trying to do their best, but failing miserably.

As I talk to everyone in the game from current players, to Hall of Famers from our past, I always ask them, "How did your parents act at your games?" It is overwhelming and near unanimous that they never heard a word from them. A couple, myself included, would hear a distinct whistle, voice, or clap that they recognized after they did something well. But there was never any screaming or yelling, or instructing coming from their parents during the game. Coincidence that all the people I talked to had the same kind of parents? I don't think so.

My point? Let's get back to the fact that less than 1% of the kids that play youth sports go on to play that sport in high school, let alone, collegiately or professionally. Let's talk about the incredibly fortunate ones who do make it all the way to the highest level. They will tell you that the best thing their parents did for them was to be a silent source of encouragement during the game, and an ice cream buyer after. For the 99% who are just playing for fun, please let them have fun. If you think that yelling (even encouraging words) and mechanical instructions are helping your child, the odds are that you are making it more difficult, and more stressful for them. They have the rest of their lives to learn about pressure and stress. Let them have fun. You will be amazed how much more enjoyable the game will be for you, when you take the pressure off yourself to be worlds best hitting instructor, and to just be a spectator, and fan of your child doing something that they love.

...I'll bet I rattled the hornets nest a little with this one. I look forward to your responses. Positive and negative.

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  • Shuttle Baseball

    I invented this because of the empathy I felt for the sorrowed children in my son's first year of tee ball. Baseball is hard and not hitting a ball off a tee is embarrassing when everyone you know is yelling "you can do it.". Anyhow, I reached out to Darrell at Catch22. Gave him some demo balls to try with his kids. Hope word reaches you on the merits of this item. Romans 10:13 God bless you Mike. Didn't know much about you until last week.
  • Thank you for your insight!..

    Thank you for your insight!...I had no idea that even yelling "positive" comments was placing pressure on my son!...Will be "silently" rooting/encouraging my son from now on!
  • response

    That was a great comentary. I have been guilty of that, wow what a eye opener. I tried not to be the bad dad but have been caught up in it. I want so bad for him to succeed that I have recognized what was said here. I am a Firefighter/Paramedic and have been yelled at on scenes before. I never put that together with what you have said and I really appreciate it. Thank You, Mark Stewart
  • Youth Coach

    I coach both my daughters (one in softball, one in basketball) and could not agree with you more. Positive encouragement by teaching how to play the game right with the correct attitude and effort. Building character fundamentals that will apply in not only sports, but life as the kid matures.
  • You nailed that on the head!

    You nailed that on the head! & I'll admit I an sometimes THAT parent. But I will strive to change my approach to my sons' games! Thanks for you insight! I love baseball!!!!
  • When the kids fight back...

    My son had a friend he played sports with before he moved onto other things. A great kid, extremely talented, but his parents were completely in the dark about how to act at his games. The duration of games were dominated by this kid's parents videotaping the friend's play time (typically the majority of the game) and their incessantly shouting "helpful" comments. I can't imagine watching those videos for posterity unless they were somehow dubbed over with music because of the shouting. During one game, when the shouting was particularly obnoxious, I watched my son's friend glance up at the stands in the direction of the shouting and then he got back into the game. A minute or so later, the game was paused because the friend was now injured. When we were driving home, I asked my son how his friend's injury was doing and my son explained that his friend was absolutely fine. That he had become so tired of being shouted at every game, all game, that he faked an injury to get a break from the endless "suggestions." Amazing...
  • Youth baseball

    Thanks so much! This really hit home. I have two boys that play baseball five nights a week. They travel and play league in Iowa and you would not believe the parents. For one example State championship last year and one of our coach screwed up on the pitch count of my child who was on the mound and was is going to throw pitch over rules and the other coaches picked up on it. But instead of letting our coaches know that they're about to make a mistake they let my son throw that out and stop the game in a semi championship and protested. As we waited for the head honchos of the USSSA to walk down I have a picture of my son sitting on the mound with all his friends that are 10 years old wondering what the heck is going on. Guess what we had to forfeit the game. What kind of coach or parent would do that too 9 and 10 year old kids.. I have never seen so many kids cry because of devastated and hurt. All the kids want to do was play ball it was a mistake of our coaches and he was willing to pay a fine to kick out a game let the kids play. This is one example of many. Don't get me wrong I'm probably guilty of saying the wrong things also. Thank you again and hopefully when I posted this on Facebook that all the parents that I see at baseball games will read this.
  • Are You Helping Them....

    Right on target, Mike. I've coached middle school kids in school and my own kids played. There is too much pressure. I often threatened to play games at times when parents couldn't attend or were locked out - and this was back in the late 60's and early 70's. The problem is not new. I commend you on your comments here. BTW, I'm a life-long Cards fan and I love what you're doing to lead them. GO CARDS!
  • yelling at games

    Oh wow what an eye opener! I am so guilty of this! I am going to make a conscience effort starting next game to be silent. It may require duct tape! And of course I still have to clap and cheer when they hit score or make that fantastic catch!
  • Thanks for the eye opener

    Wow, thanks for the eye opening perspective. My son is in his first year of kid pitch and this season he seems to be struggling more with the mental pressure rather than the actual physical nature of the game. The truth is that he's an amazing ball player and he loves playing but reflecting back on his last game, it was exactly as you described in your post. Guilty as charged! Looking forward to applying this in the future - makes perfect sense.
  • kids are kids.

    Let the kids be kids and have fun playing a "GAME"!
  • Practice vs. Games

    In games you execute skills that you've repeated hundreds (preferably thousands) of times in practice, hopefully under careful coaching instruction. In games you clear your mind and focus on the moment at hand, letting all the repetitions during practice guide your performance. In-game coaching focuses on game strategy and maintaining a competitive attitude among the players, not skill instruction. It's amazing that so many non-participants don't understand these basic concepts of sports performance.
  • Couldn't agree more

    The teams I coach understand that I will never yell at them for playing the game. Mistakes happen and while it can be frustrating, I always remember it's just a game. My coaches get complimented on how well we handle the boys and the level of stress during a game. If I raise my voice, it's only to be heard above the noise of the crowd. If they strikeout, I explain why they did and how to fix it. I've only yelled at one kid and it broke his heart, my own son! I will never ever do that again to him. I learned that telling him what he did wrong and how to fix it works much better than veins popping, spit flying and eyes bugging tirades do. I played for a guy like this in High School, I quit playing baseball and turned down numerous College scholarships because I NEVER wanted to play again. Sadly, this guy still coaches high school baseball and has ruined the game for far too many people. I hope someday that he reads this and understands himself.
  • how very true

    My days of those games were always discussed on the way home always with encouragement, and most of the the don't worry there is still work to do at home that can build determination The end
  • Yelling in sports

    Totally agree with that I find that some coaches and parents yelling does not help support the child at all...
  • good call!

    Love the blog, completely agree! We are not raising kids to be athletes, we are raising kids to be responsible, respectful adults who understand the importance of a healthy active life style. I find it so very interesting that so many parents expect our coaches to be role models and kid friendly, when their actions represent the exact opposite. Well stated mike!
  • Amen

    As a dad who coached two sons through ball up until high school, I applaud your article. Although it's not the parents with whom I've had issues - it's other coaches I've found to be "the screamers". It's infuriating and pathetic to see a grown man yell at a cowering ten year old kid after a mistake, saying he'd never see the infield again if he didn't straighten up. The good guys (and gals) MUST speak up and not accept such behavior. I've gone to board meetings to testify against six coaches through the years... Not fun. Please keep up these efforts, Mike. Residing in Minnesota, your Cards will never take the place of my Twins in my heart. But let's just say you're not my favorite National League team.
  • Oops

    Let's just say the Cards are **now** my favorite NL team!
  • Little League

    Nothing could be more true. I sit in the bleachers and listen to coaches and parents berate their children and it sickens me. I have kept a list of names of coaches who display unsportsmanlike conduct and refused to have my children on their teams. It is all about learning how to win, lose, and work together as a team. And most of all....have FUN!!
  • Are you really helping ....

    Boy you really hit the nail on the head with this one ! You really just made me think about how I act at the game when I'm watching my son at the plate ,I can see your point that there can only be one coach at the game . Yes I do want my son to do his best at the game . You have really made me think about what I'm saying and thinking, we all as parents should let the kids be kids and just let them play and let ball fall were It may . Because It's the kids time to play and have fun thank you for this advise.....
  • I agree

    I am a high school player and when I bat and I have fun I do better then when I'm thinking about how I can make other people that come to watch me be proud of me. Now that I think about this I think that having fun can really help alot and I'm a center fielder and a lead off batter and is like to be the same when I go to the next level
  • World's Greatest Hitting Coach(es)

    Love the post Mike. My wife and I are both guilty of coaching from the stands from time to time. Never negative stuff, but I know you are right. We'll try to knock it off. Thanks.
  • Right on, Mike!

    What a terrific very true! I am working with my 3 1/2 year old son on just the basics and being supportive of his efforts instead of forcing him to keep swinging or catching.
  • Totally agree

    I have managed and coached my three children and never yelled at do need to be praised and encouraged. I am currently a board member for our towns baseball and softbal leagues, and every year you hear parents complaining about a coach being to hard on the kids! I am a firm believer that sports are not everything and I love my sports, but kids need to learn how to play together and show good sportsmanship and it all starts with the parents and coaches. I believe sports are not going to get you that great job you are looking for someday, so learn to be a good person. Enjoy the game!!
  • my kids soccer games

    Holy cow! I can't stand going to my kids soccer games because of all of the parents who spend the entire game yelling at the kids. I guess they think because they are yelling encouraging things that this somehow makes it alright. If I have to hear "fight for that ball" or "that's it [team name] go go go" I think I will go crazy. Mike, my wife is going to kill me but I printed off your comments about yelling and I am going to leave a few copies at the field tomorrow before the game. Maybe they will get the idea.
  • I had to stop

    I had to stop going to youth games after all the yelling parents did, even swearing at the kid when they failed or screaming at the ump. On more than a few occasions, I asked the parents "You know that is your child right?" All I got back were silent looks of hate back from them and I am sure they would have said something were I not the priest that gave them communion of Sunday. After that I gave a homily and found some great brochures from Our Sunday Visitor about being a good parent at the games. It is good to hear you say this because all of these people are rabid Cardinal fans.
  • Great advice

    Thanks for the great advice! I'm always positive with my players and try to build them up, but I never considered that even yelling positive instruction could add to their stress. I'll work on limiting my instruction to practice time. Love your blog. Go Cards!
  • Yelling

    I love this!! I watch the kids afraid to try or give their all or take a risk for fear of making a mistake because they are already being yelled at and threatened to be pulled out of their positions for making mistakes. I wish the attempts would be encouraged, mistakes and all, so they could really learn and gain experience, and grow as people. It's too much pressure and not enough fun.