To the Editor:
After having read the article about the behavior of parents and children in some of our youth programs, I recall my youth league coaching career in Pittsylvania County. From my experience it is true that some of the coaches and parents were very adamant while protecting their children. Having been ejected and/or given technicals myself there in no way I could personally dispute being over passionate. In eight years of coaching youth of coaching youth leagues in softball and basketball I witnessed everything that the Low-Down covered and more. Having coached in high school I witnessed some of the very same behavior only on a much smaller scale. Still supportive of their children the parents and coaches are a little less demonstrative as their children have aged. And of course as high schoolers there are less mistakes made to argue about. That’s not the case in youth leagues.
Umpiring, officiating and coaching in the youth leagues present challenges that most people would not believe. Being the parent of an aspiring young athlete also presents its challenges. Let’s break it down.
Parents with children that participate in youth leagues are to be commended. Working, parenting, and running a taxi service for their young can be very challenging and expensive. Sometimes I think parents have as much adjusting to do as do their children. The first time a parent sees their child in competitive scenario it can to say the least raise the stakes a bit. Some parents feel everything their child feels and more. That is because it is their job to protect their children no matter what.
Officials are trained using the rules of the game. Most officials began as young athletes. They do their jobs for the love of the game and for income. Their level of experience and training has earned them the right of being the only person in the gymnasium or on the playing field that is being paid. For this reason they are expected to be perfect. We all know there is only one perfect being.
Coaches in the youth leagues are the participants that are right in the middle of everything that’s going on. Their job description ranges from child supervision to at times adult supervision. Coaching in the youth leagues is purely volunteer. It is very rare for a youth league coach to not have to foot at least part of the bill for his or her team. It is only with the support of the parents that these coaches are able to maintain longevity. The same can be said for the youth leagues as a whole.
Players have the unfortunate disadvantage of being told what to do by their parents, by the coaches and the officials. All of this before they have actually even learned everything there is to know about the game. Some kids take it in stride, some do not. I have seen everything from tears to anger from children as young as nine years old. Properly handled, these children will learn the game all the while leaning important skills such as disciple and sportsmanship.
It takes a concerted effort from everyone to maintain the high level of youth leagues that we have here in Pittsylvania County. Our youth leagues have sent many good players all the way to professional level. Eric Owens, Warren Martin and Will Inman just to name a few. I guarantee you there were bumps and bruises along the way but the league persevered. Just as with any organization strong leadership will continue to rule the roost.