Sports: Surviving Little League
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How do you handle a child who’s upset that he wasn’t picked for the best team?
Brennan admits that this is one of the biggest discussions they have in his league and one of the hardest parts of his job because games get more competitive as the kids get older. “If a kid isn’t picked for the majors, I tell the parents that he is probably playing with kids who are at the same ability level as he is,” Brennan says. “Ninety-five percent of kids who play in the minors would not enjoy being in the majors because the competition level is above them. They’ll have much more fun in the minors.” Sartorius remembers only two incidents where kids had problems with their teams, and mostly it was because their parents weren’t happy with the team and the coach. He asks parents to remember that, “the people on the field are volunteers, giving their time for your child and doing the best they can. It’s a big commitment — from April to June, three to five or six days a week, from 4 to 7 in the evening.” Most importantly, he reminds the players that, “It’s not about winning and losing…it’s all about fun.”
And what about those screaming parents next to you in the stands?
“I tell parents to let the players play, the coaches coach and the umps ump. It’s your job to cheer for the team,” says Sartorius. If some parents are yelling at the kids or coach, he encourages other parents to talk to them and remind them that it’s only a game. And he observes, “It seems to be getting worse. It seems to be a sign of the times that people think it’s OK just to react without thinking.” Brennan sometimes asks screaming parents to move further away from the field, explaining to them that they are distracting the team and that kids are not focusing on the game, but on them. Brennan emphasizes, “If parents put too much pressure on their kids, they won’t do as well in baseball. In baseball you have to be relaxed, confident and comfortable to play well.” Sartorius agrees. “The more relaxed kids are, the better they’ll hit. That’s why it’s so important to give your kids positive re-enforcement. Parents should just cheer — cheer everyone just for being out there.”