Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Little League Parent Pledge

My son has been playing Little League for years. He really likes baseball and even though it can be a major time suck and occasional pain in my keister, so do I. I love watching the kids play, seeing them come together as a team over the course of the season, watching them improve, take risks, fail, and succeed. I like meeting new families and reconnecting with old friends.

Given my over-all warm and fuzzy feelings about Little League, it might surprise you that I've got some rants in my pants about it and I'm about to unload a little bit. Because one of the things I like the most about baseball is a little something I call the "The Statement of Parental Non-Assholery" that our League requires us to make at the beginning of every game. That's not it's real name, by the way, officially it's called "The Parent Pledge".

You want to read it? Here it is.
The Parent Pledge 
I will teach all children to play fair and do their best. 
I will positively support all managers, coaches and players. 
I will respect the decisions of the umpires.  
I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the game.
It's great, right? What could anyone possibly object to in that statement? For me, The Parent Pledge is basically saying (and by the way, this is also known as Wheaton's Law): Don't be a dick. But there's always a couple of coaches who don't think it's important and try and skip it. And there's always a couple of parents who roll their eyes about how dumb it is, and act like they're too cool to say it. That's funny to me.

It's funny because they're usually the ones who need it the most. You know who they are and you know exactly what I mean. I have this theory that the Parent Pledge is really sort of an asshole litmus test and is actually code for something else.  If you roll your eyes and think you're too cool for The Parent Pledge - then guess what? You failed the test and you're probably an asshole.

You know how sometimes you hear people say things and you realize that if you listen carefully, there's a whole lot going on between the lines? (This is an example of what I mean.)

Reading between the lines of the Parent Pledge, here's what I think it actually means;

I will teach all children to play fair and do their best.
I will not let my kid act like a cartoon weasel. One who doesn't listen, does whatever he wants, talks a bunch of trash, and taunts other kids when they lose or mess up.
I will positively support all managers, coaches, and players.
I will remember that all the grown-ups here are volunteers who do not need to take a bunch of crap from parents, when they're working their tails off for free to teach and mentor our kids.
I will also remember that parents who sit on the bleachers making snide comments about "players" are actually saying hurtful things about other people's kids, and that's a dick move.
I will respect the decisions of the umpires.
I will not lose my shit and start screaming at the 14 year old umpire who just called my kid out when he was actually safe. Because that is straight up crazy and anyone who does that has anger issues and should consider making some life changes.
I will also not argue with or heckle the umpire over the outcome of a game involving 8 year olds. IT'S A GAME. You care more about it than the kid who was just at bat. Be like Elsa and let it go.
I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the game.
I will never make my kid feel bad because she didn't get a hit, made an error, or because his team lost. Making him feel bad about himself and about baseball is a great way to make sure he stops playing sports altogether and transitions directly into a sullen teenager who never looks up from his phone.

Hey while I'm at it, I'll create a secondary pledge. This one is just for me, recognizing my own weaknesses as a baseball parent. While I don't yell at the umpire, I do other annoying things. So here's my pledge:
  • I will try not to embarrass my kid by looking like I'm going to throw up from nerves every time he's at bat or about to pitch. 
  • I will cheer only slightly less enthusiastically for the kids on the other team who make great plays. Unless I know them, in which case I will cheer loudly for them and not even feel one bit bad.
  • I will not complain about having to drive my child to every practice and game, even though they're all half way across the county during rush hour. 
  • I will make a concerted effort to wash my kid's uniform before each game, even if I have dig it out of a pile of stinky grossness in his closet.
  • I will utilize advanced level strategic planning skills to ensure that dinner is in the crock pot, homework is done, the dog is walked, and my kid is there in time for warm-ups. But I mean, that shit is not easy.
  • I will entertain bored siblings for hours and hours and hours while my other kid plays ball.
  • I will nag him relentlessly gently remind him not to forget his bag and glove. Sometimes twice.
  • I will not get mad when he forgets it anyway and then blames me because it's not there.
  • I will volunteer to do things I don't really want to do (because the people who always manage to get out of doing that required stuff have poopypants). That means carrying heavy things and cleaning up the field and bringing snacks and gatorade and whatever else needs to get done. 
  • I will make sure all the coaches know how much we appreciate their time. I will also make sure the coach's spouse knows how much we appreciate what their whole family does. 
  • I will give my kids money for the snack bar because it raises funds for the league and I know how much they love it (but it drives me crazy because we both know they're the exact same snacks from Costco that we have in our pantry that they claim they don't like).
  • If I see other grown-ups (be they parents, coaches or umpires) behaving in a way that is not consistent with the Statement of Non-Assholery, I will keep my fat mouth shut and vent about it later so as not to make situation weirder. Because muttering under my breath, glaring at the offender, and exchanging "Are You F*cking Kidding Me?" looks with other parents is really not helpful. Not that I've done that. (Except for last week and now I feel shame). 
  • I will try to be a good person and not an asshole, remembering to set a good example for my kids, both on and off the field. No matter what.
Signed,

Lydia B. Coupon

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14 comments:

  1. Were we at the same playoff game last night?! If so, I'd like to apologize for our coach/parents. Ugh. I just want my kid to learn and have fun! Since when did little league baseball championships become a measure of us as adults?

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  2. This applies to tee-ball as well, sadly. We had our all-star game last weekend, complete with the 4-6 year olds...and their seriously way over-invested parents, yelling at them to "Hustle!!" and "RUNNNNNNN!" and "What are you doing?!! Get him out!!!" There was also a heated discussion about why outs weren't being counted and why the official score wasn't being kept. Yeah. Fun.

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  3. Although I think exchanging the "Are you f*cking kidding me" looks with other parents is totally, acceptable, I agree with the rest of the article 100%! You could adapt this to all levels, including high school sports in which I work. Great stuff, with a good touch of humor added...

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  4. Amen! So many of the parents and coaches here in NOVA need a remedial course in how to follow the parent's pledge. For our soccer league it is the Parents Code of Conduct that everyone has to agree to when they sign up their kids for the season. So sad some parents and coaches do not get it as it really only hurts their kids.

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  5. I really want to print and put up a poster of your "parent-pledge-between-the-lines" - just perfect.

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  6. For several years I was a soccer ref, and believe me, it's not limited to baseball. One game I actually had to stop the game and threaten to send every parent to their cars (well within my right) because of the level of anger and hostility leveled at the opposing teams and the refs. God forbid I let their precious snowflakes fall down and get a little dirt on their uniforms. Soccer is a rough sport. I should know, I played it for years. You fall down, you get back up, and apply that lesson to life.

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  7. This is unfortunately so appropriate. I love the between-the-lines. My kids have played soccer, hockey, baseball and lacrosse, and the assholery applies to every sport!

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  8. I experienced this (the assholery) behavior during sson's 10+ years of baseball. In addition, certain coaches cherry picked players - they weren't supposed to - unruly parents got kicked out and everything you listed above happened. We have our 6 year old daughters in soccer and there's one dad who feels the need to ride his son's behind every time he walks off the field. In addition to making snide comments about my husband's coaching. Husband stepped up because no one else did and we almost didn't have a team. But, the kids are still having fun even if a few of the parents don't have the best attitude.

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  9. This is so spot on. Thank you for writing this and most importantly living by it. I love the kids, I love the game, I hate the parents. Ok, not ALL the parents but the ones who are bad heavily outweigh the good.

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  10. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that while I do agree with the parent's/team/ coaches having to abide with "The Parent Pledge" I have seen many umpires be rude and mouthy as well. On another note, during a game there should be NO FAVORITES when umpiring. Even if your son is on one of the teams. We have all seen it happen! So, I can see why some parent's/Coaches get frustrated. I'm NOT saying being an A-Hole is okay in any way shape or form, but can certainly see why some of the mouthiness is happening. I love baseball, I applaud other kids on other teams when they make great plays, and I go crazy when a player on our team make a amazing play! Am I an a-hole when the Umpire makes a bad call? No, even though sometime I would really like too! I'm pretty sure we all as parent's have felt that same way too. We all want our kids to do a great job, and when bad calls are being made behind the plate more than it should be, it is very FRUSTRATING to have to just sit there and not say a word. Mill Creek is such an amazing league to play, for and we feel honored to be a part of it. I believe in respecting people and treating others how you would want to be treated yourself. Even when it's hard to do sometimes...

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  11. The Little League coaching is so bad at Intermediates and up in our small town, my son finally quit. The coaches would only play their own kids and their buddies kids and any other kids would just sit on the bench and never have a chance to play. If you didn't spend loads of money at fund raisers and show up for every event (I'd love to, but if you make practice at 3:30 pm when I work until 5 pm an hour away, I can't come), then you would never know what was going on because they never called, emailed, posted to Facebook, etc. We signed up for rec soccer instead and it is AMAZING. Because it's purposely non-competitive, no one gets bent out of shape. If you want the pressure, Classics has it, but if you just want some fun for your kid so he can learn teamwork and sports, rec is awesome!

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  12. Holy Schmoly! I was just at a baseball game and a friend was reading this out loud to the parents! When she said who wrote it, I screamed "OMG! I KNOW HER!" I've never been so proud- this piece is perfection!

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  13. i LOVE this! i'm seriously considering printing it out and making a hand out for our softball parents (just in case)...

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