Mountain View Voice

Opinion - June 8, 2012

Don't let parents ruin sports for the kids

by Jeffrey Van Middlebrook

My four kids are all grown, but my girlfriend's kids are still young minors — her 10-year-old son is playing youth baseball. I try to attend most of his games because my own kids all did youth sports, and I even coached my daughter's baseball team one year and my oldest son's team for three years.

My oldest son was known in the Monterey Peninsula youth baseball circles as "The Bat." Starting at age 6 up to age 14 when he quit, he was constantly rocketing the balls out of the parks. By age 14, his last year playing baseball, he was hitting homers between 320 feet and 360 feet, longer than the right field wall at AT&T Park.

All four of my kids quit competitive youth sports because they got fed up with the insane parents and angry coaches. I saw so many athletically gifted kids, including my own, have sports ruined for them because of the way so many parents and coaches live vicariously through the kids, as if trying to erase their own failures through the successes of their kids.

Today my girlfriend's son played his last game of the season. The coach of the opposing team was a big man with a booming voice, an intimidating presence so familiar to me from my days of coaching youth baseball. Towards the end of the game, one of the two young kids officiating the game as umpires called out one of the runners from the opposing team in one of those questionable moments, and that big man intimidated that young kid, bullying the kid into reversing his call. Nobody came to that kid's support, and it was all I could do to contain myself from coming out of the bleachers and telling that coach off in defense of the young umpire.

After the game I saw that kid sitting on a bench in the parking lot waiting for his mom to pick him up, and he was in tears. I went over to him and told him that that coach had no right to speak to him the way he did, and I told that kid to never let any coach or parent do that to him again. Tears were going down the kid's cheeks as he thanked me. I told the kid he has the power to eject any coach or parent from the game.

All I can say to all you adults out there involved in youth sports is: Grow up and stop living through the kids. Let the kids enjoy their chosen sports in their own way. Get your own life!

Jeffrey Van Middlebrook

Easy Street

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