Parents need to watch their own emotions

ASK CAL

April 02, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

I'M WRITING ABOUT YOUR response to a recent question about prohibiting parents from cheering for their kids in youth sports. You advocated the benefits of preventing all spectators from uttering a word, presumably to silence the minority who take the games too seriously and are quite abusive. But, you assume that the purpose of youth sports is for the kids to learn to play the game. I agree that it should be, but I see coaches who seem to believe that they are professional coaches and are more concerned with their won-lost record instead of developing young players. They spend little to no time teaching. There are a great many parents who are there for the right reasons. Don't you think removing parents who give a reason to be removed is a better solution than suggesting silence on the sidelines?

Ed Clay, Fallston

DEAR ED / / Don't take my previous response too literally, as I simply was trying to make a point. Of course parents are going to attend their kids' games and are going to cheer and be supportive. They want to see their kids do well and have every right to express themselves. Kids expect applause when they do something well. And while I think that the "Silent Sunday" concept I wrote about was a unique and possibly effective way to help alleviate certain behaviors, I realize that it is not practical to put a gag order on all parents at every youth sporting event.

Sports are emotionally charged by nature. Every game has numerous peaks and valleys. Kids are learning how to handle their emotions, and it is important for parents to understand this. Reactions in the stands of any kind are likely to cause reactions among the kids on the field.

Everyone knows the impact that negative comments or actions can have on a young athlete. Such cases are well-documented, and certainly spectators who are too negative can be removed or made aware that their behavior will not be tolerated. What gets lost sometimes is that "over-cheering" can be just as dangerous to a child's psyche. When things go wrong on the field and all of that cheering turns to silence, kids are likely to get nervous or even panic.

I recommend that parents sit back and support their children in a low-key manner. By no means does that mean that they have to be silent, but a good rule of thumb is to react to everything that happens on the field as if you have seen it a hundred times. Don't add to the emotion that the kids are experiencing. Instead, allow them to understand their emotions and learn to deal with them with as few outside influences as possible.

My daughter got mad at me when I got her a baseball glove instead of a softball glove. Is there really a difference?

Jan Celigoj, Perry, Ohio

DEAR JAN / / Some baseball gloves are very similar -- if not identical -- to softball gloves. The larger gloves used by baseball outfielders are very much like most gloves used by softball players. Obviously, softballs are bigger than baseballs, so it makes sense to use a glove with longer fingers and more webbing.

The reason baseball infielders and most pitchers tend to use a smaller glove is because they want to be able to transfer the smaller baseball from their glove to their throwing hand as quickly as possible. For baseball outfielders, running down fly balls and having a longer reach is more important than the transfer, so their gloves are more similar to what softball players use.

Because the softball is bigger than the baseball, even infielders in softball can use the bigger gloves successfully. Just as with any product these days, there are gloves that are definitely designed solely for girls' softball. You can tell because of their coloring and the size of their webs. As with most things in baseball and softball, which glove to use is an individual choice. If the player likes the glove, is comfortable with it and plays well, in my mind it really shouldn't matter whether she uses a baseball or softball glove. If she doesn't like the glove and is going to blame every miscue she makes on it, you might find it easier to take her to the store and have her pick out the softball glove that she prefers.

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Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

A new Ripken book

Want to read more from Cal Ripken Jr. on children and sports? In his new book, Parenting Young Athletes the Ripken Way, the former Oriole star speaks from his experiences as a ball player, coach and father, offering readers a formula for sports-parenting success.

The book (Gotham, $25), due in stores this week, explores ways for parents to interact with their children from preschool through middle school and offers information about nutrition and sportsmanship.

Ripken says he has witnessed a detrimental shift in youth sports, with too much emphasis on competitiveness and not enough on having fun. He applies the "Ripken Way" to all sports, making the book useful for parents and children in youth sports and another step toward "returning the games to the kids."

[MICHAEL BARNETT]

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