Daddy Ball – Parents in Youth Sports

Youth sports has a dark side known as parents.  It is unfortunately too common that parents either step in to belittle officials or play politics to advance their children in the sport.  This may be a pre-cursor to life in the real world.  However, it is something we are all better off if we avoid it.

Daddy Ball – It’s Who You Know

For those not familiar with the concept of daddy ball it is seen more often than named.  It is also not an issue with Dads alone.  The way this works is that parents find ways to shmooze other parents as a way to get their children into better positions on a team.  This improvement may be more playing time, a spot on an all-star team, or choice positions like quarterback or pitcher.  It is not that the children impacted are worthy of the position.  It is that their skills and talents do not get considered.

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

A famous politician once talked about the soft bigotry of low expectations.  This is the situation where lowering expectations for someone lowers his or her value.  That is exactly the problem with daddy ball.  Even a well-meaning parent that is trying to help their child might instead be building reasons that the child should not be there.  The argument can be made that a child talented enough to play would not need a parent gaming the system.

It is not uncommon to see the child of a coach in the best role on a team.  Thus, the assumption typically is that the child did not earn the position.  Instead, they got it because their parent was the coach.  This is exactly why my boys knew that they would always have to work twice as hard on my teams and I would never make them a captain.  I did not want any success they had tainted by having a parent as a coach.

Walking The Line

The challenge in all of this is that a parent may have to do some politicking to get their child into a position to be successful.  It is complicated by the fact that most (if not all) parents naturally have a bias towards their children.  This bias makes it difficult for us to evaluate our kids fairly.

I have found the best approach is to push work ethic and persistence.  Sooner or later a parent will not be able to grease the wheels for their child.  At that point, the child must have the skills, experience, and perseverance to get noticed.  When a child has been pushing all their life to get noticed they will develop the skills needed to go it alone.  This may mean getting cut from a team along the way or suffering through some terrible seasons.  However, building the perseverance and self-confidence into your child to overcome the struggles will help them.

Allowing a child to struggle early may even be the key to them becoming all they can be.  We grow through adversity, not through charity.  Thus, when you have to decide whether to go the extra mile to advance your child, consider whether now is the time to boost them ahead or let them learn.

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