A letter to parents of youth baseball players

If you are a parent of a youth baseball player, imagine getting a letter like the one below for a summer youth baseball team. Here are excerpts.

Dear Fellow Parents:

I’ve always said I would coach only a team of orphans. Why? Because the biggest problem in youth sports is the parents.

But here we are, so it’s best I nip this in the bud. If I’m going to do this, I’m asking you to grab the concept that this is going to be ALL about the boys. If anything in this is about you, we need a change of plans.

My main goals are to:

  1. Teach these boys how to play baseball the right way.
  2. Make a positive impact on them as young men.
  3. Do all this with class.

We may not win every game, but we will be the classiest coaches, players, and parents at every game we play. The boys are going to show respect for their teammates, for the opposition, and for the umpires – no matter what.

My Christian faith guides my life, and while I have never been one to force it down someone’s throat, I also think it’s cowardly and hypocritical to shy away from what I believe. You parents need to know that when the opportunity presents itself, I will be honest about what I believe.

I believe the biggest role a parent can play is to be a silent source of encouragement. If you ask most boys what they want their parents to do during a game, they’ll say, “Nothing.” I know youth league parents feel they must cheer and shout, “Come on, let’s go, you can do it!” but even that just adds more pressure. You need to be the silent, constant, source of support.

Let me go on record right now that we will not have good umpiring. The sooner we all understand and accept that, the better off we will be. Pitches that bounce in the dirt will sometimes be called strikes, as will pitches that sail over our heads. Likewise, pitches our guys throw right down the middle will sometimes be called balls.

But at no time will our boys be allowed to show any emotion whatsoever toward the umpire. No shaking heads, no pouting, no saying anything. That is my job, and I will do it well.

If it sounds like I’m going to be demanding, you’re exactly right. I’m definitely going to demand their attention, and I’m going to require effort.

I am a firm believer that this game is more mental than physical, and though the mental aspect may be difficult, it can be learned by 10- and 11-year-olds.

Attitude, concentration, and effort are three things they can control. If they give me those three things every time they show up, they will have a great experience.

Now let me be clear about family priorities. I’m a firm believer that the family is the most important institution in the lives of these guys. Family events are much more important than the sports events. So, if your son misses a game or a practice, it’s not the end of the world, but out of respect for the kids that have made it, he may be asked to run, have his playing time altered a bit, or even be moved down in the batting order.

There is never an excuse for lack of hustle on a baseball field. Players who don’t hustle and run out balls will not play. The boys will catch on to this quickly.

Let me know as soon as possible whether or not this is a commitment that you and your son want to make.

Thanks.

Mike

That would be Mike, as in former Major League baseball player and now Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny, who coached a Little League team in 2008. The five single-spaced- page letter came to be known as the Matheny Manifesto.

The entire letter and much more is in the New York Times bestseller “The Matheny Manifesto – A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life.”

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