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If you’re familiar with baseball or have played at any level for any extended period of time, then I’m certain you’ve heard the term “daddy ball” thrown around on occasion. I often see discussions on the topic pop up in baseball chat groups or on coaching pages. “What is Daddy Ball?” or…do you agree that my coach is playing “daddy ball”…and then the comments start rolling in. There are varying degrees of opinion on what daddy ball is and what daddy ball is not and when the term daddy ball is appropriate. For me, as a coach’s wife, the “daddy ball” term is deeply offensive and is often an overly used term in sports that parents use to accuse a coach of being a bad coach or solely trying to coach to benefit his own child. Let’s walk through the term “Daddy Ball” and discuss–and let’s all start learning how to consider the bigger picture in youth sports instead of just pointing fingers.
What is Daddy Ball?
So first, what is “Daddy Ball?”
“Daddy Ball” is a term used to describe a coaching style where the coach favors his own child and seemingly passes over other players on the team. The argument with Daddy Ball is that it gives unfair preference, playing time, or positioning to the coach’s child or children.
Is it really a thing?
Unfortunately, yes. Daddy Ball definitely occurs. There are times when a coach’s son gets noticeably more playing time then others or gets unfair opportunities because a coach (or group of coaches) is putting personal preferences for his child over the needs of all the players on a team.
The problem with the term…
While I won’t dispute that occasions of daddy ball do occur, I also think it’s become a term that parents are weaponizing anytime they are upset with the coach OR disagree with where the coach is positioning their player. Instead of looking at the bigger picture of where their own player may be struggling or needing help, they automatically look at where the coach’s child is at and insinuate that the coach is giving special treatment to their own child.
I see all too often that a parent will grow resentful as the season progresses and will watch the game and see the coach’s son move up in the lineup and then we start hearing “daddy ball” being used in hushed tones around the team.
As a coach’s wife, I know firsthand the angst a coach has when putting together a lineup. It’s a losing game of “who am I going to piss off today” when the game starts getting really competitive. All parents pay the same amount of money and everyone thinks their son is owed time on the field and works the hardest…and the coach has to think about all that AND then consider the perception of where they play their own son. If their son plays too much at the expense of another player, then it’s “daddy ball”. If their son plays well in a preferred spot (infield), then what are people going to think? But what if your son has truly earned that spot?!
Without dads coaching baseball, you wouldn’t have teams.
I have news for you guys. Without these dads volunteering THEIR time to coach your son, you wouldn’t have baseball teams. Most teams are coached by well-meaning dads who just love the game and want to teach what they were taught. Do they make mistakes, sure they do, they are human just like you. The most frustrating part out of the “daddy ball” argument is the lack of appreciation for these coaches who are stressing out about the comments being made from parents behind their backs every season. They see the whispering behind home plate or the body language of an upset parent. They hear the rumors starting up. They deal with the upset phone calls and text message exchanges and question what they could do better or different.
Give them some grace! Be appreciative of the time and effort they are putting into your child…for free in most cases.
As teams get older and more competitive, these dads devote hours upon hours upon hours to coach games, plan and prepare for practices, create lineups, research practice plans, fundraise for the team, organize games and register for tournaments…it’s easily a part time job. And yet, at the slightest moment, parents forget this and so easily!
Also remember, someday when your player is grown, they might also decide to coach their own child and pass along what their coaches taught them when they were young. And without these dads continuing to coach and spread love for the game, we wouldn’t have youth sports!
Often times, the coach’s kid is held to a much higher standard.
Coaches kids get held to much higher standards in many cases than other players too. The coach’s kid doesn’t get to just skip practice when he’s having a rough day. The coach’s kid is constantly being compared to other players and his “worthiness” on the field.
The coach also has to look at the “perception” of where his son plays…earned or not. My husband and I have literally had conversations about him sitting our son more or batting him lower in the order just because he knows the implications if he doesn’t… “daddy ball”. Is that fair to our son??!
Parents often don’t consider the undue pressure that the coach’s kid is constantly put under–his stats must be the best in order to start and if they’re not, then it’s “daddy ball”….but often times coaches use their eyes and their baseball knowledge to position players, not just stats! Stats don’t paint a full picture of what happens on the field and any coach with long term baseball knowledge knows this.
There’s a lot of added pressure to be a coach’s child that people forget about!
Please reconsider your negativity.
You’ve probably heard people say that adults ruin youth sports these days. And sometimes that’s very true. Adult egos ruin youth sports and put undo strain on kids out there to just have fun.
We see umpire and referee shortages because people are sick and tired of putting up with angry and disgruntled parents. We see disgusting displays of violence on the field when parents get into physical altercations over a call.
And worst of all, we see kids quitting sports they enjoy because their parents put so much pressure on them and take the fun out of it.
What are we teaching our kids through all of this?!
Is your goal to always blame the coach and claim “daddy ball” when you don’t agree with a coach? Perhaps instead of complaining, you calmly ask your coach why they made that decision. Sometimes the answer isn’t as “sinister” as you imagine. 😉
Your coach is human. Ask them. Perhaps calmly expressing your opinion might help them reconsider their decision, as well. And perhaps hearing the coach’s opinion, might also help you rethink your frustration, also. It goes both ways.
Remember that your kids listen to what you say…
Also remember, when you talk badly about the coach in front of your kids…you are setting them up for failure on the team. They start to lose confidence in their relationship with their coach. They don’t listen as much to the coach or respect them as much. And worst of all, they might start spreading your negativity to other players.
All of a sudden, your negative opinion of the coach is tainting the team dynamic whether you meant for it to or not.
Try hard not to talk badly about your child’s coach in front of them. It has long lasting effects.
Hold your child accountable for their own playing time and stop letting excuses like “daddy ball” give them an out. In high school, they may sit just as much or more…and then what excuse are you going to use? Get them used to adversity, get them used to talking to their coaches, get them used to working hard and constantly improving, but what you shouldn’t get them used to is blaming the coach every time their parents disagree with their playing time or batting order.
If it is truly “daddy ball”…then finish the season out and switch teams. No one is forcing you to be there. But let’s stop weaponizing the daddy ball term against well-intended coaches who are just doing their best to make everyone happy, which…as you know…is impossible.
What do you think? What has been your experience with daddy ball? Leave your comments below.
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