Don’t just say the ‘Parents Pledge’ — live it

Before each Little League World Series game, a coach recites the “Parents Pledge.” Many of those coaches also are parents.

And yet, there are times that pledge simply remains these words on a card: “I will teach all children to play fair and do their best. I will positively support all managers, coaches and players. I will respect the decisions of the umpires. I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the game.”

Parents and coaches have violated that pledge multiple times in the past, not just at the Series, but throughout the country. Since the Series starts today, though, let’s focus on those issues here.

A year ago, an American coach and his team took unwarranted and unsubstantiated criticism from opposing coaches. Never mind that this is the Series where “everyone is a champion.” There are still many people who cannot keep things in their proper perspective. There are still those who forget this is still a kid’s game played by 11- and 12-year-olds. There are still those who forget that words can hurt and diminish what others have achieved.

Make no mistake, this is the minority, but that it happens at all is wrong. Look back at last year.

Toward the end of a close game, a coach shouted an obscenity at an opposing coach. When that team lost, it then accused the victor of cheating. That basically became a theme throughout the Series, with baseless accusations being thrown this team’s way. So much for “I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the game.”

Other opponents that lost to this team made accusations as well and left the opposing head coach in tears at one point. Here is a man who has devoted much of his life to positively impacting children and who is a brilliant teacher of the game being put down and given one of the worst labels anyone can give a fellow competitor.

So much for “I will positively support all managers, coaches and players.”

This was the exact opposite of what Little League is supposed to be all about. What’s worse is it has happened before as well. Those acting this way have to take a step back and realize what they are doing. They desperately need some perspective.

Why ruin one man’s and one team’s Series experience? Why diminish in any way what that team accomplished?

Listen, I am as fierce a competitor as anyone else. I despise losing as much as anyone does. But it happens. How one handles losing says more about him or her than winning does, especially when one is an adult. This is the not the Major Leagues. These players and coaches are not getting paid. This is supposed to be more about fun than winning. That is why Carl E. Stotz created Little League.

Think about the example those throwing out the accusations last year set for their players. Instead of accepting that maybe, just maybe, the better team won, they made excuses. They showed their kids that in the future better to whine about losing than learn from it. They spit in the face of that Little League Pledge.

So, too, have all those parents who have berated their own coaches or opposing coaches in the past. So, too, have those who have yelled at the umpires and forgotten the part of the pledge that says, “I will respect the decisions of the umpires.”

Two years ago, I inadvertently witnessed one of the worst displays of anti-Little League behavior. After an American team won an elimination game, a parent vehemently complained outside the stadium about a perceived lack of playing time for his child. He then physically went after the coach before being restrained by others. And this team WON. One is left to wonder how many other times episodes like this have unfolded over the years at various youth sports.

Come on, people. You are better than this.

What is past is past and cannot be changed. Those here, however, can learn from those previous mistakes. The ironic part about last year is the coach the others were complaining about has things in the proper perspective as much as any coach I’ve seen at this event in my 18 years covering this event.

Winning was nice, but was a bonus. The important thing he kept repeating was that his kids enjoy the experience to its fullest.

Keep that in my mind as the games start today. Everyone wants to win, but this is not life or death. It is a youth event and hopefully is not the crowning achievement in these kids’ lives. Let the kids be kids. Let them play hard, have fun on and off the field and enjoy baseball’s version of Disney World.

Forget about your own ambitions and desires and remember it’s about those kids. It is not enough to just say those Parents Pledge words.

Live those words.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse

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