Merriam-Webster Definition of VOLUNTEER
: a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service: as a: one who enters into military service voluntarily b (1): one who renders a service or takes part in a transaction while having no legal concern or interest (2): one who receives a conveyance or transfer of property without giving valuable consideration
Funny, this definition does NOT include “whipping boy”, “blame target” or “root of all evil”.
Let me start by saying, I love softball. I love playing it, watching it and for the past several years, coaching it. I’ve had some trials and tribulations, with the past three years being the most difficult. It was to the point that I had decided this year I would not coach, but be a “Mom” in the stands to Second Born Son. But he asked me to coach his team, and since I had only ever helped with First Born Son’s team, I felt it was only fair to help out at least once with SBS’ team.
In recent years there has been a pattern with the issues facing the coaching staff – the kids stop or never did take it seriously (and by this, I don’t mean that they don’t have fun, they just fail to engage in the sport), then the parents get all annoyed that the team isn’t doing well, then gets in the coaches’ grill about how they handle the kids.
Personally, I have taken the view that organized sport is a prepping ground for real life. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you can do your best and some (umpires) can prevent you from winning. Working hard and practicing pays off. You won’t get a gold star just for showing up, you actually have to excel to be acknowledged. Mediocre is just that. These life lessons are why we’ve signed the kids up for organized sport.
But I’m among the minority, apparently. Parents want their children lauded for simply standing on a base. If I ask them to hold their glove in a ready position (partly to “look” like a ball player and mostly to prevent them from eating a ball) I’m being harsh. This revelation was given to me cold and hard by an irate parent, just this evening. This same parent hosted his own ball practice with certain members of the team, but failed to invite, ironically, the three kids whose parents are on the coaching staff.
Such negative and divisive actions have impacted the team pretty much from the beginning of the year. The kids feed of their parent’s energy and combined with their own less than ambitious outlook, end up being a team that could win many more games, but don’t.
It’s unfortunate. I feel bad for the kids who will someday go out into the real world and find out that Mom and Dad can’t hold their hand while they are at their first full time job. I’m sorry for the parents who will look back at this time in their child’s development and realize that there was a service being paid in how coaches motivate and indeed criticized their children – and how their children were able to use that motivation. We play numerous teams in a year and most of the coaches are strict. I’ve heard much more severe comments made from other benches – the teams played better, the parents were supportive of the coaches and that results in wins – which is what all teams strive for.
What it comes down to is this – I’ve volunteered in minor sports for nine years. I’ve never taken a year off. The time has come. I never suggested I knew everything about softball, and indeed have enjoyed the fact that I’ve been able to learn as I’ve move along as well. But to have a parent be critical and suggest I, and my colleagues, are doing a bad job – when they themselves never learned how to play the sport, well, it’s simply insulting.
Sadly, minor sports are experience a drought of volunteers as severe as the lack of rain we had in July. Teams will not be formed without adult volunteers, but who would want to step up, knowing parents and in some cases, players, are ready to tear them down? Individuals with much more experience than I have been dragged through the mud, all because a parent felt their child may have been slighted. I would never have volunteered to coach children if I didn’t like kids. I would never offer my time if I didn’t feel I had something to contribute. To be told otherwise is hurtful.
I don’t know what the answer is for the issue at large, but I know I won’t be signing up for any more volunteer hours any time soon.