The Death of the Parent-Volunteer

I’ve watched the death of the parent-volunteer as each sport season passes.

In fact, my own attentive-dad-volunteering vigor has begun to wither so early in this tee ball season.

But, it’s not only me – and not only with baseball.

Parents just aren’t volunteering anymore – and, because I’ve been suckered into picking up the slack, I’m finding out why.

First things first – I love to coach my kids.  My dad coached me and I cherish those memories.

Nothing can substitute for watching my son or daughter score their first goal or running to give me a hug after throwing the winning touchdown pass.

I’m telling you, absolutely nothing makes me happier than sharing in these experiences.

Being a volunteer coach is dampening that nostalgia.

Volunteering is different now.  I’m not simply showing up on time and keeping 5 year-olds focused on watching the baseballs and not the butterflies for forty-five minutes.

There is much more to it, like:

  • Coaches meetings
  • Loading games into an online tool
  • Sending daily emails as practice reminders
  • Making a snack list while keeping tabs on player allergies


What happened?

My hypothesis is simple: it’s US!  Parents are cannibalizing each other and ruining the joy of volunteering.

Example #1: Practice and Game Notices

My team’s first practice took place on a Thursday.  My email to remind the team of the gathering was sent on Tuesday night – once my children were sleeping.

I received two responses to the initial note to the team:

(1) a concerned note about missing the first practice and

(2) an email saying that “given the short notice” her son would not be attending.

Although context is lost in email, I could detect the slight annoyance in each message as both went on to push for earlier notices for future practices and games.

I get it – everyone is busy, including our children.  But, please excuse me for taking an evening to coordinate a team practice that might not work for your little one’s calendar.

And, just in case they can’t make it, understand that missing tee ball is not a big deal.  These little ones are not under contract and will not be benched.

Example #2: The snack sheet

A quick parent meeting followed our first practice.  The agenda was simple – I wanted to introduce myself, my philosophy and field any questions that parents had.

Concluding my short monologue, I asked the group, “Any questions?”

A cordial mother’s hand shot to the sky, “Coach, I assume we’re doing snacks after the game?  I’ll take the first week.”

I wish I had the courage to say what I thought – something like, “Our team won’t be doing snack.  Kids eat too many snacks.  In fact, the game is two innings and about forty minutes long.  Our kids probably won’t even sweat so we don’t need the Oreo’s and juice boxes afterward.”

Instead, though, I gave in.  I didn’t have the energy to fight it.  All parents nodded in agreement and my excel snack and allergy tracker was sent that very night.

I’ll begrudgingly bring orange slices and water during week #3.

Example #3: That’s not my bat (or helmet or ball)

Three of my five players carry legit baseball bags, own their own bat and have personalized helmets.

I won’t hate on anyone that buys their child professional gear.  I will, though, scuff at parents condoning “that’s mine” behavior by their little ones when a teammate tries to use their swanky gear.

The behavior is pervasive and too frequent.  It’s the tears shed because Timmy is wearing Tracy’s helmet at first.  It’s Quincy refusing to swing Oscar’s bat.

I can accept a non-sharing 5 year-old, I have a harder time with the parents who make me feel like a jerk when I say, “Guys, we are a team and sharing everything is what we do.”

I do, though, love to coach.

No matter the anguish, no matter the thanklessness, no matter the forfeiting free Saturday mornings, I’ll show up to volunteer coach my team.

I’ll look forward to the high fives and hugs that my smiling little ballers will flash toward the bench.

Yes, I love it – but I adore it less with each volunteering night or weekend day.

The parent-volunteer can’t and shouldn’t be left to die.  The postgame snack list, however, can.


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