Is Daddy Ball a Thing?

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Our family has probably been through more than 30 different teams with my two boys and we’ve experienced a lot of different types of coaches and personalities. I can tell you that in my experience “Daddy Ball” does occur on different levels, sometimes blatantly and sometimes in very subtle ways.

 

You should probably just get used to it right out of the gate, because there is really nothing you can do about it if you want your kids to play sports. I have seen it across all of the sports my kids have played and you are fighting a losing battle if you think you can go on a campaign to root it out or try to talk to the coaches about it. We all have to remember that coaches are fathers first, and most of them are out there to further their own kids with their sports. That doesn’t mean that those coaches won’t value your kids and work with them, it just means that human nature will be the guiding factor for how that dad works with and ultimately favors his own child.

 

We have had many wonderful, kind, and well-meaning coaches throughout my kids’ sports careers. I would say that most of them were not blatant with favoring their own kids, but I do think that all of them had some kind of daddy-ball tendencies at times.




You may think that daddy ball will end when your kids get to high school because the players have to try out and only the best will make the team and get playing time. In my experience, that is not always the case because at my son’s school the coach’s son came in as a freshman playing the position that my son would probably be playing, and if and when my other son attends that school, he will be competing with the athletic director’s son for the same position. I’m not necessarily saying that those kids don’t deserve those positions, but knowing the relationship between the coach and player does make people wonder if their child is getting a fair shake.

 

The best thing you can do as a parent is not to bring it up to your child, and do your best to encourage him or her to be the best that they can be. That means playing catch with them whenever possible and getting extra hitting or pitching lessons to increase their skills. If your kid is a great player, it will be hard to deny him. Attitude on and off the field is extremely important as well and hustling at practice and in games, and those things will make your player undeniably valuable. Your kid will be learning the ultimate lesson in earning things in life instead of being entitled to them. Keep reminding your child to be the kind of player and leader that a coach would want on his team.

 

Overall, I would say that even the more blatant daddy ball situations we have encountered weren’t that bad and if you just decide right away to focus your time and energy on helping your kid to do his or her best, you will be much happier for it, and it will make your sports-parenting much easier.

 




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6 Comments

  1. K'Leah

    Great read! I love how it was completely personable. I personally was able to take a lot from it. I have a 7 year old son and we started basketball this past year. I agree with you when you say it teaches kids to earn something vs it being handed to them. You also gave me some insight on what I may face in the future and how to handle it. Loved it!

  2. Sarah

    I’m on the other side of this because my husband is a coach and my son is a player. My son earns his spot. My husband coaches because my son LOVES the game. Lives it, breathes it, and yes–excels at it. That is what everyone–assistant coaches, other coaches besides my husband, opposing parents and coaches can see.

    But I know that no matter how good he is. No matter how much he goes out there and proves himself and earns his spot every single play of every single game…there will always be a few jealous parents hollering “daddy ball” and saying that the only reason he got his spot is b/c his daddy is the coach.

    Yes, I agree that daddy ball is sometimes the case but I have also seen an equal number of times where it’s the opposite and the coach’s kid really is better (both mine and others) and jealous moms are looking for somebody to blame when it’s really their kid’s lack of talent.

    1. Yep, you’re right. I’ve seen it both ways too. My kids have both had coaches that were way harder on their own kids than the others. I think Daddy Ball only applies when the kid is undeserving of the playing time and position. 🙂

  3. CD

    Since the age of seven, my son has played Little League, Pony league, and, staring at the age of 10, Travel Baseball. I have repeatedly witnessed so-called Daddy Ball and Buddy Ball in all three leagues, especially in Travel Baseball. Just as the author said, sometimes it’s blatant, sometimes it’s more subtle, but it’s always there. The only time I have not noticed this phenomenom, is when we pay high fees for teams where the Coaches have no kids on the squad. My son played on one of these teams at the age of 10-11. It was coached by an ex pro player from another country. Great Coach. Great practices. Fair Coach. Ethical. Sadly, we could never quite fill the roster, and the team disbanded. It was a money thing. Parents expected a more accomplished resume for those fees. I disagreed. This Coach was very good, and we were sorry it had to end.
    The usual scenario in Travel Ball, at least in the County where I live, is a team that does not collect fees (or very little for equipment), where you have three or four coaches, and they all have a kid on the team: Sometimes a son, others a nephew or even a grandkid. Sometimes these coaches have always been involved with their son’s baseball training, and therefore their kids’ skills are superior to most of the other players. Often, however, this is not the case. Yet you can rest assured that the connected kids have secured Shortstop, Pitching, Third Base, Catching and perhaps even Second Base for the Team Mom’s kid.. And I mean secured. A young Derek Jeter can join the team, and will not be able to even compete for the Shortstop position, because the coaches will all agree that there is some “deficit” in the Young Jeter’s fielding mechanics. Young Jeter ends up in the outfield. This is very common in Travel Baseball. Eventually, the talented new kids leave the team.
    There is also the case of the Coach’s son that cannot pitch, hates pitching and often refuses to pitch, yet the Coach makes him pitch in every important Tournament game. The kid has no control, and eventually allows a dozen runs, yet he will pitch again come next tournament. These coaches, and they are common, have no set of rules or official standards to prevent them from doing this. Many lack basic ethics and principle too. They will not listen to reason or to parents’ opinions. They are usually quite authoritarian.
    I can go on and on about other shenanigans in Travel Baseball, such as rampant cheating, for example. During one Tournament in a Big League Dreams stadium, the assistant coach sat next to me in the stands before the game to complete the game roster. He placed a hand full of Birth Certificates next to me. On the first Birth Certificate, I noticed the name of a kid I knew. This kid has a very distinct name, and I recognized it right away. A 12U player, he had played with my son in other teams for several years. I knew for a fact that this kid was not on our team, so I asked the coach. His response was an index finger across the lips; advising me to be quiet. I later found out, through my son, that there were three other 13 year olds on the team. The Coach was using the copies of Birth Certificates belonging to previous 12U players, in order to enable 13 year old ringers to play on the team. You see, it’s about winning at all cost with these coaches. Of Course, we left the team following that tournament, but not before letting the Coaches know the great example they were passing along.
    We immediately found another team that had a reputation as very competitive, and was ranked among the top teams in the State.. The Coach said he needed a kid that could play all positions competently, which is what our son does. He told us he had no kids on the team. There was fee of $125.00, which was modest. . Our Son tried out, and he made the squad. Soon thereafter, however, we were once again disappointed. The assistant Coach and the Coach’s brother had kids on the team—shortstop and second base—and they were not very good. To further complicate matters, the Coach invited three “elite” players from so-called elite teams, to play for us during the first three tournaments. We had enough players to fill the roster, yet the Coach wanted “Superstar Ringers” to ensure victory. Several of the kids who were on the team, and who came to all the practices, were not invited to these tournaments. Instead, the Ringers showed up to play the key positions, paid no tournament fees and never sat down. The Ringers also appeared to be obviously older than 12U, which immediately made us suspect the same Birth Certificate shenanigans as on the previous team. This was also unacceptable, and we left the team after sharing our thoughts with the coaches, whose reply was basically, “everybody does it.”
    Thankfully, we found an outfit ((12U, 13U, 14U) coached by ex-College Players, two of which are High School baseball coaches. All too young to have children in 13U. The fee is relatively high, but everything is on the up and up, including the excellent training. No yelling or screaming. We win and we lose together. These coaches are enthusiastic, and have a great rapport with the kids. They are always teaching, but never demean the kids on the field. They correct during practice. So far, a great experience.
    The only way to avoid this phenom of Daddy Ball and Buddy Ball is to join a Travel Team where the Coaches have no kids on the team. The fees on these teams are usually high, but the experience is superior for the player and for the parent. The ‘Daddy Teams” are usually created by average dads with some baseball experience, for the primary purpose of furthering their own kids’ baseball skills. It is what it is. Some are more blatant than others, but the rose colored glasses are always on when it comes to their own kids or their brother’s kid, or their friends’ kids, etal.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I think you pretty much covered all of the scenarios that baseball parents encounter when they come across Daddy Ball. It sure can be frustrating, especially for people in towns where there aren’t many teams. We don’t have that problem here in Southern California because there are many teams to choose from with varying prices. I do agree that the best scenario is paying for a program in which the coach doesn’t have a kid on the team. I really like your writing. Would you be interested in writing an article for my blog? It could be on anything relating to baseball or baseball parenting. 🙂

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