Dodger manager Don Mattingly on youth sports parenting the right way
By Greg Bach
During Don Mattingly’s youth sports playing days his parents didn’t question calls, shout instructions, criticize performances or dissect games on the drive home.
“For me, when I look back, one of the best things my father ever did for me was there was never really any criticism,” says Mattingly, in his fifth season as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “He would show up at the games but there was never any criticism of how you did.”
That parenting approach worked out pretty well for Mattingly, who had positive youth sports experiences throughout his childhood and went on to enjoy a 14-year career with the New York Yankees that featured nine Gold Gloves, six All-Star appearances, three Silver Slugger Awards and an American League Most Valuable Player award.
And his No. 23 jersey was retired by the Yankees.
“I played youth sports without any fear of criticism other than the coach maybe telling you something but you didn’t fear that because when I went home it was dinner and on to my brother’s activity or whatever,” Mattingly said. “There was no cutting the game up when I was 10, 11 or 12 years old. We played, we went home and we moved on.”
PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
When parents keep youth sports and their purpose in perspective, like Mattingly’s did, good things happen.
When parents lose perspective – yelling, fighting and berating players, coaches and officials – children suffer the consequences in a big way. And many have little interest in returning to endure another season of misery.
“It’s all about perspective and the lessons that you can learn in youth sports,” Mattingly says. “What are we there for? Really, I think if you look at the bottom line, what are we playing youth sports for? You want kids to learn a lot of lessons: sportsmanship, how to win, how to lose, that you have to work for what you want. This perspective on youth sports is so important. It’s not that we can’t push them to be better but you always have to keep it in perspective.”
“There isn’t anything wrong with taking games seriously and playing hard,” Mattingly says. “But it goes back to perspective and that we’re not going to treat other kids badly on the other team and we’re not going to mock other teams. There are so many lessons to be learned from youth sports and that’s the way I think we have to look at it.”
HANDLING WINS AND LOSSES
“The way you handle winning and the way you handle losing are all great lessons to learn because there are going to be so many disappointments in our life in different things,” Mattingly says. “But we learn how to handle those and come back from that and continue to work and continue to come back out and keep it in perspective, where at the end of the day that game is really not important.”
Olympian Jonathan Edwards, author of An Athlete’s Guide to Winning in Sports and Life, on crafting plans, dreaming big and focusing on the long-term
Grand Valley State University professor Dr. Jon Coles studied college athletes and the impact of their parents’ behavior on their youth sports experiences. Use these insights to bolster your child’s athletic journey
When young athletes become insecure about their bodies it can send them down a dangerous path, affecting both their physical and mental well-being
Renowned sports psychologist Dr. Jim Taylor, author of Raising Young Athletes, delivers all-important insight to help you navigate your child’s youth sports journey and help them reap the benefits of a positive experience