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The Matheny Manifesto: The Controversial Letter all Sports Parents Must Read

I recently read The Matheny Manifesto, which is the somewhat controversial letter St. Louis Cardinals’ Manager Mike Matheny wrote to little league parents when he was asked to coach little league baseball.  Mike has some very strong stances on the role of a sports parent, some of which were not received well.  Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have made Mike’s cut for sports parents.

Sports and family…it’s what we do

You may have heard sports parents say, “we are a baseball family,” or “a soccer family,” or like me, “a basketball family.” Bledsoe boys and basketball go hand in hand, starting with my grandfather in the 1920s. We all get our wives, daughters, and entire family loving the game of basketball. Similar to that I’d also say we are a sports parent/youth coach family. My dad coached me, I coach my kids (going on 9 years), my brother coached his son and he also coaches for a living. When our love of sports, family, and kids come together it compels us to coach.

I’m not so sure I agree with Mike Matheny

I have a “little” experience in the sports parenting and youth coaching world. So, when I read a few clips of The Matheny Manifesto I was challenged. Although I respect Mike’s experience and knowledge as a former Major League Baseball player, and now a Major League Baseball coach, I thought he was off base. Here is the part I was stuck on:

“I believe that the biggest role of the parent is to be a silent source of encouragement…if you ask most boys what they would want their parents to do during the game; they would say “NOTHING”…You as parents need to be the silent”

So, as a parent I am to sit on my hands, keep my mouth closed, then after the game say “good game Johnny” with a handshake, followed by “what do you want for dinner?”  I can understand not coaching from the stands, not saying negative things to the kids, and not complaining to umpires or coaches. But not saying anything?  He has to be kidding me!

Maybe The Matheny Manifesto is right…

Fortunately, I took the time and read the entire manifesto. What I found was priceless! When I read the clips above with the full context it made more sense. And through the letter I learned more about Mike and the basis for the way he does things. Now, I am a big fan of this manifesto, and believe every single sports parent and youth coach in every sport should read this. Not only should they read it, but keep it on hand and reread frequently. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObGlmvPfuY He makes some strong statements, but his overarching goal and driver of the way he does things is the following notion:

“The youth sports experience is ALL about the kids.” [Tweet this]

I don’t think there is a sports parent that would disagree with that statement. Although, I’m still not in 100% agreement with the silent treatment, as I believe positive encouragement and cheering from the parent should be allowed and encouraged. Plus, I honestly don’t think I could keep quiet. I won’t coach, degrade my kid or others, or argue with officials from the side.  But I am a parent and a fan. For those reasons, I think Mike would “cut” me 🙂

The Matheny Manifesto…The Sports Parent Manifesto??

As I’ve said this is something every sports parent and youth coach should read. If they did, many of the issues we deal with in youth sports may be resolved. Below are some of my thoughts on specific points Mike addresses in the manifesto.

  1. Parents are the problem and the solution. On the problem side, parents don’t always make the experience ALL about the kids.  The key word is “ALL.” On the solution side, parents are in large part the reason a kid improves by helping them to get the amount of repetition needed off the field to improve on the field.  This can be done by the parent or private coaching.
  2. Officiating will be bad, but its okay. I have experienced bad officiating on both sides. It comes with the territory of youth sports. But that is out of each player and coaches control.  The focus of players and coaches should be on the things they can directly impact during the course of a game.
  3. Focus on the mental aspect just as much as the physical aspect.  When the kids are aware of what they were thinking before and during plays, they can learn from them and get better. Sports are physically very demanding, but the most successful athletes have great mental focus.
  4. Parents must trust the coaches…and coaches must be trustworthy. As a parent you have to trust that the coach has the same mindset of it’s “ALL about the kids,” and his/her goal is to teach in a positive way that builds character. Coaches must do their part in being as prepared as they can, and show the type of behavior that encourages parents to believe their kids are in good hands. If this is done, parents can enjoy being parents and fans, and coaches can do their “jobs.”
  5. Family events outweigh sports events. Family is most important, and when family events and team events conflict the family should be the priority. This is not a pass to be inconsiderate of the team, but it should encourage families to be families first, and sports families after.

Agree or not, sports parents need to read this

I’m not sure where you stand on the points made above or in The Matheny Manifesto. Hopefully, we all can agree that youth sports is ALL about the kids. When that happens youth sports can be the fun, enjoyable, and life building experience it is intended to be. Win, lose, or draw there is nothing like it. Question: Have you read The Matheny Manifesto?  What are your thoughts?


If you want to find the perfect coach so you are able to focus on being the best parent you can be, check out CoachUp!


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