Local Man Pens Book about Adults in Kids’ Sports ‘Obnoxious Parents and Ruthless Coaches’ Details Youth Baseball Gone Awry
Randy Corwin’s book addresses the insanity he and others have seen in youth baseball.
By Grace Allen
A Norfolk resident with years of experience coaching and officiating in youth baseball games has written a book about the damaging role adults often play in kids’ sports. Randy Corwin’s book, “Obnoxious Parents and Ruthless Coaches” is a compilation of true stories of bad behaviors by parents, fans, and coaches in recreational leagues locally and across the country.
Corwin has coached and umpired Little League and Babe Ruth baseball games for a combined 25 years now. The book took him twelve years to write, plenty of time to gather the stories that deftly illustrate how problematic adult over-involvement in kids’ sports can be.
His goal, he said, was to point out that seemingly well-intentioned parents and coaches are ruining a kids’ game by competitive, intense behavior and overcomplicated organization.
“I found that even in the local recreational baseball league, where winning is supposedly not the priority, so many coaches and parents were taking these games way too seriously,” said Corwin. “I saw coaches doing anything to win games, from cheating, to tryingto ‘stack’ their team, to benching the weaker players while the stars played every minute.”
The book details instances of parents almost starting a brawl in the bleachers, coaches getting into fights with each other, and adults screaming at Little Leaguers who dropped a fly ball. Corwin himself once needed a police escort to his car after officiating a game.
While some stories might elicit a headshake, others illustrate the earnestness of competitive parents fixating on a child’s game in the unspoken hope of a college scholarship or a professional contract for their offspring later on in life. The risk of burnout for the kids is real, says Corwin.
He points out that Little League is geared for boys and girls ages 9-12, and that parents and coaches forget that baseball for his generation used to be a simple pickup game, no adults allowed. It’s now evolved into an almost-unwieldly apparatus that employs a draft, pages of rules, a code of conduct for spectators, and all sorts of political machinations designed to field teams that coaches secretly hope will dominate the league.
The real losers here are the kids, argues Corwin.
“What really bothered me about all the things I saw was that the kids look up to the coaches and parents at this age,” he said. “They watch what their coaches do in game situations. They watch how their parents conduct themselves at the games. And that’s how they learn to conduct themselves, not just on the field but in real life.”
After his own children aged out of youth sports, Corwin turned to umpiring as a way to stay involved with baseball, eventually running the Norfolk youth umpiring program up until two years ago. He himself still umpires close to 150 games a year.
A member of the Central Massachusetts Baseball Umpires Association (CMBUA), Corwin says the bad behavior by adults in youth sports has also impacted the number of officials certified to umpire and referee games. When he first joined the CMBUA in 2011, there were 175 umpires but now there are only 92 members left. Ironically, by badgering officials, parents and coaches are only hurting themselves and the kids, because youth umpires and referees are now quitting in high numbers, says Corwin. And they are the pipeline to patched officials, so high school games get impacted, too.
Earlier this year, umpires in Taunton stopped officiating Little League games because of threats of violence towards them. In May, referees and umpires rallied at the Massachusetts State House, asking for stronger protections from parents and fans at youth sporting events. Several bills are now pending on Beacon Hill that seek to impose strict penalties on anyone verbally or physically harassing sports officials at kids’ games.
Corwin, 67, uses humor and sarcasm to deal with the serious situations in the book. The owner of Housework Haters Cleaning Service, Corwin and his family have lived in Norfolk since 1986.
Corwin says he has always enjoyed youth sports because he believes they teach valuable life lessons, including how to handle adversity.
“It’s always more fun to win than to lose,” he acknowledged. “But you have to learn how to win graciously, lose with dignity, and when you disagree with something that may happen in a baseball or football game, you have to learn to accept what the authority figure has ruled and move on. Because that’s the way it is in life. You can’t challenge everyone you disagree with to a fight in the parking lot.”
“Obnoxious Parents and Ruthless Coaches” has been endorsed by Dan Shaughnessy, sportswriter for the Boston Globe, and Dave Wallace, former pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox, among others. It’s available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as at An Unlikely Story in Plainville.
For more information, or to contact the author, visit http://www.obnoxiousparentsruthlesscoaches.com.