Ask TBP: Getting Over that “New-Parent-on-the-Team” Awkwardness

Welcome to our latest edition of Ask Travel Ball Parents. Having kids who occasionally fill in on other teams, I can so relate to this dad’s question. In fact, my younger son just joined a new team. I imagine I’ll be revisiting this awkwardness pretty soon.

Dear Travel Ball Parents, 

My daughter is a pitcher.  On the weekends that her team isn’t playing, she will often “pick up” with other teams. I always enjoy watching her play. However I don’t know any of the other parents on the teams she picks up with. I always sit by myself and feel like there is a big “LOSER” sign flashing over my head. Can you guys give me some advice on how to make new friends at the ball field? 

Thanks,  Pick Up Player’s Dad

alton mercer


cindy costaThat happens to me a lot too, I just make sure to introduce myself and sit with the rest of the fans. I have always found a friendly face that made me feel welcome. —Cindy Costa, baseball mom, Turlock, CA


 

Take a puppy.—Alton Mercer, pro wrestler and softball dad, Madison, GA


It seems nothing gets easier as we get older. My 9 year old can make friends in any circumstance. Kids have no inhibitions – they will walk up to anyone. Within 10 minutes, they have a new BFF.

I’ve been in your shoes before, as the new parent on a team. It’s unsettling trying to determine where you fit into the pecking order. As an adult, we have to stop thinking that friendships just happen like they did when we were kids. In a circumstance like yours, even if you’re shy and reserved, you need to become forward and direct.

kariPut yourself out there.  I’m sure there is enough space on those parent-infested bleachers for you! Wiggle your way in, introduce yourself, ask a mom or dad how long this team has been playing together, which one is their child (and then try and make a positive comment about how well their kid throws, or that nice play they made at 1st base, or how quickly they hustle). Once you have their attention, the small talk will continue. Expect awkward silence. After all, these are people who don’t you know and vice versa. But sitting off in the back of a ball diamond won’t help your cause! Pretty soon the small talk turns into prolonged conversations.

I’m team manager for my son’s travel baseball team. We took on a few new kids this season. With those newbies also comes a few new sets of parents. I could sense right away they felt awkward as they stood off to the side. I put myself out there, and introduced myself. I welcomed them to the team and asked their names. I took them around and introduced them to the other parents. Yes, all of the parents on my son’s team are close. But do you think we started out that way? We were all strangers not so long ago. We started out with the small talk.

In my eyes, there is always room to expand the friend pool! But in order to have it happen, sometimes you have to take the initiative! Good luck!—-Kari Hicks, baseball mom, Buffalo, NY


Sometimes a direct approach works the best.  Introduce yourself to the other parents of the team and tell them who you are and your

catherine wrighterdaughter’s name.  I’m not a shy person, so this would work for me.  Ask one of the other parents if they have a roster of the girls so you can cheer for the other girls by name during the tournament.  You already have a lot in common with these parents, so use that to get to know them.  I know for volleyball tournaments, we are in pretty close quarters for 10-12 hours on a Saturday, even when we aren’t on the court.  We even get to know the parents on opposing teams and compliment the skills of other players.  Not all teams are friendly, but I would hope if your daughter is playing with them the other parents would welcome you.—Catherine Wrighter, volleyball coach and sports mom, Lexington, SC


 

11902323_10207474547291621_1964242357481919926_nYes! Come out of your shell my good man! Seriously though, it can be very intimidating introducing yourself to a new team. On our travel teams we have a tendency to think it’s a “private club” and that can be rather uninviting for the pick up players or the new players.

Best way to do it is show up confident, walk over and introduce yourself and point out your daughter. Stick your hand out and do the following: ” Hi, I’m ________ and my daughter ________ is one of your pick up players today. Mind if I sit down? Maybe Y’all can keep me informed so I know the players’ names when I’m cheering….” <insert big smile>….Always works great for me…. If they don’t respond then clearly they are beneath you and you should never play for them again ;-)—Stephanie Boarman, baseball mom, Chesterfield, VA


Navigating Travel Baseball Book Cover

Whenever we had a “pick-up” player, or even a new family join the team, I made a strong effort to search out the parents, introduce myself, and make sure they felt at home.  I encouraged other team parents to do the same.  It’s a shame that this isn’t happening on some of the teams you are joining, but frankly, not surprising. 

Saying that, we had a similar experience when we joined a team for the 12U Cooperstown tournament.  People weren’t rude, they just weren’t comfortable introducing themselves.  When there was a Dad standing alone, I would sometimes approach him, ask him which kid was his, and just talk a little baseball.  That worked the best for me.  I also found that trying to engage a group of parents that clearly knew each other well was a bad move.  If none of this works, sit back and enjoy your daughter’s pitching performance, and don’t sweat the small stuff.Tony Midea, baseball coach, dad and author of Navigating Travel Baseball.

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angelaweight

angelaweight

Angela Weight is a freelance writer, dedicated baseball mom, coach's wife and stray animal rescuer. Her latest book of humor essays, "Just Kidding, Not Really" can be downloaded from Amazon.com. Her family currently lives in Midlothian, VA.
angelaweight
About angelaweight 122 Articles
Angela Weight is a freelance writer, dedicated baseball mom, coach's wife and stray animal rescuer. Her latest book of humor essays, "Just Kidding, Not Really" can be downloaded from Amazon.com. Her family currently lives in Midlothian, VA.

1 Comment

  1. I agree, it can be so challenging. Especially when your child is older snd the team they are joining has been together since Kindergarten (or so it seems). I have found that it is best to at least introduce your self and child and ask a few questions about the team. I would sit near the other parents and listen to the chatter for a while, cheering along the way. You will probably hear hear some things you can comment on as well as comment on good plays. Hopefully, once the other parents become more comfortable with your presence, you will feel as though you “fit in”. Unfortunately, sometimes there are teams that just don’t want to let outsiders in. In that case, just smile, be polite and be there for your child!

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