"Daddy Ball" has been called, but which Daddy is right?

So you're talking to your neighbor, when you ask him how his son is doing in Little League and he spits out, "Daddy ball!" like he misread the expiration date on his glass of milk by a year or more.

You nod your head in agreement because you

  1. Know the coach and completely agree
  2. Know your neighbor's son is horrible and have no idea why you brought it up
  3. Know your neighbor's son is horrible, but you don't like your neighbor, or
  4. Bet a different neighbor $20 that he'd say that because he always blames others for his problems.

Like the answers to the question above, the dynamics of a perceived "daddy ball" situation can vary widely. "Daddy ball" is a common phrase in baseball that suggests the coach gives preferential treatment to his child. For instance, the player may be one of the worst hitters on the team, but the daddy/coach bats him first. Or, the player may be one of the worst defensive players on the team, yet always ends up playing shortstop (the team's most important defensive position).

Most coaches take slanderous offense to the daddy ball accusation. They see it not only as criticism of their coaching, but also of their child's skills, or lack thereof. Coaches are accused of playing favorites with their own children at the expense of others.

By definition, daddy ball refers to the coach's child and unavoidably implies that the coach's child is playing more than he deserves, just because "daddy" is the coach. If these are the symptoms, daddy ball may very well be an accurate diagnosis.

When daddy ball is viewed from another angle, however, it often pays to consider the source. Usually, the accuser in a daddy ball scenario is the parent of a child who thinks his kid should be playing more. Is daddy ball really the culprit or is paternal instinct just protecting one of its own while going after the only other option, the coach?

Let's face it, every team has a least talented player (thank you political correctness) who rides the bench or plays the minimum. Is that child doing everything he can to earn more playing time? Does the child think he should be playing more or is parental pride stirring the pot?

Often, daddy ball accusers don't want to look in-house, preferring to look elsewhere, anywhere else, to assign blame. They know the coach's kid plays all the time and their kids don't play enough, so daddy ball it is, to any and all who will listen. That's rationalizing, and weakly at that.

Like it or not, good or bad, the coach's kid is often one of the better players on the team, if not the best. If the team comes first, as it should, what is the benefit and the rationale for the best player playing less to placate the least talented kid?

If your child is on the bench, chances are there are several kids with more skills, and more playing time, than your child. To single out the coach and his kid is to look in the wrong place at a time when one should be looking in the mirror.

Today's reality says you might find an "equal playing time for all" approach at the introductory levels, where no one yet knows if that's the next Albert Pujols, or Albert Einstein, under that helmet. Beyond that point, however, you can try running the proverbial "we're just out here to have fun, everybody should play the same amount" up the flag pole and see who salutes.

Just be prepared to be called a communist before you get called to lead the team in "Kumbaya."

Regrettably, answer "A" does exist. Daddy ball is a part of youth sports that cannot be denied. That's not to say, however, that daddy ball coaches are the norm. They're not, and fortunately, there's not as many out there as some would have us believe.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

Kevin Heald Follow

Kevin writes a humor column called "Life is Heald" in Naples, Florida. Having been invo... View Full Bio

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