Being Called "Dumb" by Your Team Mates

Updated on April 11, 2011
J.K. asks from Burbank, CA
22 answers

I signed up my soon to be 7 y/o son into Little League. He's never played and my husband never pushed him. Because of his age he was placed in coach pitch instead of t ball. It's been about a month and he's had an okay time. Being one of the weaker players, he's in outfield and sees very little action.
At one of his games, I was right by the dug out and he was up to bat. I overheard some of his team mates talking about him and asking one another if they thought he was dumb. One even went so far as to say, " you can just tell him he's dumb and he won't know". At least there was one kid who said that it's not nice to call someone dumb. They complained that he hits and throws things at them and so on. What I've witnessed is that they will throw their gloves at each other and their hats and will throw the ball at each other. My son loves to be around other kids and will do what they do with gusto. Not realizing if he's too rough.
My husband was at the game too but did not hear this. I know he would be very upset and pull him out of the league. I spoke with the coach. He wanted names, etc. One of the assistant coaches said, "boys will be boys". Really? That makes it right?
Not sure what to do. My son says he enjoys the game but I don't think he really does. He doesn't understand the game but he tries hard. Getting him to practice and games is filled with "Oh man, not again!". Should I just pull him from the league and call it a day?
I would appreciate your thoughts and recommendations.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your comments and insight. Your words helped calm the mother bear in me and kept the juvenile in me in check. There is a big back story but the short end is that my DS has a speech and language delay. He doesn't speak as clear as kids his age and his comprehension is slightly delayed too. I've made it a point to remind him of appropriate behavior just before any practice, game, school. The coach was very happy to see my DS at practice and glad we didn't quit. I think my DS actually looks forward to practice and games now. My husband doesn't have a 9-5 job. That can be difficult to practice. I tried and I am worse than my son. Couple time I almost hit a car, a window and a passer by. I had signed my son up for little league without asking him because he was always ambivalent about sports. Once he got into it, he actually likes it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

you have 2 very important things to teach here. First if you think he is being picked on you need to teach him to stick up for himself. Whether he is challenging somone or letting an adult know. If you just pull him out HE WILL NOT LEARN. He will only learn to run and hide. Walking away is good for a fight, but not for being picked on IT WILL GET WORSE.
Also he has made a committment. When you sign up for a TEAM you basically agree to see it until the end. At least of the season. At that point you can allow him to not sign up again if he chooses.
If you think he likes it but maybe does not feel as skilled as the other players (some of whom have 3 years experience plus on him) get him some lessons or extra practice. Kids know when they are "not as good," he may like the social aspect of being with a team but may feel ashamed to have less skills. Ask him if he wants more training. If so it will build his confidence.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Just my opinion, but team sports for little kids really suck. More often than not most of the team stands around waiting for something to happen and the few times they do get to do anything they either don't know what to do or freeze up with stage fright because everyone is looking at them.
Throw in crazy parents and/or coaches (and they are out there) and the poor kid needs therapy to get over the whole mess.
There are plenty of other things for kids to do that are not team oriented and are physical - taekwondo, tumbling, skating, etc.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Cleveland on

I would not pull him out of the league. It's a life lesson.

Your son will come across difficult people his whole life, so use this experience to give him instructions on how to deal with it. Talk to him about how those boys made him feel, then ask him how he can deal with this situation next time.

Encourage him to stand up for himself, without "telling" on the boys. Give him some examples of what he can do, like staring at the boys right in the eye and saying something to defend himself. Have him practice this with you so he can do it the next time this happens.

As for not "getting" baseball, when my kids sign up for a sport or a class, I always make them finish it, even if they don't like it. They made a commitment to the team, so I make them honor it. Now, they don't ever have to sign up again, but they do have to finish the season.

This is a learning and growing opportunity. This kind of thing will happen over and over again, and you won't always be there. Teach him how to handle himself now while he's still young.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

Don't take him out yet. Since this is his first year, he needs some time to adjust. Keep trying to practice at home with him & try to make it as fun as possible. Maybe even give him a reward for practicing for 15 or 20 or however many minutes you find appropriate a couple of times a week. As far as the boys go, you will find them in any activity that you put your son in, they will just have different names. And the asst coach is right, in that boys will be boys, but you are right in that something needs to be said to them. I would probably have spoken up when it was happening & said something along the same lines as the little boy who did tell them it wasn't nice to call someone dumb and how would they feel if someone said that about them... I hope you told that little boy what a great job he did taking up for his teammate. I would also invite him over for a baseball practice playdate...

Hang in there. Try to find solutions to the issues that your son will have during his childhood. I would also be so nice to those little boys from now on, say hello to them by name & act as if you never heard a word. I did this with a little girl who was giving my daughter some grief at school. Everytime I saw her in the lunchroom or a school function I would go out of my way to say hi & smile at her. The problem seemed to disappear... :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

it would be SO hard not to react all mama-bear in this situation...i applaud you for keeping quiet...although i might have said something like, "that's not a very nice way to talk about your teammate, guys"...letting them know they were overheard and "busted"...i am sure they knew better, and they probably would have been super embarrassed to know an adult heard it. it's no different from office yakking many of us women partake in. we all know what it's like to have that one person that doesn't quite keep up, and sometimes it can hurt the team. it's frustrating. i would not take him out unless HE was unhappy, though. and i would try to work with him to help him AT LEAST understand the rules of the game. but go by his reaction, if he's having fun and wants to keep going, let him, and try to make it easier for him by helping him when he's at home. good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Ooooh, I'm SO sorry you had to hear those mean words against your child--no parent ever wants to hear that! I think it's a tough call but if your child is fine with continuing to play (even with some complaints), I wouldn't pull him out. You say he enjoys the game and is trying really hard despite being a novice, which is so commendable at age 7! We have coached t-ball/baseball for three seasons now and know that even the best players on a team complain about practices or games, and about teammates they don't like at times. Part of the value of being on a team is sticking it out through the tough times and keeping your commitment to the team.

That said, I think the coach was wrong to not address the name-calling situation in a better way. He doesn't need the kids' names to keep an eye out for mean behavior on the team, and can do things like emphasize what it means to be a good teammate and to bring up the value of teamwork. Could you identify those kids to the coach and have him talk to them directly?

Also, if you observe that your child sometimes gets too rough trying to fit in with the group, maybe you could remind him before practice and games that he needs to be careful about not crossing that line. There's no excuse for hurtful words like that, but there may be something your son unknowingly did that precipitated those comments.

The last thing I'd say is that although you can't control what other kids are going to say, you can give your own child the tools to deal with hurtful situations like this. You can teach him how to stand up for himself and to be an ally to others in the same kinds of situations, just like how the little boy you described said, "It's not nice to call someone dumb." Although this situation is upsetting, I think unless you find it to be a persistent pattern of bullying that the coach refuses to address, you can use this opportunity to talk to your child about a whole host of important issues--working hard to become better at something that's not easy for you, being a part of a team even though there might be teammates you don't like, how to respond to mean comments and standing up for yourself. I'd also encourage your child to make friends with kids on the team like the nice kid who stood up for him. Having a friend on the team can make a big difference in his perception of the sport and attitude towards the team.

Good luck and hope this helps!


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Being the mama and knowing someone else doesn't love our kids for who they are like we do is hard!

A certain amount of "boys will be boys" *is* a good thing. Your son is going to have to learn to deal with all sorts of people in life. In the same way that you don't start teaching manners when they're five because they need to know some basic by then, you don't wait to let him start working some things out on his own. Guide him, yes. Don't let people be mean to him, of course. But they weren't talking to him or even where he could hear them. Gossip happens at all ages and in all places. As my husband said last night (okay, yes, he was referring to not getting too worked up over yet another hormonal outburst from his adoring wife *ahem*), teach him to grow a few more feathers on his back so that people (or words) like that will run off his back like water.

As for pulling him from the league, DON'T do it. Finish the season and then look for something else. And in the meantime, practice at home, too. And practice not being so rough. The fact that he doesn't realize he's too rough doesn't really make it okay, and it's not going to help him find friends to travel through childhood with. (This whole paragraph is based on mistakes I made with my own son, in case you were wondering.)

Hugs, Mama. I know it's tough, but you'll get through it.

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answers from Norfolk on

I am guessing the one that said boys will be boys has a son on the team and it was one of his own saying it.

It could easy to turn that into a lesson of team work for the boys. If you think he needs help then help him. Name calling isn't good. I am betting the coach will say something like that. I would give the coach time to teach that lesson. I would give it a little more time.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My advice is to look back on how he got started in the first place. You say that YOU signed im up....why? Did he say to you that he really wanted to play? Or did you think it was a good idea b/c all boys should play a sport? If he did not ask to play-then consider letting him quit. If he truly doesn't like it then there is really no sense for him to be there. There are so many other sports out there for kids-although mabe not as 'cool' as baseball will still serve to get him involved and arond other children and learning the lessons that sports are 'supposed' to teach.

And as far as getting better at baseball-like I always tell MY son: the kids that are really good are not that way by accident. They are passionate about it and practice all the time. That right there is the difference between someone who is mediocre (like my son) and someone who is a star. You have to be willing to put in the hard work to get to the next level. IF not, then don't complain and just enjoy it for what it is worth.

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answers from Appleton on

My answer depends upon how much you or your hubby know about the game. If you two know a lot about the game, get out and practice with him. Play catch, do some batting practice. You can give him pointers on fine tuning what he is doing. If you are not that knowledgeable check with the local High School coach, ask him if there is a player on his team who would be willing to work with your son a few days a week. He can show him some pointers and encourage him to actually learn the game.
If the other boys on your son's team have been playing a couple of years they may see your son as a loser because he doesn't know the game and it's fine points. A lot of kids love the idea of playing but are actually a bit scared of the ball. That ball comes at them really fast and they are afraid of getting hurt when they catch the ball. With some experience they learn that it doesn't hurt and they will catch the ball and not get hit by it as often.
I wouldn't take him out of the league until he gives it a real try. It could set him up to feel like a loser and the other boys could start to tease him at school. If he hangs in there and the other boys see he is really trying and learning they will come to accept him.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I agree with the assistant coach to a point. Kids are mean to one another and parents can't always jump to their rescue. We have to teach our kids how to handle situstions like this so they're prepared. I'm guessing your son didn't hear these ugly words since he was batting so at least the boys didn't say it to his face. I know that doesn't make you feel better, but have you ever said something mean about someone behind their back? I think we're all guilty of that. I think the question of pulling him our has nothing to do with his teammates and everything to do with his enjoyment of the game. If he truly hates it and gave it a try, then why not let him quit. I don't really like quitting myself. I think you should fulfill your comittment when possible, but he's only 7 and if he really hates it then I'd allow it.

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answers from Washington DC on

a lot of folks are referring to this as bullying. it's not. they're discussing him when he's not there, not calling him names to his face. it is SO hard to hear your child being discussed by anyone but especially his peers in a such a fashion, but i don't like the idea that his team should be censored from saying anything about him at all amongst themselves.
one of the best thing about team sports (and also the hardest) is that kids are tough on each other. true mean-spiritedness should of course be taken care of by the coaches, but they're not there to be psychologists. they're there to teach the kids how to play baseball.
your son is trying hard and says he enjoys it. start with that. you and your husband should work with him at home as much as possible so his catching and batting improve. it's also helpful to discuss behaviors with him (not throwing the equipment even if the other kids do) but this is what's hard......a lot of behaviors are necessarily learned by experience. it's extremely prevalent right now for parents to micromanage every exchange between their kids and others, and it's a trend that will have far-reaching negative implications. sometimes the wolf pack's toughness is necessary to knock the rough edges off. hard as it is, that team's annoyed or disgusted reactions to your son's behavior will teach him far more effectively than all the talk in the world can do how to behave in the dugout. and the coaches forcing the other boys to 'be nice' to your son will not make him popular, it will backfire.
be alert for concrete bullying, but other than that, step back and be encouraging but let him figure this out. it's an important step in his development. if he ends up hating baseball, then pull him out and find something else, but be aware that he's got to learn to work with the pack by himself at some point, and you're only postponing it by taking him out.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I'd monitor the situation but don't hover.

Sport are important for fitness, learning to cooperate as a team, hand-eye many things.

He will learn SO MUCH from sticking this out and learning how to get better and will improve his confidence and self esteem. He shouldn't quit something just because it's hard or he's not good at it.

We learn and gain the most from stuff we have the hardest time with. It shows us aspects of ourselves and traits we would never otherwise see because we have to dig deep.

It's not right to be made fun of or get teased but don't handicap him more by getting in his way and over-mothering. Help him by taking him to batting cages, pitching to him in the backyard, doing drills. Even if he never plays again after this season...make him the best damn seven year old to ever play the game and he will EARN respect.

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answers from Eugene on

Most of these coaches are just ordinary people with no training in helping children learn. Your boy needs lessons in the game. There are people who specialize in teaching kids how to play. Get him four to six lessons in hitting and how to stand and whatever else he needs to know. Then his game will improve.
Your son and his father can go to LA to see a real game played by professionals. That too would help his development.
Little League parents tend to be very competitive. My husband told me ugly stories of things that happened to him and his brothers when their parents had the in LL.
You are right to be vigilant and to help you son become a better player.


Most of these coaches are just ordinary people with no training in helping children learn. Your boy needs lessons in the game. There are people who specialize in teaching kids how to play. Get him four to six lessons in hitting and how to stand and whatever else he needs to know. Then his game will improve.
Your son and his father can go to LA to see a real game played by professionals. That too would help his development.
Little League parents tend to be very competitive. My husband told me ugly stories of things that happened to him and his brothers when their parents had the in LL.
You are right to be vigilant and to help you son become a better player.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Ooo, sorry you heard all of this. I would have had a hard time not saying, "hey guys, he is a team mate, lets keep that in mind. We do not speak like that about other people, unless we do not mind them talking like that about us, "

I agree that you need to help your son understand what it is like to be a good team player. He does not need to be so rough with the other kids.

That includes being respectful of others skills and lack of skills. Sticking up for other team mates (like that boy that stuck up for him).

The coaches are dads and volunteers. Since they did not hear this conversation themselves, may not feel like they can address it, unless they speak specifically to these boys unless you tell them who they are.
They work many hours trying to teach the skills. It would be great if they could also each time at practice mention, being a good team mate. But be careful about making suggestions to volunteers, or you may be put in charge. Maybe ask if you could make up signs for the team with words like.
"Support the players on the field."
"Cheer on your team mates."
" A team works together"
"Play your best, be your best"

You and your husband need to teach your son about the game if he does not understand it. Maybe you all could go and watch some of the older kids play their games. You and your husband can then explain what is happening. Speak with some of the parents and see if any of thier sons would be willing to work with your son and some of the other players on your sons teams on skills this summer.

You and your husband also need to work on the different skills. Give him some confidence. Do not pull him out unless he really, really absolutely hates it.

Being on a team at this age can be difficult for some kids, because there is so much waiting around for each other, but that is part of being on the team. Remind your son that while watching others, he is learning how to be a better player and he is cheering on his team mates.

This is so hard for parents to hear others being mean to our kids, but it is something we need to listen to and then figure out how to make sure our children never act like that towards others. They are only 7. They are still needing to be reminded, they are nto the only people in the world and their words and actions can really hurt someon elses feelings and they never know who is listening.

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answers from Rockford on

I don't like that the one coach said boys will be boys. That is a terrible response and now that he knows what happens and chooses to ignore it, that says something about his character. This is often how bullying starts and I would hate for your son to be a target because no one has the guts to confront those rude children. If you really think your son does not enjoy the sport, then there is nothing wrong with pulling him. Perhaps there is another activity he would like to join instead. If someone really does not like something, I don't think they should be forced to complete it. As an adult if you took something up and it wasn't for you, it would be ok to quit. Not everything needs to be done to completion just for the sake of not quitting, and it won't be the end of the world and a bad thing if your son just decides this is not the activity for him.

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answers from Los Angeles on

"My son loves to be around other kids and will do what they do with gusto. Not realizing if he's too rough. " This sounds like my 11-year-old, who has Aspergers syndrome. He wants to be part of things, but is awkward physically and socially, and I'm sure he's been made fun of by not-so-nice peers, but he doesn't realize it for the most part, thankfully.

If he doesn't enjoy the game, it's not "quitting" if you pull him out. It's giving him an opportunity to try something different. Maybe he'd like tae kwon do, or bowling, or horseback riding?

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answers from Redding on

I wouldn't take your son out just yet. If he doesn't want to play again, that's one thing, but I think it's important to teach our children to finish something they've started. The little league season isn't all that long.
Take your son to the park and practice throwing, catching and hitting. Maybe if he gets more practice, he'll gain more confidence.
Those boys shouldn't have said something that wasn't nice, but it doesn't sound like he heard it. One of the boys defended him, so all isn't lost.
I think if you take your son out now, he might miss out on the chance to learn to navigate his way and find his own place in certain situations.
You mentioned something so hopefully the coaches will work on making sure everyone is included and treated like a team mate.
I think you should let your son finish the season especially since he's trying hard. He won't learn to understand the game if he doesn't stick around.

Best wishes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

If he is not emotionally upset with being on the team, then I would leave him. I have learned with my daughter (8), that I should not pull them out too soon. I did with dance, and now that is gone. She wanted to quite flute (she herself wanted to) and I finally said no. I told her we are not quiters, and she has to stay in it for this year and if she does not like it, she does not have to do it next year. Now she likes it. Basically, if he is not sensitive about anything, let him stay and maybe he will learn to like it and get better. My son is 6 and has been on T-Ball and now is on again, and many times he does not feel like going. As far as the other boys, I too would be upset. I would somehow want to get the message to them (whether through you, or their moms, or the coach), that your son is not dumb, and that he has never played this before, so this is new to him and how they have to be more understanding. They are bullying (although not directly). Talk to your son about now not to be too rough. Hit it from all angles before you give up or let him give up.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Once my kid's start something, I do like them to finish... we find that everything is not a match for us but through trying that is how we figure out what is a match. I think a few things are in order...
1. Talk to your boy about follow-through and character in finishing even if we don't like something, if he still doesn't like it don't sign up again.
2. Lots of outside practice with your boy to help him with his skills and knowledge of the game.
3. Bullying, name-calling, belittling should not be tolerated. Everyone has their strengths and everyone also has their weaknesses (not always evident to all but they're there). I point this out to the kids' speaking and the one's being spoken to (i.e.) when working in my daughter's class and kid's comment on how "easy" work is that I may be helping another student with.
4. If you're not getting support from coaches and it escalates, I would pull my kid and report it.



answers from Las Vegas on

I think I would talk to the coach and the assistant coach again and this time impress upon him them that it is not a matter of naming names to get particular boys in trouble -- or the opposite extreme of letting the situation slide because "boys will be boys" -- they need to lead a team discussion of appropriate sportsman like conduct. This includes being supportive of other team members no matter what their abilities may be, not calling other kids names, not throwing things at other players. My sense is that the coach and assistant coach are not good at trouble shooting so they either blew you off or thought up only one way of dealing with the problem but not the best possible one.

If my son were not enjoying playing baseball and the kids were not kind, I would probably pull him out of the league and find another sport that is a better fit -- soccer perhaps?



answers from Honolulu on

Coaches are supposed to correct the kids behavior.
This is not a case of boys will be boys.
Boys are ALSO kids who need to learn, basic concepts of behavior, not name calling, not being mean, how to be a Team member, how to support their teammates etc.

If that were me and I heard those kids saying that about my child, I would have, spoken up to them myself.
AND told the Coaches, AND said I expect them to correct their bad attitudes.

If he is just saying he likes the sport, to please you/Daddy, then he does not really like it.
HE has to like it. Really genuinely.
Or he can try another sport or activity.

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