Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Give The Coach A Hand: Tips For Building A Solid Relationship With Your Child's Coach

Youth baseball leagues cannot survive without volunteerism. It takes the time and effort of many dedicated people to deliver a great experience for its players. This includes managers and coaches who tend to offer many hours on and off the field.

As parents we have an obligation to the team as well. Here are a few ways you can help the coach and your kid during the baseball season.

1. Communicate With Coach And Arrive On Time. Whether through email or via phone make sure the coach knows your kids availability for games and practices. If your child is going to be late give an accurate time as to when he/she will arrive. Games require prep work and coaches generally figure out where kids are going to play prior to game time (a rotation). This can take a long time to put together and if a kid doesn’t show up on time, it creates a lot of extra work for the coach. Also, make sure your kid is well prepared for the game with the proper equipment.

2. Get Involved. Coaches generally welcome parent who volunteer to help. Tell the coach at the beginning of the year that you are willing to help. Let him know what you can offer the kids.

3. Pick Up A Rake. Most leagues have requirements to prep fields before or after games. Parent can help out by taking over this responsibility for the team leaving time for coaches to warm up before a game or have post game discussions with the team. These are both important parts of the baseball experience and parents should pave the way for this to take place.

4. Cheer For All Players. Baseball is a team sport. Parents should cheer for all players on the team. It’s even OK to cheer for kids on the opposing team. Give the kids a smile and cheer for all of them.

5. Have One-On-Ones With Coaches After Games. From time to time you may need to speak with your kids coach privately about issues. The best time to do this is after games or practices. The best way to go about this is to ask the coach a few days in advance if they will have some time to speak with you. Give them an understanding of what it is you want to talk about. Most importantly have this discussion without the kids around to listen.

6. Be Constructive. Not destructive! Nothing is worse that negative energy on a baseball team. It can drive teams with great talent to the brink of destruction. It’s important for parents to keep things positive. Don’t give into discussions with others about what the coaches are doing wrong… focus on what they are doing right. If you have an idea, observation or suggestion… result to item #5. Keep things positive. In most cases all involved are there to make the experience a great one… help that cause, don’t fight it.

Always remember that we are all doing this for the kids. At the end of the day what’s important is that the kids are playing baseball, participating in a positive activity, getting exercise, making friends, learning to be a teammate. I hope these few ideas will help you develop great relationships with your child coach and make your child’s baseball experience a better one.

Coach Bob


Friday, April 18, 2008

Regional Tournaments for 8 Year Olds? Come On!

For those of you involved with youth baseball administration you will no doubt soon be attending the first of many "district" meetings. These generally take place in the early spring. Our league holds charters with Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken which follows a district, state and regional tournament format. The core discussions at these meetings are the locations and dates of tournaments which lead to the Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken World Series. Well a few days ago our locations and dates were announced and I was surprised to see a new addition to the summer tournament schedule.

Prior to last year these baseball tournaments were limited to 9 year old teams and up in Cal Ripken. However, in 2007 it was decided to hold a district level tournament for 8 year old teams. At first this sounded a bit over the top to me. After all these are 8 year old kids who are still learning how to field a ground ball and reach first base. Now they want them playing in a district level competitive tournament?

Our league had been accustomed to forming two equally balanced teams at the 8 year old level and we were not about to depart from this philosophy. After polling the manager's of our 8 year old teams our league decided to participate with two balanced teams. The location was only 15-20 minutes away for parents and coaches to drive so the logistics didn't seem too daunting. The kids played 3 games against other teams from our area and reported a great experience for all involved. The pageantry of standing on the foul lines with hat over heart singing the National Anthem made for many great photo opportunities of our young ball players. Overall the event turned out to be a positive one for our kids which is the main purpose we do this thing called Youth Baseball.

Now fast forward to 2008… Rather than just let the 8 year old district tournament experiment continue, the wisdom of Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken has decided to hold district, state and regional level tournaments for 8 year old teams. Yes, let me repeat that…. 8 year old kids playing in a regional tournament for Cal Ripken. This is one of the most absurd ideas I have ever heard of since getting involved with youth baseball.

At the 8 year old age level winning any game is pot luck … now they want these teams to spend the better part of the summer traveling all over who knows where to play in these games. Do they really think parents of 8 year olds want to drive 200+ miles, stay with host families and spend the cash required for a regional tournament?

The most important question though is… What does an 8 year old gain out of being propelled into a competitive tournament at such a young age? IMHO this does not foster what is important at this age.. helping them fall in love with baseball. Aren’t we tasked with this and focusing on teaching the core fundamentals of the game at this age? Where are the Ripken brothers with their great message of growth through youth baseball? Mr. Ripken please help us understand what 8 year old Jimmy will get out of playing in a regional tournament game 215 miles from his home?

As youth baseball administrators we need to come to our senses and get back to what’s important…. Helping kids learn and love the game while learning about life through youth baseball. Kids at such a young age really gain nothing by playing in these competitive environments. They would be just as happy if we gave them some old equipment, drove them to a field and let them play ball on their own. And after the game… some ice cream! Now that’s youth baseball!

Coach Bob


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Prepubescent Delusion Rule: Let Them Have Fun!

We’re all guilty of it. That moment when your prepubescent child makes a fabulous defensive play or hits a clutch ground rule double (just like Jeter) and the thought enters your mind… “Hey, Maybe This Kid Has Something”.

It’s so easy to be lead down this path. We’re parents. We want our kids to be happy, smart, successful, handsome, athletic, etc, etc. So when our 10 year shortstop dives and makes the defensive grab of the game we can’t help but have proud parental thoughts.

Now most of us keep these parental thoughts to ourselves which IMHO is the correct thing to do. However, some of us might elbow the dad next to us and say something like “WOW! Did you see that play. When he was 7 I knew the kid had something”. This is the parent that needs to WAKE UP!!...QUICKLY!

A friend of mine who coaches one of the best high school teams in our state gave me the greatest advice I could have ever received when I first started coaching my sons… He said “Any parent or coach who thinks they know what a kid is capable of before he or she goes through puberty is completely delusional”. I have used this as guiding words since I first heard them. When I watch the 11 year hold who can hardly reach 1st from 3rd base I say to myself… “wait until puberty”. When I see the small 10 year old who can hardly swing the -13 bat I say to myself… “wait until puberty”. Conversely when I witness the 12 year old who overpowers his peers with his 50’ fast ball I say to myself… well you know the mantra by now.

A few years back I decided to manage my son’s 9 year old travel team. It was a great group of kids. We won our share of games and actually managed to finish 2nd in a pretty large local tournament. The kids had a great time and learn a lot about the game…. anyway I digress… I remember while we were warming up the kids prior to our first game that season a dad I had asked to coach said to me in all sincerity “Coach, These are the boys we’ll be watching play high school baseball someday”. Luckily this was after my high school coach friend had enlightened me about the prepubescent delusion rule. I remember thinking “We have no idea what genetic cards have been dealt to these kids.” However, I simply replied “time will tell”.

Now it’s 5 years later and only 7 of the 12 are still playing baseball at 14 years old. Lacrosse stole away 3 of the kids and 2 others sadly decided not to play baseball. Of the 7 remaining, only 3 were fortunate enough to make the 8th grade baseball team. This is a real life example of why coaches and parents cannot and should not try to determine the athletic future of a 9 year old kid.

Now take the 10 year old all-star player, pitcher, shortstop, powerhitter, speedster. He’s 4 inches taller than his peers, knocking the ball out of the park every three games. This kid is destined to be a high school/college star right? Not necessarily. How about after his teammates go through puberty and catch up or even pass him in size, strength and coordination? This happens… all the time.

So.. what’s the lesson? While there are some attributes a child may show at a young age which might lend themselves to a particular sport.. all bets are off until the kid goes through puberty. Parents and Coaches who understand and adopt this philosophy will be more comfortable with providing a loose and fun baseball environment for their young player.

Coach Bob