I've seen it numerous times over the years. There are coaches that will play the same kids while players with less ability ride the bench. It's not that those players on the bench are bad, it's that the coach coaching them becomes too impatient to take the time to bring the player out of them.
I know... I'm a Little League coach. I've been one for years now and I can tell you, there is nothing more gratifying in my volunteerism than seeing a kid with no confidence on the first day of practice transform into the kid that tells you in that critical game moment, "Give me the ball, coach, I can do it." I will hand the ball to the believer any day of the week... that means I've done my job.
I have a solid group of ballplayers this season. On the first day of gym practice, there were a few quirky kids, but they all showed up, scuffled into the gym, unorganized... throwing their stuff everywhere. No organization, no care for where their bat was, their mitt... and some even forgot a cap.
"When you walk into my practice, I want your stuff in a line against the wall. When you're finished using your mitt, put it back in your bag. It's that simple. If you don't get organized now, you'll never be. Come game time, if you can't find your mitt when I call on you, you'll be passed up for someone ready to play." For you and I, it's common sense. For kids, they just figure 'mom' will do it. Not on my team.
We've had 4 practices so far. I saw a change on Monday night. I saw a club, now practicing for 3 weeks, lining their bags up. They got into position on their own. They threw on their own to warm-up. I had a kid come up to me saying "I'm gonna be a pitcher for you coach." My eyebrows went up. This is a kid that was terrified to get on the mound last season for me. But I saw his hard work last season, so I drafted him again. Now, after 4 practices, he was ready to anchor my team. Yes, it's good coaching, and I'm patting myself on the back, but there's more to it. We found the core to this kid. He was given an opportunity. He was given some confidence, and now he was unstoppable.
"I want you to lose a game", I said Monday night.
"Wait... why?" One of the kids asked.
"Because I want you to know how much it sucks. Then, I want you to come back more determined. When you lose, the sting is horrible. If you're a kid, it's the worst feeling in the world. You will get razzed by your friends in school and I'm telling you I've been there.... I know the feeling. But if you lose one game, you learn from it. Most importantly, you'll never want that feeling again. You'll try harder, you'll push yourself alittle more. You will learn from your mistakes... and you win... if not the next game, in yourself. "
Baseball and life are the same for me. They've always been the same for me. They're stepping stones in life that are the same in this great game. As you move up the ranks from Tee-ball to a 46-60 field and eventually to 60-90... players go away. Many drop out and some find lacrosse... a game where kids run around in the pack and even if they don't touch the ball, they look like they've accomplished something. But not baseball. Baseball is an individual sport just as much as it is a team sport. Because when your back's against the wall as a team, there is 1 player walking up to the plate. Sometimes that player isn't too sure of himself, but with the proper coaching, my job is to have that player walk up to the plate knowing he'll kill the ball. Confidence is key in baseball, and if you can crack the code of this great sport, you'll conquer life and take the world by the neck, knowing every meeting you walk into, every job interview, every at-bat will be controlled by you. Why? Because of confidence. Learn the game and conquer it. Be the best by practice, by patience and by learning the respect and lessons of a coach. Do it... and that player can never lose... in baseball... in life, EVER.
And I gotta tell ya something; As a coach, there's nothing better in the whole damn world. Watch a kid blossom after a bunch of practices is a rush that I'll take every single time. It means that player's listening and it means as a coach... I'm doing my job.
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