It’s been a disturbing trend for years in Little League, both baseball and softball. Dads are their son’s coaches, and it doesn’t matter how good or bad their kid is… they play. Your kid? He rides the pine longer than he should.. and here’s the thing, they’re in 5th grade!
Parents complain but don’t get crazy because they don’t want to seem like sour grapes, and so they cringe at each game as your son plays right field for 2 innings and sits for 4. Meanwhile, the coaches kid pitches, plays shortstop and a full 6. Hey, you know what? Times are changing… and parents need to be move vocal than ever these days. That’s because this crap as gone on long enough.
Let’s face it, kids are kids. Some are more talented than others and some leave baseball because there’s now lacrosse. But what does that do? It offers an escape route for frustrated kids who don’t get playing time in baseball… and I have news for you, the fault lies with that coach!
It’s funny… Little League coaches will scream and moan and say, “Kids are flocking to lacrosse! Baseball is dying! “ I laugh when I see that. Meanwhile, they're telling their son to take shortstop for the 4th straight inning. Now think about that. I would love that coach to realize that they're the MONSTER part of the blame for kids quote "flocking to lacrosse". That's because kids leave baseball for 2 main reasons:
- Because the coach doesn’t take the time to get to know the player, train the player, and bring confidence to the player.
- That same coach believes that winning a 7 inch Little League trophy is more important than playing kids on his team.
When a team plays well and I mean truly plays well, it doesn’t matter how much a team wins. When a team plays well… it’s because of leadership. Guess what? That starts with the coach.
I once told you in AN OPEN LETTER TO YOUR SON'S LITTLE LEAGUE COACH that the greatest gift for me is, at the end of that Little League season, receiving thank you notes instead of that trophy. That's honesty. That's sincerity. My championship is kid’s calling me coach years after I coach them. It’s me knowing I influenced a child so deeply, they love the sport alittle more after they left, or more importantly stayed with it. I’ve coached kids who came off a horrible year, mainly because the coach before me didn’t want them to pitch. Most common excuse? “He’s not ready”. NOT READY? For what? He’s not running for president, he’s throwing a ball to the catcher...and he's 11! Give me a break, dude. What you’re really saying is, “I don’t want to deal with a mess, I don’t trust this kid and I don’t want to work with him.” To that I say... resign. No one wants you there and don’t think for a second that you’re doing parents a favor. If you’re an asshole, you’re making it worse. Let lost.
Now… I can say all this. I’m a coach. I’ve been a coach for years and I’ve been a coach that has won 1 championship in 7 years. One. And guess what… it was not my favorite year. I mean yes, the kids were excellent. They gelled, they were respectful, they hit and ran and pitched well and all of that. They didn’t even complain. You know what my favorite year was? 3 years ago. A bunch of knuckleheads that were 1 swing away from winning the whole damn thing. That’s because after the first 4 games of losing badly…something happened… we clicked.
The coaches and I became very patient. We ran extra practices. We made it fun. We found the strengths, a few new pitchers and catchers who wanted a shot and we won 9 straight until we hit the finals. NINE STRAIGHT. If you saw my kids, you wouldn't believe it... but they believed in themselves and that's why it happened. They became interchangeable on the field, meaning, there was no worry about where to put kids. They all wanted the ball.... they all could play any position.
With the bases loaded and 2 outs, a kid who hadn’t hit the ball all season hit a bomb to left field. It was high, it was far… and it was caught... and just like that, we lost. But it didn’t matter. It was the run… it was the streak that everyone talked about. And that’s because us coaches did it right.
It's Little League. Understand Respect. Respect the kids that come out and play, even if they’re not very good. It’s your job to make them good. Respect the families who get them there. And respect the game. Always. And a message to the parents, speak up.
For far too long parents have sat in there chairs complaining to their peers about how bad the coach is, never confronting the coach or the Little League board itself. That needs to change. If you see your child being unfairly played, targeted, abused or neglected on a team, find a way to have that coach removed. Little League is about character and growth. You need to grow these kids so they become great men and women. You need to make sure that happens... and most of it has to happen with that coach. So strength in numbers, and make sure you complain, especially if you have a legit argument about how a coach is treating your child.
Oh yeah... and if that coach is doing a good job... make sure they know as well. Talk to the coach, tell the board you're happy. Thank the coach who's taking the time to nurture these kids. Communication is key in this process... and it needs to be done right.
Respect the game... it's the greatest game in the world. Do it right, and the sky's the limit.
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