spent in youth baseball coaching is some of the best times of my life. With
very few exceptions every minute I spent with the kids and their parents was
enjoyable and rewarding.
And the few times I did run into a bump in the road they were not big jarring bumps. Somehow I was lucky and had very few problems with moms and dads.
recently a friend of mine was telling me about problems he is having with his
eight year old machine pitch team. He is a good friend and I have been to a few
of his practices and games.
recent game one of his assistant coaches was very upset and gave him a call.
His son had played right field for a couple of innings, and then sat out for
the rest of the game.
two games in a row that his son had sat out for half the game. He was not
happy with my friend's youth baseball coaching.
explained to him that playing time was based upon performance, and his son was
lacking in his fielding abilities.
Of course this
just put the dad over the top. Things
went from bad to worst and I could go on with this story, but let’s just say
the rest of the season is not going to be fun.
There are a
couple of red flags that pop up right away with this story. And there are even
more red flags since I’m close to the situation. This was not an example of youth baseball coaching at it's best.
eight year old machine pitch teams should not be playing kids based on ability.
You would probably bat your better hitters near the top of the batting order, but
to sit out the same kids game after game is wrong.
Here’s the behind the scenes happenings that I know about.
My friend started out the season with good intentions. The first few games he was giving every player equal playing time, and rotating the fielding positions.
Then something happened that causes lots of problems for youth baseball coaching, his team started losing.
team was losing to teams that he felt were not as good as his team. And his
belief was that the other teams were only playing there good players in key
conviction to equal playing time was now wavering. He started the season with
player development as the number one priority, but losing was tough to stomach.
couple of close losses he had enough. Without informing anyone, he changed his
priority to winning.
When coaching youth baseball, sticking to player development is a tough thing to do. His justification for giving it up was that his players hated losing.
What the players really hated was their coach after losses. He had lost his upbeat approach and had become the yelling, negative type coach.
And of course this led to parent problems, like the one described above.
There will come an age when playing time is based on ability. No doubt that will happen in high school baseball.
And I’m sure 13 and 14 year old competitive teams base there playing time on performance. But an eight year old machine pitch team should not be using playing ability as the basis for playing time.
I had this discussion with my friend and told him I felt it was wrong what he was doing. He justified his strategy by saying every team should do what thy can to win games.
And that is
the root of many problems with little league baseball. The ugly idea of win at
all cost seeps its way into youth baseball coaching.
friend, many coaches start the season with good intentions. But once they lose
a few games their good intentions go out the window.
Try not to
be that guy. I know it is a hard thing to do, losing games that you know you
could have won. But remember that player development (all players) is your
number one priority.
a few years form now you will know you did the right thing.
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