My son’s coach isn’t treating him fairly

We get emails like these all the time, from parents telling us that their children are not getting fair treatment from their coach. We welcome these comments. But before sending one off to us or to your local league’s President, stop and ask a few questions first:

  • Have you been at every practice and game to know for sure that your son or daughter is giving as much effort as everyone else?
  • Are you certain that they are as talented as others who you believe are getting “preferential treatment”?
  • Has your child had any attendance issues?
  • Does your son or daughter do extra work on his or her own to improve?
  • What would the coach say if you were to ask why your child isn’t playing as much or where they would like?

There are always two sides to every story. There are always more players than spots on the field. Sometimes taking a step back and trying to be objective is better than rushing in to “defend”  your child.

How to run a baseball practice

The inspiration for this post could actually be, “how not to run a baseball practice.” We observed a team on our local field Monday, which we know to be in last place in the league’s AAA division, (one level below Majors) and it was all we could do not to intervene. The entire practice consisted of a kid on the mound pitching to batters, with no catcher behind the plate. There were four infielders, and two dads with gloves in the outfield, and the remaining four players were sitting on the bench twirling their helmets waiting for a turn. A coach stood behind home plate at the backstop to field errant pitches. He got the most practice of anyone. We could write a book on why this practice was so terribly ineffective. Here are a few highlights (or lowlights):

  • Why have a pitcher practice pitching without a catcher? Will that ever happen in a game? You have four kids idle, one of them can get on the gear and be a target.
  • Four kids sitting on the bench at all times, doing nothing? Set up several hitting stations! Hit off the tee into a net, hit the heavy ball off the tee, do soft-toss, there is even a  cage at this facility…unused. The kids should all be taking over 100 cuts at every practice.
  • It was immensely boring. The coaches were trying to simulate a game situation but it was nothing like a game. They were saying things like, “runner on third,” after the ball was hit to the shortstop. But no one remembered from one play to another where the baserunners were supposed to be.

We could go on and on. If you’re struggling with running your practice, why not get a CoachDeck? Inside you’ll find 52 good, fundamental drills broken down into four color-coded categories, (baserunning, hitting, infield and outfield). In its simplest form you can just take one card of each color, run each drill for 20 minutes, and have a fun and effective practice. We have a softball, soccer, football and basketball deck too. Don’t drive kids out of the sport by running practices like the one we saw. I know these coaches are volunteers and don’t want to be too hard on them, but this was hard to watch.

My child should have made all-stars

It is the time of year that baseball, softball and soccer leagues begin gearing up for all-stars. The all-star tournaments can be a ton of fun and great experience for kids, but they can also cause a lot of anxiety and resentment. Invariably, when all-star teams are selected, some feelings are hurt when children are left off the team. Of course, parents are upset and hurt to see their children upset and hurt, but there is probably also a little bit of anger mixed in. Parents’ egos come into play. They want to be able to proudly let other parents know that their child is an all-star. And, it makes it doubly irritating to see other parents be able to have that “prestige” when their kids are seemingly no more deserving. It is hard, this time of year, no doubt. And in baseball, softball and soccer the decisions are very subjective. This often leads to suspicions or accusations of nepotism and cronyism, especially when coaches’ and board members’ children are picked over others.

The best service a league or club can provide in this matter is to make the selection process as fair and as transparent as possible. One way to accomplish this is to have a vote. It is OK to let the coaches vote, but let the kids vote also. They will more than likely get it right and since the top 50% of the team is going to be chosen no matter what, by vote or not, having the kids’ vote data might just make those tougher final choices a little easier to map out.

Little League Rules

We’ve been watching a lot of youth baseball, mostly Little League, over the past couple of months. And, at nearly every game and practice we observe, there are rules infractions taking place. While many Little League rules seem overly-strict, they are there for a reason and should be followed. An example that keeps popping up is when a catcher is not ready with his gear on at the end of the inning. Maybe he was on base, or on deck, but now as the pitcher stands on the mound waiting to take his warm-up tosses, the catcher is in the dugout strapping on the equipment. Suddenly, the coach emerges with a catcher’s mitt and squats behind the plate to warm up the pitcher. Meanwhile, three players who are on the bench this inning sit and do nothing. Give these kids something to do! Have one of them put on a mask and catcher’s mitt and take the warm-up tosses. They want to have fun and play ball, not just sit idly on the bench. Plus it is good practice for them. But maybe more importantly…it is a rule. Grownups are not supposed to warm up a pitcher, outfielder, or any player.

Another funny for Friday

We thought this was a crack-up, as are most In the Bleachers, by Steve Moore. Enjoy and have a terrific weekend. Courtesy Go Comics.

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Thank you, volunteer coaches

We write about it all the time, the plight and challenges of youth sports volunteer coaches. However maybe we don’t just say, “thank-you” often enough. So we’d like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for all the moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and big siblings (and any others we may have missed!) for donating your time to coach the local Little League, Cal Ripken, PONY, AYSO, etc. It takes guts to put yourself out there in judgement of the other parents who aren’t coaching. It takes time and money. It can be frustrating, lonely, scary and upsetting. But it can also be fun and rewarding. If you’re reading this and you know of someone who is volunteering their time to coach a team, please tell them thank you for us.

Mid-season report

In many areas of the country, believe it or not, we’re already passed the midway part of the spring baseball and soccer seasons. Hopefully your league has run smoothly with a minimum of strife. There will always be parent complaints, arguments with officials, coaches who either bend the rules or are overly-aggressive. We’ve heard from some of you with questions seeking advice in these and other matters. Over the last eight years we’ve accumulated a database of knowledge pertaining to volunteer-run youth sports and we’d love to share some of that insight with you. Send us your questions or comments to info@coachdeck.com. And most importantly, enjoy the season!

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