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Didn’t Make the All-Star Team? So What?

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Our local Little League has established a new tradition in the years since I served on its Board of Directors. At the beginning of June, lawns signs appear throughout the neighborhood honoring players who have been selected to this year’s all-star team. I’m sure it’s exciting for the kids who were chosen. But I feel badly for the ones who didn’t get a sign.

Whether it was baseball or rec soccer, my kids all made all-star teams when they were younger. In Little League I coached a tournament team for eight straight years. I had a big part in the league’s restructuring of its voting methods so as to make the selections more democratic and transparent. It was always tough choosing the final three or four players because you hated to see anyone be disappointed, but once the rosters were finalized we moved on and didn’t think much about those left off.

So maybe I’m getting soft with age, or maybe it’s because as my children got older some of them did experience major disappointments in their athletic careers, but whatever the reason, it makes me sad to think of a boy or girl who was hoping to get one of those signs and didn’t. Who has to see it on a friend’s yard every day for the next few weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for the abolishment of all-stars. I recently read an article on a popular youth sports-related website basically shaming leagues for picking some children for all-stars and leaving others off. The author suggested that everyone who wants to play should be allowed and that they should create as many teams as necessary to accommodate them all. Then it wouldn’t be all-stars, would it?

Instead, here is the message that I would like to convey: If you didn’t make it at age 10, you can make it at 11. If you didn’t make it as an 11 year-old , you might at 12. And if you didn’t make it at 12, guess what? I’ve seen dozens of kids who were the best players in the league at 12 but who, by the time they were 16, had been passed up by others who were not as talented a few years earlier.

Turn this disappointment into motivation. Make it your mission to improve so much that they have to pick you next year. Or the year after. Don’t give up. Be determined to make believers of the doubters.

Often in youth sports its a lot about size. Kids who are shaving at age 12 have a huge advantage over youngsters years away from puberty. Some 12 and 13 year-olds are fully grown. Others won’t grow until high school. But if you’re a late-bloomer even that can work to your advantage. Many big, strong, full-grown pre-teens don’t work hard because they can have success without effort. This is one of the reasons so many of them are overtaken later.

Or maybe you are of average or even above-average size but your skills need improvement. Either way if you really want to be good at something you can be. You just need to practice. And this is true for anything, not only sports.

So if you’re truly disappointed about not making the team this year I do feel badly about it. But not too badly, because from my new perspective I realize you have the power to do something about it. Understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes a kick in pants is a step forward. Use this to light a fire and start working harder than anyone else. Just wait and see where you are next year, the year after and the year after. And, if you aren’t willing to pay the price – to do what is necessary to become the best you can be, then I guess you weren’t really that upset about not getting a sign after all.

Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

A “Sometimes” Player

By Tony Earp

With over 15 years of working with players, regardless of ability, I have found the most distinctive difference between players is whether or not a player is an “ALWAYS” player or a “SOMETIMES” player. Always players are exactly what they sound like. No matter the day, time, activity, game, or any other circumstance, they ALWAYS give a maximum effort. They do not take breaks or choose when to compete and work hard. There is no compromise or variability to their approach to training or games. It does not mean that every performance is their best, but they always give their best effort.

Then, there is the “SOMETIMES” players, and they are exactly what they sound like. They give their best effort and work hard sometimes. Not always, but when it is usually the easiest or most convenient for them. Or even worse, only when they are certain it is in their own best interest.
Here are some situations where “SOMETIMES” players shine, and the different approach of the “ALWAYS” players:

“It is Fun”

Of course. It is easier to give a good effort when we are having a good time. To work hard when it is not your favorite thing to do, is much harder. Ironically, the things we enjoy doing the least, often are what benefit us the most. I have trained players that completely change their work rate and attitude as soon as the training session consists of something they find fun and enjoy.
In contrast, an “ALWAYS” player does not require it to be fun for the effort to be given. Although they like certain things more than others, they do not let that affect their drive to play or miss an opportunity to improve.

“They Can Do It”

These players love to show people what they can do, but are scared to be seen struggling at anything. When they can do a task and do it very well, then they are willing to give a good effort. But, when something is hard or just out of their reach, they stop working hard for it. They find it easier to believe they could not do it because they did not CARE TO DO IT. Not that they were not able, but they just convinced themselves it was not worth it, it was below them, or just marginalized the importance of the activity. This approach helps them feel better about not being able to do it, and does not make them look vulnerable struggling to learn it.
On the other hand, “ALWAYS” players like the opportunity to do things they do not know how to do. They embrace the struggle and will not be discouraged or embarrassed by failure. They have learned that for each moment of struggle comes a lifetime of rewards.

“They Will Win”

These players play hard and with confidence when they are NOT in a fight. When they know they can easily walk over an opponent and get the result they want, you can see their energy level rise and often this is when they are at their best. On the flip side, when the opponent is tough, or they are completely outmatched, they shut down. They disengage from the game, begin making excuses, blaming others, faking injuries or fatigue, or anything else that excuses them from taking responsibility of the result. Often after or during this type of situation, the player will seem apathetic about the result or his performance.
The “ALWAYS” player always tries to compete at his best level. Although he will have “off and on” days, it is never an excuse for a drop in effort and his competitive level. Normally, as the opponent gets tougher, this type of player uses it as fuel to push beyond his current level or drives him to train harder in the future. He learns from the experience, does not make excuses for himself or others, and does not blame anyone. Not even himself. He just goes back to work so he can fight even harder next time.

“Playing with a Friend”

There is a social aspect of the game and it is important. Although it is a lot of fun to play with friends, there will be times when that is not possible. I see this a lot in training sessions. If certain players are not paired with who they want to play with, their effort drops considerably. If they do get paired with who they want to play with, then their level of play is much higher. When they are not on their friend’s team, the body language changes drastically, head drops down, and I know the players is going to give half the effort he normally would.
An “ALWAYS” player may prefer to play with certain kids, but he never lets it show. No matter who he is playing with he will do everything he can to support and play with the other players on the team. Regardless of level, this type of player gravitates towards being a leader on the field and knows success is a group effort. He relies on the other players and they rely on him. He knows not giving his best effort is an insult to his other teammates on the field.

“Coach/Parent is Watching”

For me this is the most common example of the “SOMETIMES” player but the most subtle form of it. When a coach or their parents are nearby, I can see a distinct increase in their level of play and energy. For people watching, this looks like an “ALWAYS” player, but if you can sneak peaks of these types of players training when they do not think anyone is watching, that is when the “SOMETIMES” is exposed. This can be the most self-destructive form of the “SOMETIMES” player. When kids learn to only work hard when people are watching, it will be very hard to achieve anything, on or off the field. Most of the things earned in life are worked for when no one else is around or when no one is asking you to do it.
An “ALWAYS” player does not care who is watching or not. Often, their effort is even higher when they are alone. They are not doing it for anyone else. It is not about pleasing or gaining approval of another person. It is about making sure they never let down themselves or others who rely on them when the whistle blows. They have set an unbelievable expectation for themselves to meet. Higher than anyone else could ever put on them. They hold themselves accountable to never falling below those expectations.
“SOMETIMES” players grow into “SOMETIMES” adults. “ALWAYS” players grow into “ALWAYS” adults. This is an important lesson to teach kids from an early age as it will play an important role in the rest of their lives. When we help players become “ALWAYS” people, they not only have a better chance of succeeding in soccer, but in even more important aspects of their lives.

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at tearp@superkickcolumbus.com

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Where You Fit in the Baseball Lineup

By Doug Bernier

A good hitting philosophy should definitely depend on what kind of hitter you are. Are you a player that hits for a lot of power, do you try to set the table and get on base for the middle of the lineup, can you run, are you a good situational hitter, can you hit to all parts of the field or do you mostly just pull the ball.

Accurately evaluating yourself and knowing what kind of hitter you are can be difficult. The great thing about baseball is there is room on every team and in the big leagues for all types of hitters.

Players get in trouble when they want to be something they are not. This is fairly common and a problem most young hitters face. Everyone wants to hit homeruns. But not everyone was talented in that area. If you hit one homerun a year and most of your outs are fly balls, you are only hurting yourself.

The good hitters use what they are given and use it to the best of their ability. If you can run, hit balls on the ground and utilize the bunt. If you can handle the bat, try to hit the 3-4 hole (in between 1st and 2nd base) with a runner on 1st base, to get the runner to move up to 3rd base. Some hitters are trying to get on base any way possible, while others are in scoring position when they step up to the plate. Understand your game, and embrace it.

What Makes Up A Typical Baseball Lineup

The leadoff hitter

The typical leadoff hitter can usually run. He has a high on base percentage, good average and takes his walks. The leadoff hitter can handle the bat by bunting, good hit and run guy and doesn’t strike out a lot. He can create havoc on the bases when necessary.

The 2, 8, and 9 hitters

These guys are table setters, they can handle the bat. You need to be able to bunt, situationaly hit ( hit and run, hit a ball to the right side with a runner on second and 0 outs, sacrifice fly with runner on third.) These players should be gritty and battle.

Just because you hit eighth or ninth doesn’t mean you are not an important hitter. At some point all hitters, no matter where in the baseball lineup they are, will be up in a big situation.
If you are hitting in the spot before the pitcher (usually 8th) that can be a tough assignment. You will usually be pitched very carefully. The pitcher hopes you will expand the zone and swing at bad pitches. With runners on base don’t be surprised to get off speed pitches in fastball counts and fastballs that are meant for the corners of the plate. They know if you walk they have a weak hitter behind you, but they are hoping to get you to chase and get yourself out.
The number 3 hitter

The number 3 hitter is usually your best in the lineup. He most times will have a unique blend of batting average and power. He hits in this spot to drive in runners, and he is guaranteed to hit in the first inning. He can put runs on the board.

The 4 and 5 guys

are usually power guys that may strike out more than the others in the lineup but have long ball potential. Every time they step in the box they strike fear into their opponents.

The 6 and 7 guys

are very good hitters usually high average with a little less power than the 3,4,5 guys. They are very important to protect the power spots in the baseball lineup by hitting well and driving in runners. The 6 and 7 spots in the lineup can have big RBI potential. A team that has strong 6 and 7 hole hitters makes the baseball lineup so much deeper and a lot more difficult to pitch to.

This is a very basic template of a typical baseball lineup, this can change depending on the teams personnel in the lineup. Possible changes might include:

Your leadoff hitter may have the most power but he hits there because he doesn’t strike out very often and the coach wants him to get as many at bats as possible.
Your number 3 hitter may have no power at all but he hits for a high average and has been pretty successful with driving runners in. He is not your prototypical 3 hole hitter, but can be very productive in the 3rd slot.

I hope this overview of the baseball lineup can help you determine your own personal hitting philosophy and where you fit in the lineup.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger’s AAA team the Round Rock Express.
(Originally Posted at www.probaseballinsider.com)

Eight Proactive Strategies for Discussing a Problem with Your Kid’s Coach

By Angela Weight

I get a lot of messages from parents seeking advice on various dilemmas. Many of them end with “how do I talk to the coach about this?” (“This” is usually lack of playing time or some other perceived unfairness leveled against a player.)

99-percent of these questions are from well-meaning, level-headed, sensible people who want to handle their issue with the coach productively and without arrest warrants. However, when your kid and emotions are involved, all your best etiquette can sail over the fence like a fouled off curve ball. (It can for me, anyway.) But over the years, I’ve learned to communicate with my sons’ coaches more effectively without the help of alcohol, vandalism and terroristic threats.

Therefore, I thought I’d share some guidelines on how to approach the coach in a positive, constructive, nonjudgmental way (He’ll be more willing to consider your perspective if he isn’t dodging insults and accusations.)

Some of you are reading this thinking, “but the guy’s an idiot! And he needs to be called out! I’ll just be saying what everyone else is thinking.”

You may have a point. And if your goal is to sever all ties with the team, burn a few bridges and have other coaches avoid your player because they don’t want to have to deal with his psycho parents, then be my guest. Storm right up into the dugout in the middle of a game and LET THAT COACH HAVE IT. Don’t just limit your diatribe to baseball related insults. Be sure to criticize his ethics, his intelligence, his job, his physique, his wife, his mother, his children and the vehicle he drives. And while you’re at it, call the assistant coaches “know-nothing pansies” for being associated with this clown. Don’t leave out the home plate umpire! After all, he’s being paid off by every team you’ve ever faced.

Once you and your humiliated kid have been tossed out of the tournament facility, you can pump your fist in pride. Because YOU TOLD THEM, alright. You really let ’em have it! Surely the coach will change his ways and become a better man thanks to your verbal assault.

On the other hand, if you’re hoping for a more solution focused conversation, here are some helpful tips for accomplishing that.

1. Ask your kid for his take on the situation. You might be surprised to learn that he has no idea what you’re talking about… or doesn’t see it as a problem. (A while back, we had a parent complain about the coach always “dumping” her son in the outfield. What she didn’t realize was that he had asked for that position and was happy there.) If you’re the only one with an issue, then maybe it’s not really an issue.

2. Encourage your kid to speak up for himself. This is hugely important. Stepping back and letting your player take that initiative shows him that you trust his ability to handle tough conversations. Plus, the coach will have more respect for him because he’s not letting Mom or Dad fight his battles. I can’t stress enough what a confidence builder this is. Kids can handle most of their own issues if we just give them a little guidance and step out of the way. (Every coach and player are different. So use your best judgment here.)

In his article, Approaching a Coach: How to do it the Right Way, former pro J.T. Putt uses this conversation starter.

“Hey Coach, I was wondering if I could talk to you for a second about playing time. I’m wondering what extra work I can do to put myself in a position to get on the field more. What are the areas that you see as my weaknesses and what drills can I use to turn those weaknesses into strengths?”

Notice the positive tone and how the kid wants to know what HE can do to get more playing time. What coach wouldn’t admire a kid who shows that kind of maturity?

3. Remember that the coach doesn’t view your kid the same way that you do. He might not see the future MLB All-Star that you see. While your player is your primary concern, the coach is trying to do what’s best for all 10, 11 or 12 kids on the team. Quite a balancing act. What’s great for one kid might cause another to feel like he’s getting the shaft. But if that kid gets what he wants all the time, then another player might be unhappy. It’s like the alternate endings in that old Keanu Reeves movie, The Butterfly Effect.

4. Do some role-playing and try to see the issue from the coach’s point of view. Try to come up with legitimate reasons that he might’ve done x, y or z.

5. Never NEVER NEVER try to have a serious conversation with the coach before, during or immediately after a game. ESPECIALLY NOT DURING THE GAME unless your child’s life is in immediate danger. Then, yeah, go ahead, if you must.

6. If something upsetting has happened during a game, give yourself time to cool down, (at least 24 hours) before speaking to the coach about it. This includes texting, emailing, FB messaging or sending him photos of yourself posing with deadly weapons.

7. When speaking to the coach, stay focused on the reason for your conversation. Resist the temptation to veer into team or league gossip or badmouthing other parents or players. You don’t want to be seen as THAT parent. As my granny used to say, “tend to your own side of the street and let other folks take care of theirs.” (Looking back, it’s kind of ironic because my grandmother was a notorious gossip. Maybe that advice really was just about curb appeal.)

8. Be willing to truly listen to what the coach has to say. Most of us are so busy trying to get our own points across that we miss important information. As I said earlier, put yourself in the coach’s shoes. Don’t bring unwarranted suspicions into the conversation such as “the coach has it out for your kid” or “he won’t care what you have to say because you’re not part of the inner circle.” Assumptions like these do nothing but sabotage a kid’s success on his team.

*** Sometimes the issue isn’t about your player at all. It might be a legitimate concern regarding team money allocation, use of guest players, lack of transparency…or any other topic that gets parental undergarments in a collective wad. Things like this are often most effectively addressed in a team parents’ meeting.

As usual, I had my husband James, a 10-year veteran Little League, rec league and travel ball coach read this post before I hit the publish button. He’s a pretty laid back guy who rarely gets his feathers ruffled (unless you eat all the ice cream and put the empty container back in the freezer).

He added his two cents below.

Write down your concerns and issues. Try to be very specific and factual, not emotional. Make a list of the 2 or 3 most important issues that you want to discuss, and stay focused on those.

Treat it like a conversation with your child’s teacher. Sometimes your kid has a ‘problem’ with their teacher. Arrange a good time for a meeting. Send a non-threatening email. Just like the coach, the teacher is doing the best they can for a lot of kids.

Also understand this, coaches are human. They make mistakes. They have priorities that might differ from yours. Most likely they are volunteering their time to help the team and your child. Respect that.

There are a dozen signs at our Little League that say “before you complain, have YOU volunteered?”

Travel Ball Parents is run by veteran baseball moms, Angela Weight of Richmond, VA and Kari Hicks of Buffalo, NY, covering all things travel ball related, with a big dose of humor thrown in. Visit our website travelballparents.com

Quote to start your day

It comes from our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln:
“I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”

Let that guide you through today, tomorrow and every day!