CoachDeck buyers guide

We’ve pulled together some great companies and outstanding offers on products for leagues, parents and coaches that may not have been on your radar.

Select Links for Youth Sports League Leaders

FIELD PREPARATION
AthleticFieldMaker.com special field marking offer through end of July. Save on Marking Whiskers and Raptor Stakes. Besides helping mark intersections on sports fields customers are using them for marking skills and drills courses, running paths, golf Tee-boxes, and softball and baseball batter box corners for quick chalking operations (no need for a template). Each set comes with 25 marking whiskers and Raptor Stakes (composite nails for additional equipment safety). Additional savings in sets of 3 and 5 with multiple color options.

Visit us at JayPro.com to see how quick and easy our Field-To-Go soccer line is to use! Portable products that set up in minutes and store in your trunk!

NaturalSand.com has the solution for your infield problems. We have infield mixes engineered for maximum playability in all weather and all maintenance levels.

ONLINE LEAGUE MANAGEMENT
Schedulesmith.com is a free player communication and confirmation website. The site will send your players automatic emails and text messages to remind them of games and confirm attendance

RunMyLeague.com has a comprehensive travel sports league management system for baseball, softball and all other major sports. Visit our site at for details. Use coupon code COACHDECK to receive a 20% discount on subscription price for first year.

PLAYER/LEAGUE EQUIPMENT and UNIFORMS
CleatSkins How do you move to and from games quickly and with safety, without having to carry a spare pair of shoes? How can you protect cleats from being damaged from wear on hard surfaces? And how can you save time getting to and from the game? By using Cleatskins.

Swenson Baseball Co. www.swensonbaseball.com.
The Crons Brand Uniforms and Sports Apparel www.crons.com
(208) 484-6860 or swensonbbco@aol.com

PORTABLE PLAYING FIELDS/ARENAS
Our portable soccer arena is perfect for small-sided Youth games www.premiersoccersolutions.com

FUND-RAISING OPPORTUNITIES
Help Kids Play custom-creates value cards for youth organizations. Potential for incredible $15.00 profit per card! Earn $5000 – $7500 in just a few weeks. Request a free information packet at info@helpkidsplay.com http://www.helpkidsplay.com

MySportsDreams.com raises sponsorship dollars for youth baseball and soccer leagues. No selling for your players, they do 95% of the work for you, done completely online, riskless, and all of your supporters receive $50 in free dining good. Call Jordan at 800-376-5988 x300 or email jordan@mysportsdreams.com for details. Mention Coach Deck for a free $25 donation. http://www.mysportsdreams.com/youth.

LEAGUE ACCESSORIES/PLAYER AND COACH GIFTS
Impact Canopies USA has a special offer on printed canopies. FREE solid colored back wall with every custom printed canopy ordered. Call 877-840-3524 and use coupon code FREEWALL.

Take a look at sports most unique BPA free collector card Bottles where you are the “STAR” www.starviewbottles.com

TheByrdStore.com has a special offer for used and collectible sports books and autographed collectibles. These are unique and special gifts for players, parents, coaches, and league leadership. Use coupon code COACHDECK to receive a 10% discount on all sports books and collectibles.

TRANSPORTATION
The BusBank provides ground transportation for sports teams across the United States. Visit www.busbank.com in order to get a quote today.

COACHING ACCESSORIES
More Than ERA is the most comprehensive pitching data software available on the market. Now offering a youth version! Use what the pros use to make your pitchers the best they can be!

PitchCount Watch/Goal Count Watch. The only sports wristwatch with dual tally counters for tracking pitches, passes, shots, anything you can imagine! Also comes with date and stopwatch functions.

DVD TRAINING
ChampionshipProductions.com is the World’s #1 Source of Instructional Sports DVDs. Enter promo code C25DECK at checkout to receive a 25% discount on all DVDs through July 5, 2011. Learn from Alex Rodriguez, Derrick Rose, Coach K, Bob Knight, Dan Gable, and many more!

SureHitter — Hit, Bunt, Field, Catch. Multi-purpose Baseball/Softball training aid that produces amazing results with young players. Visit www.SureHitter.com for details.

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
English Premier Soccer Tours has a special offer for use on soccer tours to England. Use coupon code COACHDECK to receive a 10% discount on all soccer team tours via our web site at www.englishpremiersoccertours.com

Baseball Factory hosts 400 events nationwide including training camps, tournaments and college video sessions. Visit baseballfactory.com for details.

The making of a champion

By Dr. Jim Taylor

I was asked recently by a sports parent, “What does it take to make a champion?” I thought for a moment and then responded with three words: “Genes, motivation, and support.” So let’s explore these three essential components to athletic success.

Genes

Genes are the foundation of all athletic success. Athletes can have all the motivation and support in the world, but if they’re not physically capable of performing in their sport better than everyone else, nothing else matters. Though physical capabilities, such as strength, agility, stamina, and flexibility, can be developed to some degree through conditioning, we are all limited by the genes we get from our parents.

Genes are also the X-factor for two reasons. First, there’s no way to tell whether young athletes have good athletic genes until they show those genes by growing up. Sure, you can look at their parents and see what kind of athletes they are and what kind of body types they have, but if you look at the parents of a lot of professional athletes and Olympians, you’ll wonder whether genes have anything to do with being a great athlete. And early success that many see as indicators of good genes often doesn’t prove anything (How do you account for all of the late bloomers?).

Second, good athletic genes aren’t enough. I’ve seen many athletes over the years who had tremendous natural physical ability, yet lacked the motivation to become successful. These athletes invariably never lived up to expectations and many I have spoken with regretted not having had the work ethic to match their physical capabilities. Conversely, if you have kids who are incredibly motivated and well supported, but lack world-class genes, they may not win Wimbledon or play in the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have a successful and rewarding experience as an athlete. Not only that, but it’s likely that these less naturally gifted athletes will learn important life lessons that will help them to be successful later in life. Ultimately, as I see it, you can’t control genes, so there’s little point in even talking about them.

Motivation

Motivation is the only contributor to athletic achievement that is thoroughly within the athletes’ control. They can’t control their genes, but they can do everything in their power to fully realize whatever genetic capabilities their parents gave them. And research has shown that the single greatest predictor of success is the amount of time athletes put in. Those who are most motivated will devote the most time to training which will lead to the greatest success. Of course, those with the best genes and are also highly motivated will have the most success.

So the $64,000 question for parents is: “How do I motivate my athlete-child?” Motivation is the most difficult psychological contributor to success because you can’t give your children motivation. Rather, they have to find it within themselves which means finding a reason that they want to play their sport and work hard toward their goals. If your children aren’t motivated, you’ll want to find out whether something or someone (often a parent) is squashing their motivation. They may be playing the sport for a reason other than to become a superstar or maybe that sport just isn’t for them and they should find something else to do.

Nonetheless, let me offer a few suggestions that can bolster motivation. The easiest way to answer this question is for athletes to have a great passion for the sport. Athletes who love to train and compete will do whatever it takes because they just love being out there. Setting, working toward, and achieving goals are immensely satisfying, so you can also help them set realistic, yet challenging goals toward which they can strive. Having your kids in a junior program with an inspiring coach and other motivated athletes creates an environment that fosters motivation. You also need to make sure that it’s fun. Given that the odds are very long that your children will become great athletes, there’s no other reason for them to be doing it. Finally, get out of their way! An absolute motivation killer is for you to get overly invested in children’s sport and take ownership away from them. If you care more about their sport than they do, you guarantee that they will not be successful or enjoy the sport.

Support

This is the other $64,000 question: “How do I best support my athletic children?” The answer starts with everyone involved understanding what their jobs are. It’s the athletes’ job to work hard, pay attention to their coaches, and take full advantage of the opportunities they are given. It’s the coaches’ job to prepare athletes physical, technically, and mentally to achieve their goals and have fun. And it’s your job to provide the opportunities for your children (e.g., coaching, camps, equipment), pay the bills (which can be incredibly difficult, especially these days), get them where they need to be on time, pat them on the back when they do well, console them when they do poorly, and support the coaches so they can do their jobs. If everyone does their job and their job alone, then young athletes have a good time and usually perform to the best of their ability. If someone either doesn’t do their job or tries to do another job, then things go south quickly.

Let me conclude with some thoughts about your goals in having your children participate in sports. If your objective is to turn them into champions, the odds are that you’re wasting your money and time and your children’s happiness. Sports are metaphorically littered with the scarred psyches of children whose parents tried and failed to do what Earl Woods and Richard Williams succeeded at doing. Your goals as parents are for your children to have fun, learn life skills to succeed later in life, value health and fitness, and develop a love of sports. If by some freak chance you give them world-class athletic genes, they love the sport enough to work incredibly hard, and they get the right kind of support from you, and they become professional or Olympic athletes, then that’s just icing on the cake.

Dr. Jim Taylor holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, and blogs on politics, education, technology, popular culture, and sports for huffingtonpost.com, psychologytoday.com, seattlepi.com, and on his own blog at drjimtaylor.com.

Why do you coach?

You may find it interesting to examine the origins of the word, “Coach”. The word originates in England, from “coach” as in “carriage”; a vehicle that transports one from where they are now, to where they want to be. University students in 19th century England likened their instructors to carriages, “guiding” the students through their classes and exams. The word in that sense first appears in the written record in 1848. The “instructor” sense was then applied to sports trainers by 1885.

Why do people volunteer to coach soccer? There are many different reasons – some better than others. Some do it for the love of the game and because they would like to share their knowledge with others. Some coach for more selfish reasons, because they want to make sure that their sons or daughters have as many advantages as possible. Others sign up for the first time because they see other coaches who are in so far over their heads that they’re sure anyone would be an improvement. And some people end up coaching because there are simply no other volunteers willing to take the job and they heroically “step up to the plate” and offer to give it a try.

Whether you’re coaching for one of these reasons or a combination, and regardless of how many years and at what level you’ve played soccer, you can step out on the field with confidence, because we’ve designed CoachDeck to enable anyone to run professional-quality practices even if they have no experience or no time to prepare.

However, being a great coach involves more than running great drills. And just as there are different reasons to get into coaching, kids have different reasons for wanting to play. Your team may very well consist of players whose objectives are to make an all-star team, or play in high school or even college. But you may also have players with no such aspirations. They may be on your team for no other reason than that they love to wear the uniform, socialize with friends and get exercise. So going back to the origins of the word, “Coach,” if you buy into the notion that your job is to transport your players to their desired destinations, it is important to understand that they may each have different goals. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you coached them all the same way?

This means you’ve been given a great responsibility, opportunity, and privilege. It means that there will be many children to whom you will be a mentor and major influence. In many cases these kids will remember you for the rest of their lives. If any of this talk of “responsibility” makes you nervous, don’t let it. It’s mostly a lot of fun. If you stick to five basic objectives, you’ll have a lot of success. They are:

  • Keep it safe
  • Make it fun
  • Teach fundamentals
  • Be a model of respect (to officials, parents, players and other coaches)
  • Instill the love of the game

That’s it. If you can keep those five goals in mind through every practice and game, you’ll have done a great job. The rewards for coaching a soccer team are many, and the more prepared you are, the better chance you’ll have of transporting all of your players exactly where they want to go.

Note: This article originally appeared in OnDeck October, 2008 and is being reprinted due popular demand.

The purpose of juggling

By Adrian Parrish

Coaches will often request that their players practice and perform juggling skills/exercises during downtime at practice sessions or even ask for them to develop this skill at home. But why is it required of a player to execute such a skill considering it is very rarely, if at all, used in games? Obviously it serves a purpose, and that is not just to help players become more comfortable with the ball by developing their first touch. It also helps develop a player’s balance and agility – two characteristics that we look for players to posses.

It is required of a top level player to have a good first touch and be comfortable on the ball, especially when under pressure from opponents, with limited time and space. Therefore, coaches must encourage juggling in order to develop touch, because touch translates into being composed in games. With a good touch players will be at ease when bringing the ball under control and holding it against pressure.

Juggling can also help players develop a better weight on their passing as well as being able to pass it with more accuracy. This technical skill is developed through juggling activities because players should be able to feel the ball through the shoe, giving them control of their first touch or pass and not the ball dictating what the player does.

Practicing juggling can also help players settle with the ball when it is dropping to them from out of the air. As they improve at juggling they will become more relaxed in bringing the ball down and continuing with it in a natural flow of the game or even shielding it from a defender.

Within today’s US school system it is not a rare occurrence to see physical education classes and activities being removed from the curriculum. Not only is this resulting in children becoming unfit but can result in children struggling with simple tasks such as tumbling, hopping and balancing skills. When you juggle, touching the ball is half of the battle. The other is being in control of your body.

We may underestimate the importance of balance in soccer, but with all of the rapid lateral movement that takes place in the game, it is something that we can not afford to neglect. If we encourage juggling skills, balance will be improved. When players practice juggling they need to have a relaxed posture, with slightly bent knees, using their arms for balance. During the task a player is likely to lose control of the ball and will stretch out to get that extra touch which could result in the player losing his or her balance.

Therefore encourage players to become familiarized with the ball and if they feel they are about to lose control simply let it touch the ground and have them start again. This will allow the player to maintain their balance. It is amazing that players do not really understand the meaning and purpose of agility and why it is required in soccer. During this past summer I questioned a group of regional level players as to why they needed to be agile as a soccer player. Not one could give me the meaning of agility or why it is important to be agile so they can play soccer.

Agility is a natural partner to balance, but it is being able to keep your balance while performing the skill in motion. Juggling can help players improve their agility especially if they work in pairs or challenge their individual skills by knocking the ball out of their proximity and keeping it under control. If working in pairs, players must move after playing the ball off to their partner and prepare to receive the ball back after a set number of touches.

All of these skills may seem like a coach can develop and improve these during the practice time with players but with juggling, players are in control of their own development and can also improve their fitness level while doing something soccer-specific. Juggling is mainly an aerobic activity which helps with the development of those muscles such as hip flexors and lower back muscles that, if not conditioned properly, will tire in games and leave players lacking speed in the later stages of matches.

As coaches you need to keep a variation of juggling activities that will help keep the players motivated. Whether they practice at home in the back yard or at the soccer field, players have to want to improve and must show this desire. Players can work on juggling skills to improve their touch, balance, agility and general fitness and do so at their own rate. It is important for players to have patience while practicing their juggling skills. They can’t expect to become good at juggling in few weeks. This is something that takes time but players who do it on a more consistent basis will obviously reach their goals sooner than those who practice once a week.

When players first start, they may only be able to juggle the ball one or two times; the majority will start in a comfort zone by only doing the skill using their thighs. Instead of requesting that players count how many times they can juggle the ball before it drops to the ground, allow them to see how many touches they can accomplish in a set time no matter if it touches the floor or not.

As the players become in harmony with the ball and start to master the skill of juggling, you can then challenge them by assigning tasks to accomplish. Set goals, such as a set number of touches before the ball hits the ground. Juggle while moving from one place to another or knock the ball high and away slightly so the player has to adjust their position to keep the ball under control as it drops.

Many of you may have seen high level professional players partake in juggling exercise in pairs or small groups. This is a skill you can introduce to your players and teams as they start to become more comfortable so you can continuously focus and develop the skills behind the purpose of juggling. Keep encouraging this skill amongst your players and realize it does have a bigger purpose that will help them in the game.

Adrian Parrish is the Director of Coach & Player Development for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. He is responsible for the Coaching Education Program and the management of the Olympic Development Program. A native of Louth, England, Parish currently possesses a USSF “A” License, UEFA “A” License (Pending), and the US Youth Soccer National Youth License. He can be reached at adrianparrish@kysoccer.net

Why pitchers should be skeptical of most professional pitching instructors

By Dick Mills

Professional pitching instructors have many duties when they are being paid to instruct pitchers at all levels – some of those duties are to help them improve to the best of their ability and give to them an ongoing plan for ongoing improvement. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening in most cases because professional pitching instructors are not videotaping pitchers during each practice session. Without videotaping even big league pitching coaches can only guess what is happening with a pitcher’s overall mechanics.

Certainly there are some actions that can be observed by just using the naked eye. For example, it is easy to see the back foot action and the front foot positioning as a pitcher moves from the back leg to the front let. It is easy to see when the pitcher is landing on the midline or not or even whether he is swinging his lead leg out and around…all of which will reduce velocity, lead to poor control while adding stress to the arm.

However, the main mechanical components for maximizing force production and thus improving velocity cannot be seen with the naked eye.

For example, an experienced instructor cannot see these important points that maximize velocity, affect control and can add or reduce stress to the arm:

  1. the position of the back knee whether it is collapsing the back leg or not
  2. whether the pitcher is completing back leg drive or not…a major component for maximizing velocity
  3. the amount of elbow flexion or elbow bend which can impact the positioning of the arm at landing and going into acceleration
  4. the angle of the front leg at landing and whether the leg and hip are bracing at the right time or not
  5. the position of the throwing arm, hip and trunk at maximum external shoulder rotation (arm laying back to parallel)
  6. back foot action and timing for maximizing hip rotation
  7. position of the hips and trunk at maximum external shoulder rotation
  8. position of throwing elbow in relation to trunk at maximum external rotation
  9. stride length – can the pitcher manage his stride and maximize trunk rotation and flexion speed?
  10. arm position at ball release – is the arm fully extended

There are more of these mechanical issues, however without videotaping a professional instructor is simply guessing. And you may be wasting money and valuable time.

Dick Mills was a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox and has been a pitching instructor for his entire adult life. He is the first instructor to use sports science research as the foundation for teaching velocity and control while reducing the risk of arm injuries. Dick was a faculty member for the American Sports Medicine Institute’s 27th annual Course In Baseball Injuries in January, 2009. His website, pitching.com, has been online since August of 1996, helping over 20,000 pitching prospects from Little League to pro baseball improve their mechanics and velocity.

Good guy, Granderson

New York Yankee star, Curtis Granderson, recently delivered a huge surprise to a Bronx high school which is certain to help kids struggling with the economics of playing baseball and softball. Read the story here.

Offsides illustrated

Here is a link to a great animated explanation of the soccer offsides rule which may be of great benefit to parents and even youngsters who are new to the sport.

Point – Counterpoint Part 2

As expected, our reader had more to say on the subject of titling vs re-draft. Here is his response, with my rebuttal in italics below each paragraph:

Brian,
Thanks for the note. I appreciate your enthusiasm as well, and certainly do not judge anyone negatively who volunteers time to develop kids in any way.
My fundamental issue is not abolishing good teams or “blowouts”. Everything you mention in defending titling is coach focused…better coaches, better drafting, etc. When one coach can scout 8 year olds for one reason…to gain a competitive advantage…it’s about that one coach winning, nothing more.

My last, and most important point, was not “coach-focused,” it was player-focused. I believe the leadership aspect of having returning players on a team act as mentors to new players is a great benefit. That would be missing in a re-draft situation when all kids are new. Also, in a re-draft situation if a coach picks a young player who turns out to be less than expected on the ability side, he knows he only has to deal with him for one year, and then he’ll throw him back in the draft and he’ll be someone else’s problem. However, if he knows he is going to have that player for the duration of his LL career, there is much more incentive to work with and develop him – another huge advantage titling brings to kids, not coaches.

And, I don’t understand your illustration of the coach scouting a kid when he’s eight. What does that have to do with titling or re-drafting? Sure, that is an aggressive manager who wants to win, but he can scout and pick that kid no matter what the draft system, correct? And doesn’t everyone else in the draft room have the same right to select him?

Redrafting ensures the best chance for competitive balance in leagues where coaching is inherently inconsistent. Competitive balance ensures kids are learning to deal with both winning and losing, not one or the other.

Again, I disagree. Simply making that statement without supporting evidence does not make it true. Take a look at your Minors division for the past several years where there has been a re-draft. Some teams won a lot of games and some lost a lot of games. As I illustrated, my league went to a re-draft and there was a dramatic difference between first and last place.

The mission statement explicitly fails to mention winning or losing because they are not part of the goal…they are byproducts of the other stated missions.

Right. So how does this mission statement support an argument that one draft system is more fair than another due to wins and losses? I don’t see the relation. I could lose every game as a coach but still teach valuable lessons and develop superior citizens. I don’t have to have a winning or even competitive team to do that.

Professional leagues prosper with systems that promote parity.  My only point is that when a child in our league is drafted to 2/3 of the teams, they know they will not win in any year they are in that league. That is fundamentally flawed.

My guess is that means that 1/3 of the teams have more experienced coaches and no matter what the draft system, those coaches are going to have better teams. And again, if they are winning every year, aren’t they are drafting last every year? So how can titling be an advantage to them? Eventually, those last place draft picks catch up and they have a weak team.

How do you justify 2 teams being so lopsided in terms of talent that they are 51-1 against the rest of the league?

That was this year. They were very good teams and probably two very good coaches who likely would have won most of their games if all the names had been drawn out of a hat. They’re going to lose many of those players next year, have to draft last next spring, and they probably won’t be as dominant. I’ll bet those coaches, if all they were concerned about was winning, would look at the players they were losing, who they had coming back, and would support a full redraft because they’d know that next season they’d have a better chance to pick a great team and dominate again. But, if they’re like me, they’d rather have a mediocre team next year and keep the kids they’d grown fond of so they could see them through their Little League experience.

You’ve obviously considered this issue and I don’t suppose my arguments are going to change your opinion…but thankfully LLBB continues to move more in this direction.

I believe it is unfortunate that LL continues to move in this direction and is based on ignorance. As I wrote in my article, one year when our board was discussing whether or not to maintain titling, a board member whose son had been on a team with a losing record all three years he played in Majors told us that on the way to the meeting she mentioned to her son she was going to make a case for a overturning titling. He shocked her by telling her titling is the only way to go. All she saw was other teams getting championship trophies and thought that was what the experience was about. Her son had a deeper understanding. It is always a shame when parents spoil things for their children based on their own wants and needs, not the kids’.

Point – counterpoint: More on titled players vs. re-draft

I received a semi-angry email this morning from someone who read my article on why Little Leagues should not re-draft players each season. In it was included a letter this reader had written to the President of Little League International, Steven Keener. First is the email to me, followed by the letter to Little League Headquarters:

Dear Brian,
After sending the note attached below to LLBB, I found your article.  It does not surprise me in the least that a former “professional youth baseball coach” has the point of view that titling players is the way leagues should go.
Simply put, most teams are coached by volunteers…and asking volunteers who just started learning the league to draft 3 years into the future (when they should have already passed their team to another parent volunteer) is simply hard to fathom.
Wouldn’t it be great if more kids in your league had the opportunity to learn from you?
Read the note below and use your position to impact a positive change…support redratfing.
Dear Mr. Keener,I am writing to attempt to persuade you and the Board of Directors of Little League Baseball to reconsider your position on league draft rules and make re-drafts mandatory for all major leagues.

I feel it is important to note I am writing this immediately following the final of game of my son’s final season, so I have no “vested” interest going forward.

My son plays in (League, city, state). This league is well run, with many caring men and women devoting hundreds of hours to the cause…some for decades. I have served on the Board of the league, have been a coach, and have always been an involved parent.

In my son’s final game, the score was 23-2 in favor of the other team. No team is immune from a blowout on occasion, but this individual game was unfortunately not an anomaly, it was a microcosm of the entire season. Consider these other facts from our season:

-(League) is a six team major league
-The top 2 teams collectively lost 1 game outside games where they beat each other (which would mean that these two team were a combined 51-1 against the remaining 4 teams)
-The third place team was the team on the wrong side of the 23-2 score

48 kids knew, before the season started, that they had no chance to compete, let alone win. What is more alarming is that with this type of inequality visible, parents and kids became frustrated and de-motivated. Coaches had to stop playing the game the right way (both the winning teams and losing teams) and start managing to keep the score down, which has no value in teaching the game.

Given the fact the Little League Baseball seem to try very hard to give significant authority to individual League Boards, I imagine your first reaction would be to offer advice on joining the league board, being an advocate for a re-draft. I did that, to no avail. Our league has several coaches who are in essence “career” volunteers. These men “scout” kids at the tee-ball level, and will try to move the most promising players to their team as early as possible (some at 9 years old). Unfortunately, while these career coaches are drafting kids, the other teams are managed by parent volunteers who will depart when their child departs the league…thus with no knowledge or motivation to scout younger players and “work the system” to ensure the best team.

When I brought up the issue at a board meeting, I was given the logic for not re-drafting…kids would get consistent coaching, teams would perform better playing together longer. I have to tell you candidly that this is utter nonsense. If the long term volunteers are truly excellent coaches, they should be impacting the widest swath of kids possible, not the virtual “select” team they ended up drafting.

I also want to point out that this is in no way an indictment of the time and effort that every volunteer puts in to our league, either long term or short term. However, it is apparent that the motivation of some these volunteers goes beyond teaching and loving baseball…they want to win, and the current rules favor their ability to do just that.

I fail to see any logic that validates leagues continuing this practice. I have been told that this issue continues to come up for a vote at the National level, and continues to be shot down. I find this disturbing, as it runs counter to the mission of your organization;

By espousing the virtues of character, courage and loyalty, the Little League Baseball and Softball program is designed to develop superior citizens rather than superior athletes.

Lopsided games, angry parents, and de-motivated and disinterested players make developing “superior citizens” an unachievable task. You need to ensure that All-Star and Select teams be the place for scouting and plotting, and Little League be designed to give every player a fair chance to compete and learn every season…not the chosen few who fall to the right manager.
The two most obvious ways to solve this are fairly simple…a full re-draft every year by the managers or having the league commissioner choose teams without knowing which manager gets each team, who then randomly select which team they will get.

A re-draft ensures the league is about the players, while “keeper leagues” are all about the managers.

I appreciate your time and hope you consider this issue seriously.


Here was my response:
Dear ___,Thank you for your note. I understand that Little League gets people very emotional. However, before you pass judgment on someone’s background and their philosophy, it might be a good idea to learn more about them. Here is a link to an article I wrote that explains my experience as a “professional youth baseball coach,” which may show me in a different light than your assumption.

As for your thoughts on the merits or detriments to the titling system…please re-read my entire article on titling so you can see why I believe that system is more fair to players and gives more of them an opportunity to be on a good team. But here is a synopsis:

Every time a titled league has a team that wins a lion’s share of games, the parents on teams that did not win instantly blame the system as being unfairly biased toward experienced coaches. I “retired” from the board of my own local league two years ago and the new board members, much like you, were convinced that a re-draft system was much more equitable. The result? This season, in the first year of a complete re-draft, there were teams that won nearly every game and a team that went 2-15. There were lopsided scores, probably more so than in previous years. Every year in the Minors divisions that are re-drafted, the same disparity occurs. It is not the system, it is that some coaches do a better job drafting and coaching than others.

Consider this: You are an experienced coach like one you mention below. I am a “rookie” coming up from Minors to manage in Majors for the first time. You know all of the returning Majors players…I know none of them, only the new Minors players coming in. If we all start from scratch, then those first 4-5 draft picks are critical, (i.e. the pitchers, best hitters, etc.) It is more likely that I might make a mistake on some of those first few picks than you, since I’ve not been in the league. By the time it gets to the new kids who I do know better in the later rounds of the draft, you’ve already stacked a powerhouse team based on your experience.

However, if we are a titled league, then when I come up as a coach from Minors at least I inherit a foundation of returning players that should give me a chance to compete, even if I whiff on all of my draft picks. Plus, if you, as an experienced coach, won the league last year, then this year you’ll be drafting last every round, which gives me even more of a chance to build a competitive team. The idea with titling is that a kid who is on a losing team this year should have a chance to be on a winning team next year because his coach will be drafting the better players. I agree, it doesn’t always work that way, but that is not because of the system.

Again, if you read my article, you’ll see I list many more reasons I believe titling to be the better way to go, and none of them are that it gives experienced coaches a greater opportunity to win. Yet I always find it interesting when people who are against titling because of a competitive imbalance point to things like, (By espousing the virtues of character, courage and loyalty, the Little League Baseball and Softball program is designed to develop superior citizens rather than superior athletes). Where does it say anything in that quote about wins and losses? Can’t a league, a coach, develop superior citizens even on a losing team? If that is what Little League is about, then does it really matter the score, or the record?  Again, I understand your frustration and don’t mean to preach. It is never fun to go through a season where a team has no chance to win. But to reiterate, that will happen in both systems.

My favorite aspect of titling is the leadership it fosters. Nothing was better than when, in the first practice of the new season, returning players would show up wearing their caps from last year’s team and we’d introduce all of the “rookies.” Then I’d ask our returning “veterans” to take everyone out into the outfield and show the new kids how we stretch and warm up. I wasn’t coaching the team at that point – the kids were. You’d see a 12-year old who may have been a marginal player last year puff out his chest and get a gleam in his eye because he was the big-shot now. And this cycle repeated year after year. That, to me, is what Little League is most about, not wins and losses.

Thanks again for your note and your passion for youth baseball.

Best regards,

Tennis in San Quentin

Here is a terrific article written by Marc Howard, former practice partner to Ivan Lendl, captain of the Yale Men’s Tennis team and current Professor of Government at Georgetown University. The article is about the inmates who play on the San Quentin state prison tennis team, and how the sport has changed some of them for the better.