Youth sports teach more than just skills and drills – don’t you think?

From our friends at TrueSport.org:

It’s become a growing concern for some that today’s youth are becoming more dependent on everything from their parents to technology. Thankfully, that’s where youth sports come in. From accountability to confidence, youth sports provides coaches and parents the opportunity to create teaching moments that help build an athlete’s character from a young age.

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True crime in Little League

The youth league volunteer who steals money from the league is often thought of as the most vile of criminals, at least to those of us who love, follow, and/or participate in youth sports. But this entertainingly-written article by Joshua David Stein of Fatherly.com puts on a spin that (almost) has you empathizing with the scoundrels.

Do you know how to keep your team safe in the summer heat?

From our friends at TrueSport.org:

You see it on the news every summer. Youth athletes hospitalized due to heat illness. As parents and coaches, it is important to recognize the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Keep your athletes safe by learning how to detect and prevent heat illness from happening on your watch.

League in turmoil

The Stafford Baseball League in Virginia was, for a time, embroiled in controversy. We happy to report that it appears all sides have reached accord so that the kids the league serves don’t suffer.

Who Is To Blame For the Decline In Youth Sports (Part 2)

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Parents

I have no doubt that some parents are driving their kids away from youth sports. The “Crazy Sports Parent” has become less a caricature and more a phenomenon in the past decade. Why? One can only assume that the more competitive the environment, the more on-edge everyone gets. If Johnny is on the “C” team, his goal (or is it his parents’ goal?) is to move up to the “B” team. But, from his parents’ perspective, if he isn’t playing “as much as he should be”, then that’s perceived as the coach’s fault. Or if he doesn’t perform well, it’s the official’s fault. It might be that the other team’s fans are “out of control” and we have to match their obnoxious fervor.

Parents today are bombarded by sports 24/7, amplifying their significance in society. I wrote about how some are chasing scholarships but for most it’s about ego and status. After the game they pepper their youngster with questions about her performance saying things like, “It looked like you didn’t even want to be out there.” Maybe you’re right. But it could be the reason they don’t want to be out there is you.

Coaches

Unlike 25 years ago, there are now two common types of coaches in youth sports. The parent-volunteer and the paid professional. The parent volunteer usually has a child on the team and is generally more prevalent in rec sports. Just like with parents I discussed above, there are also crazy competitive, emotional, recreational coaches. Full disclosure, when coaching my first boy in Little League I had my moments too. By the time I coached my third son, I toned it way down. However, in all my years coaching in Little League Majors there was never a kid who played on my team who didn’t come back again the next season. I’m more proud of that than of any championships.

We’ve all seen the videos or heard the stories of the rec coaches who berate their players, the officials, or opponents. Yet the biggest complaints I hear about volunteer coaches are that they don’t know “the FUNDAMENTALS” and that they employ “DADDY BALL”. I’m sure there are many situations where both are true. It is likely that there are plenty of instances where the coaching staff’s kids get preferential treatment when it comes to playing time and position.

However, I also feel a lot of that can be perception. A parent whose child is not playing as much as or in the position in which that parent would like, is probably not going to blame the child. My experience, in the many emails I receive asking for advice, is that the parent always believes the child is being treated unfairly. They tell me theirs is every bit as talented as the coaches’ kid, but is just a victim of nepotism. Again, I’m sure this happens, but in all my years of coaching I can only think of a couple situations where the coach of an opposing team, in my opinion, gave his child unwarranted favoritism. With that said, I’ll bet many parents, looking through a less objective lens, would say it was happening much more frequently.

Which brings me to FUNDAMENTALS. Why do I capitalize this word? Because it seems to be such a big deal with sports parents these days. Their son or daughter is not being taught the proper fundamentals by their rec coach, so they say. Once again, I know that often this is true. However, I would also submit that to the average, unknowing parent, the same message will sound differently depending on who is delivering it. If the frazzled volunteer coach who showed up at practice straight from his job says something meant to be instructional, the parent bystander might figure he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But the same words coming from the mouth of the professional coach who played in college sound profound.

So if some rec coaches can be overzealous, fail to teach proper fundamentals and tend to give their own kids advantages over others, isn’t that a good argument for pulling your kids from the local rec league and putting them into travel clubs where they will be taught by impartial, knowledgeable coaches? There is some validity to that. But remember, in my many years of coaching I rarely witnessed “daddy ball”. The other dads I coached against mostly did a great job of teaching, and I never saw a YouTube meltdown on the field. So while poor volunteer coaching does exist, I don’t believe it is as rampant as some will have us think. And, as I maintained in Part One of this series, if the coaching is lacking, do something about it. Get involved as a volunteer. Organize clinics. Provide training materials (like our product). Everyone can be taught to improve.

But let’s look at the other side.

What I also witnessed in my years observing and participating in travel sports was that many of the paid coaches had an attitude that was not conducive to helping youngsters. They’d saunter onto the field wearing dark sunglasses, unfriendly; their demeanor a combination of boredom, arrogance and churlishness. I’d wonder, are they angry because their playing career is over and now they’re relegated to coaching kids? Or is this act borne of their feeling of superiority since they played at a higher level than anyone else at the field? And just like we can’t paint all rec coaches with the same brush, not all travel coaches fit this description. I coached alongside of and my daughter played for several paid coaches who were fun, approachable and great teachers to boot. But when it comes down to it, the former college or pro player who is now out of the game and coaching in the club may not be doing it so much because he loves it, but because it is his job. The rec coach, on the other hand, is more likely out there because he enjoys it and truly wants to be around the kids.

At an earlier and earlier age, today’s parents are wringing their hands about their child “falling behind.” My viewpoint is this: A kid who is not taught the “proper fundamentals” at age 6, 7, 8, even 12, is not going to be irrevocably damaged. If they keep playing, they will eventually run into good coaching that can maximize their potential. But if, on the other hand, they want to quit because they don’t like going to practices and games, they’ll never have that chance to develop. In terms of who is more likely to make kids want to come back because they just had fun out there, I’ll generally put my money on a volunteer coach over a pro.

Next: Specialization, Pressure and Electronics

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

News from American Baseball Foundation

From our partners at ABF:

Dear BASIC Supporters & Donors,
Thanks to you, this summer has already been a home run.
Our Birmingham BASIC East and South programs teed off this summer divided among the following three gracious host sites: John Carroll Catholic High School, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, and the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. These sites have served as a stadium, a classroom, and a home to 140 children eager to learn, play, and connect with one another.
We also kicked off our Inaugural Huntsville Summer BASIC program, where under the umbrella of Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) North, the Huntsville School System has embarked on the BASIC adventure with forty-eight new students.
Your support has given these children access to over 300 sports-related math and reading lessons and 160 hours of access to qualified coaches and educators. Over the next few weeks, we will spend time actively and collaboratively learning meaningful content that will provide opportunities for choice and autonomy, a sense of belonging, supportive relationships, and a brighter future for those whose circumstances make it look bleak.
BASIC curriculum was written by the Learning Department at UAB and designed to redress summer learning loss in students grades 1st-8th. Over the last 20 years, our program has strived to relieve the stress and disadvantages had by under served children later in life by closing the learning gap between middle and low-income students at an early age. With tremendous success, the BASIC curriculum, our staff, and your support have averaged up to a six month gain each year in crucial subjects such as reading and math.
Here are a few examples of all the fun we’ve been having this summer!
To see BASIC in action, visit: https://youtu.be/DmsdRb1p7xA.
For more information about the American Baseball Foundation or BASIC, visit our website at http://americanbaseballfoundation.com.

More (great) stuff for Father’s Day

Yesterday, we shared Bill Plaschke’s great article about volunteer dad coaches in honor of Father’s day. The same paper also employs one of our favorite columnists, Chris Erskine and he wrote a tear-jerker that we’d love you to read while you think about your own families. Happy Father’s Day.