Make them Feel Appreciated

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

In any relationship – marriage, employee/employer, coach to player – we know the personal dynamic suffers if either party is made to feel unappreciated or neglected. So why do so many leagues virtually ignore their volunteer coaches, and then complain each season that it is difficult to get anyone to be a coach? Here are some tips to make your coaches feel appreciated.

All too often we, as league administrators, have so much to do that once we get people in place to coach our league’s teams we think, “That’s done. I can move on to the next job.” But meanwhile, unless we hear complaints, we don’t give another thought to these coaches who are out there working for free every week. What if we created a “Coach Appreciation Committee” that focused all season on making sure coaches had the support and encouragement they needed?

Communicate with them
What are some things we could do to show we care:? How about an easy one for starters: Periodically during the season send an email to your coaches. Ask them, “What can I do for you?” or “Is there any help you need?” Maybe they’ll tell you about an equipment issue they’ve just been putting up with. Perhaps there is a parent who shows up late each practice, forcing the coach to wait around. There could be many small things your coaches won’t bother mentioning, but that annoy them. Imagine if you could fix some of those issues to make their jobs easier. And, even if they don’t request any help, which will usually be the case, everyone likes to be asked.

Pick up the phone throughout the year and call them just to see how they’re doing. You’ll be surprised how much mileage you get with this simple touch. Plus, as a board member, you’ll gain invaluable feedback about the inner-workings of your league.

Communicate with parents
Send an email to all parents with a message such as: “Please be sure to help your coach at practice. If you can’t help at practice then please offer to help in some other way. Get involved with field prep or breakdown. Offer to bring snacks to games. Organize a post-season team party and coaches gift.” Encourage them to simply thank the coach after each game and practice. Get parents to realize that there is something they can contribute even if they aren’t directly involved with the team.

Thank them in person
League officials can swing by a game or practice every now and then and tell the coaches they did a great job and thank them. Point out something positive that was observed. Tell the parents in the stands that the coaches are doing a great job. This goes a long way when it comes from a third-party and a board member.

End of the year volunteer reception
Lots of leagues do this but if you don’t, you may want to consider it. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate soiree, just burgers and sodas at the park would do. But letting the coach and a guest have a nice meal, “on the league” will sure go a long way towards rewarding the season’s hard work and even soothing any frustration that may have accumulated.

Do you have other ideas? What are some things you do in your league to make your coaches feel special, (besides give them a CoachDeck, of course!). Send us your suggestions to info@coachdeck.com. We’d love to hear from you. Have a great 2017 season!

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

Why do more kids and coaches come back?

Leagues using CoachDeck tell us that not only do more coaches volunteer to return season after season because they felt like they did a more capable job of running practices, but because children better-enjoyed those fun and productive practices, more of them wanted  to come back and play again the next year. If you’re interested in creating the healthiest and most dynamic league experience possible for your coaches and players, CoachDeck can help!

Will your league invest in coach training?

We know budgets are tight in non-profit, youth sports organizations. But we also know that training your volunteer coaches is an important, shall we say necessary responsibility of every youth baseball, softball, soccer, football and basketball league. Yet asking coaches to visit websites and watch videos and download practice plans just doesn’t work. They’re too busy and they need something they can use “on the fly” when they show up at practice straight from work. That’s where CoachDeck comes in. Our handy deck of 52 cards broken into four color-coded categories each containing a great drill that can be made into a fun game makes it easy to run a tremendous and enjoyable practice. And that’s what volunteer coaches want – easy. Or customers tell us that the better practices their coaches are now running lead to more kids coming back to play and more coaches volunteering to help out again. And isn’t that the sign of a healthy league? And isn’t striving for that health the number one priority of the organization’s leadership?

May, 2016 OnDeck Newsletter is out!

Check out the May, 2016 OnDeck Newsletter with great articles about promoting sportsmanship, educating volunteer coaches, making baseball and softball more interesting and teaching soccer players the right shot at the right time. Get your copy for either baseball/softball, soccer, or both here!

Who Is Your MVP Volunteer?

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Having coached four children in multiple youth recreational sports, I have encountered many, many great people who have selflessly devoted their time as volunteers to helping create a positive experience for the kids in the league. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals out there who do this important work and receive no pay, no recognition, maybe not even many “thank-you’s.” Let’s change that: Who is your league’s “MVP Volunteer”?

Is there a board member who works tirelessly “behind the scenes”? The one everyone knows they can count on and who probably does more than their fair share? How about a coach who has been there “forever” and does it for the love of the kids? Maybe an official who volunteers to referee or umpire games without pay, even though it costs him money to do so. Who do you have that we can recognize?

If we get some good stories, we’ll publish them in upcoming issues of OnDeck so that not only will your special people see they are, in fact, truly appreciated, but so that others will have the privilege of knowing about their positive contributions. Maybe we can inspire more people to act in kind, which means more kids benefit.

Here is my MVP: I coached two of Mark Remick’s boys on my Little League team so I got to know him pretty well. There is not a more selfless individual I’ve met. In addition to being at every game as a coach, he was on our league’s board of directors for many years and never missed a meeting. But where he really stood out was in his care for the league’s fields. Before and after games, Mark took care of the dragging, watering and chalking. Throughout the year he maintained the outfield grass with fertilization and weeding, installation of outfield fences and much more. It has been several years since he and I moved on from the league and now, when I drive by the fields, its apparent that they sure do miss him.

See how easy that was? And I’ll bet you can do even better.

So submit your write-ups to info@coachdeck.com and if your story is chosen we’ll thank your special person by highlighting their accomplishments in an upcoming edition. We may not be able to make them famous, but its the least we can do to give them the recognition they deserve.

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

Referee Guidelines

We found this on one of our client’s websites and thought it was pretty good:

While all referees are independent contractors, referees who wish to work in our Soccer Club need to be aware of what the Club expects:

The main theme is Professionalism.

Professionalism consists of:
1. Preparation.  Know the Laws.  Go over them regularly.  Don’t assume just because you passed the test and/or play regularly that you know everything cold.  Know and practice procedures and signals.
2. Personal Improvement.  You should try to learn one or two things from each game and always try to improve your performance.  Help your fellow referees to improve through constructive feedback.  Discuss situations to get alternative viewpoints.
3. Arrive at the field far enough ahead of time (a minimum of twenty minutes) to do a professional pre-game routine, including discussion with your crew, field and safety check, player rosters and equipment check, and introduction to coaches.  If you are the Center – you are in charge, even if you are junior to one of the other crew members – take charge, but don’t be afraid to ask for help.
4. Appearance.  Be in uniform when you arrive at the field. If you have to change, clothes or even shoes – do it in the parking lot. Leave the flip-flops in the car.
5. Demeanor.  Be confident, firm, but polite and respectful.  Treat players, coaches, and spectators the way you would like to be treated – even if they are not according you the same respect.  Remember, our job is to make the game work smoothly – to allow the players to be safe and have fun.
6. Reporting.  Center referees (except for Rec-Plus) must send their game reports in on time. Club Referee Assignor should receive a copy of every report. 
7. Problems.  If you have game problems, say with fields, players, coaches, spectators, etc. that are not important enough to note in the game report, but nevertheless were bothersome, please let the Assignor know.  We cannot deal with issues that we don’t know about.  The Club and the District have a low threshold for tolerating outside factors that impinge on games.

What Are We Doing to Our Volunteers?

Last month’s issue of OnDeck seems to have struck a few nerves. Larry Cicchiello’s article written by an umpire who listened to a coach berate him after a close call brought a response from an individual who has been volunteering to umpire youth baseball games for years.  His story will make you shake your head at the state of youth sports.

I too am an umpire. Most games I umpire are volunteer. Not only do I not get paid but it cost money for gas food drinks and equipment. I probably spend a grand a year umpiring. Mostly little league and I believe little league should be volunteer. I travel hours away sometimes and volunteer 6 days a week. It’s s very thankless job. Some days I question why I do what I do. I had a very bad weekend where I was screamed at and verbally abused by parents and coaches. Then on one play the lad pulled his foot off on a force out when he caught the ball way before runner got there. You could only see it if you were right there. After 5 minutes of being verbally abused the kid stands up and says I pulled my foot. Leave the umpire alone so we can play. He is doing great job. Then turned around and apologized for his parents and coaches. He then gave me a hand shake. That one moment made it all worth it. I’ve had teams lose on close calls and just about every time the kids still tell me good job blue. That’s why we do it. Parents and coaches can be very bipolar. The same team ended up winning the game and after no apologies were given. However the coach said good game. I was ready to say so much but I swallowed my pride and said thanks. Volunteer or paid we do the best we can. If 10 people lined up on close play 5 would say safe 5 would say out. If you call it the other way the other team will complain. Please remember we are human. We have feelings and emotions too. We aren’t robots. If it wasn’t for us the kids couldn’t play. As I see it everyone wants to coach. It’s way harder to get umpires because we are abused. So remember that next time. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with our call. We all are entitled to our own opinions. But please show some respect when it doesn’t go your way. We get physically and verbally abused so your kids can play. We deserve the respect.

Shame on these parents and hats off to the young man who acted more mature than any of the grown-ups. And then this email came later the same day:

Good morning. After spending countless hours over 14 years in little league. not a thank you or no appreciation for all I have done. Please stop sending me your emails. It’s just a constant reminder of a political organization that I feel has turned into not for kids!!!!!

We responded back asking for a little more information. What could have gone so wrong in fourteen years to cause this dedicated volunteer so much heartache? Here is what he wrote back:

Personally. I feel sorry for a lot of kids! Little League Baseball was designed to be a fun learning, development, and most importantly sportsmanship!!!!!!
Fourteen years!! Crazy right? I kept asking myself why I continued to put myself through the continued headaches. There were years that we did not have enough board members to cover all positions. So I had to fill three different positions just so that kids could play. NOT TO FORGET my wife!!!!!! She also worked very hard.
It’s the parents!! The ones that come to the board for only one agenda. To put their child first. Then you have those that want to coach, manage, etc. And it was those Parents and Managers that I say were trying to relive their childhood out of their kids.
As an umpire I watched the fear in those kids while up at bat to that catcher, who just might not stop that one wild pitch. 
There is no fun anymore!!!! Especially for those that end up sitting on the bench because why???? Because they are not the coaches favorite’s. To this day!!!! I have those that now have grown up and some have kids of their own still call me coach…
Little League??? Often have to wonder. What is it designed for??? It is not all about winning!!! It’s not all about how bad you made that other team look. Kids!!!!! They end up going to schools together, friends. Yet when on different teams and to see and watch how coaches, parents behave in a manner unsatisfactory.
Youth baseball, soccer, football, softball, etc. are about community. We have an opportunity to act as a community to provide a safe and healthy fun, competitive, athletic outlet for our children by joining forces in a positive manner for a greater good. Too often we lose sight of this ideal and instead of bonding together, we tear each other apart with our pettiness. And now everyone suffers, especially the kids. Come on, people. We can do better than that.
Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com