Lazy Volunteer Coaches?

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Over the years we’ve had the fortune to have thousands and thousands of youth sports organizations provide our unique CoachDeck to their coaches. Of course, not everyone we approach becomes a client, and we understand when the budget it tight and there’s no room for anything but the barest necessities. But the we felt compelled to address the comments we received from one organization President recently, because we’re sure he’s not alone in his thinking.

In telling us he was going to pass on ordering decks for his soccer club this individual wrote, “The concept appears to reward the lazy coach where you state in your literature that ‘you can literally show up at practice with no time to plan’. This goes against everything we encourage in our coaches where we are looking for a practice plan that spans the whole season to measure individual player and team development.”

See, we at CoachDeck do not think volunteer coaches are lazy. Busy, maybe, but not lazy. They are doing us a favor by coaching for free. The individual who wrote this email is probably paid a salary by the club. Guess where a good portion of the club’s revenue comes from? Recreational player registrations. If no one volunteered to coach, this revenue would be eliminated and so would some or all of his salary. Yet, those good folks who are doing this job for free are lazy?

We, as league administrators, need to realize that not everyone can devote the amount of time we’d like. Not all are as “into it” as we are. I think of a person who owns a sandwich shop. When he makes a sandwich for a customer he tries to create a work of art. All the ingredients applied precisely, the plating perfect. He wants it to be the best sandwich the customer has ever had.

Then he hires employees to help him make sandwiches. He observes them rushing through the process, skipping steps, not being as careful as he’d like. He can’t understand how they would not take the same pride in each meal as he does. What he doesn’t get is that it is not their business. They are just doing this job temporarily. This shop may be his life, but it is not theirs. It doesn’t mean they don’t care at all – they just don’t care as much.

So we designed our product to bridge the gap between the professional and the volunteer. CoachDeck was created to give a lifeline to the coach who is overwhelmed but trying his best. We want to provide a shot in the arm of confidence to those who might only be coaching because no one else was willing to do it. We’re proud to give them a tool that’s easy to use, not a chore, so that they can have fun with kids instead of being robotic drill instructors. It’s rec sports. Fun comes first. Individual and team development? Somewhere further down the list. We know that not all volunteer coaches will be as diligent or skilled as we are. But we’ll thank them for pitching in, and never call them lazy.

Ironically, on this particular club’s website we found this: The recreational program is geared for players who love the game of soccer and want to keep playing and improving their skills, while not committing the additional time and effort necessary for a travel team.  Games are held every Saturday and the individual coaches decide on the number of practices.  If your child enjoys playing soccer and does not want to commit to the more demanding requirements of a travel team, then come join our recreational soccer program.

We couldn’t have said it much better ourselves.

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

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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

Rather Sad

A comment posted from a Little League Facebook page we encountered. Needs no set-up or further explanation. Come on, parents…don’t be idiots:

Very disappointed in what I just witnessed between the *** coach on the sluggers and the parents of the opposing team. Fighting in front of 8 year old little girls is a very bad example, and completely not acceptable.

When Coaches Cheat

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Sometimes youth coaches who cheat make national news, as was the case recently when it became known that this summer’s feel-good youth baseball story, of Jackie Robinson Little League winning the World Series, was tainted. But more often, cheating in youth sports is hidden in the shadows. However, even the slightest “bending” of the rules by a coach can have long-term, significant consequences.

An article recently ran in the Los Angeles Times sports section entitled, Little Lie Got Him in to Play Baseball 59 Years Ago, by respected columnist Bill Dwyre. The article juxtaposed the Jackie Robinson Little League story with that of a young African-American boy, Phil Hart, and his white friend, Gary Cagan. Hart admits that the Jackie Robinson scandal has brought back memories about his initiation into youth league baseball. When he was eleven, (he’s now 70), he tagged along to one of Cagan’s Little League practices to watch. The coach asked if he wanted to play and found out he was good. The only problem was, he lived outside league boundaries. So the coach concocted a plan to list Hart’s address as Cagan’s. Hart was then able to play for the team, which won the city championship. The twist in the story was that Gary Cagan is now a somewhat notorious figure, claiming to be an informant in the Oklahoma City bombing and having served prison time for insurance fraud. Meanwhile, Phil Hart has gone on to a successful career and says he often wonders why his white friend’s life went awry.
But I read something deeper in this story: Think about the message this Little League coach taught all of those kids; namely that it is OK to break the rules in order to win. Now think about what happened down the road with Cary Gagan’s life. Is it a stretch to say that he was influenced by the example set by this coach? Maybe. Phil Hart turned out fine and presumably the other kids on the team didn’t all become criminals. But isn’t it possible that one eleven year-old boy, who likely idolized his coach, was deeply imprinted by these actions and, like a train switching tracks, was sent in a new and jaded direction that affected his perceptions and decisions for life?

This is why, even if the kids from JRLL didn’t know what the grownups had done, it was important that they experience consequences. I have heard pundits saying that they don’t believe the kids from Jackie Robinson should be punished because it is the adults who broke the rules. I have even heard some say the rule breaking itself was not such a big deal – that probably lots of leagues do it. But here’s where those of us who are deeply entrenched in the value of youth sports disagree with those sentiments. Youth sports is not so much about winning as it is about life lessons and leadership. One of those lessons should be that if you cheat, you will be caught and there will be punishment. The young boy in this story, Gary Kagan, learned 59 years ago that cheating is OK, and it even pays.

The guess is that most coaches reading this don’t believe themselves to be cheaters. But even if you “bend the rules” by fudging playing time restrictions, putting players in positions they are not supposed to play, or other such “minor” oversights that you can justify as not being a big deal, your players are watching. Yes, the kids at Jackie Robinson Little League did have their title vacated after the fact. However, since we cannot strip these players of their glory and the experience, the punishment handed down will be titular at best. And what these impressionable youngsters really learned from the adults in their charge might end up manifesting itself in a tragic manner years down the road.

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

Welcome to 2015

We’re excited about the new year here at CoachDeck. We’ve got lots of new projects in the works, (more on those at a later date) and in the meantime we continue to be the resource of choice for hundreds of youth sports leagues across the country. Organizations are providing CoachDeck to their volunteer coaches as turnkey training tool, training supplement or just as a a coach appreciation gift. Have any ideas or suggestions for us? Let us know at customerservice@coachdeck.com. In the meantime, its time for us to roll up our sleeves and get back to work!