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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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

Thanks to Carrie Underwood

There are plenty of reasons to like Carrie Underwood. Here is another. She is helping thousands of young girls play the sports they love. We love that. Congratulations, Carrie!

Failure Q and A

By Craig Sigl

I’ve noticed people can take great offense to the word “failure,” especially in a youth sports context. So, first, let’s define what failure is?

As a mental toughness trainer who has worked with thousands of youth athletes, by far the biggest problem is fear of failure. I have looked at and examined this concept and the word and
have determined it to be non-useful in the context of youth sports participation and therefore, my definition of it is: “A destructive word OTHERS use to describe events when they don’t achieve their goal or outcome.”

In other words, I teach that there is NO SUCH THING AS FAILURE. It doesn’t exist except as a useless story in your mind. (get rid of the idea of failure and you get rid of the fear of it).

Second, what can be seemingly offensive about this word?
It’s destructive to all athlete’s confidence, young and old, and it’s completely unnecessary to use the word for any situation or circumstance. I teach my young athletes to use deadly accurate descriptions of events that allow for growth and improvement, not destruction. For example:

– Event:
A baseball player strikes out at the end of the game leaving runners on base when a hit would have won it for them.

– Destructive description of event using “failed”
“I was up to bat in the last inning and failed to get a hit costing my team the game. I was a failure.”

– More useful description of the event:
“I was up to bat in the last inning and struck out. We didn’t win. I did my very best and learned something about myself that I will use the next time I’m out there. I’m now better able to handle that kind of pressure having gone through it.”
(Notice no need for the word “failure” in any of that useful description)

Why do parents want to protect their children from failure?
Some parents do this because they don’t want to witness their children experiencing difficult emotions..usually it’s the mother. This is because those parents are extremely empathetic and can actually feel the difficult emotions themselves when their child is feeling them. The truth is, those parents are protecting themselves from the feelings that come from “failure.”

Do their interventions hinder children in the long run? If so, how?
Absolutely yes. The whole point about childhood is to learn how to handle life and the difficulties we face while having a support and guidance network as a back stop. If children don’t get the opportunity to experience the adversity and work through it, they don’t learn the mental and emotional skills they will need as an adult and the consequences are much greater as we get older.

What potential life skills come from failure?
Ultimately, it’s resilience. When an outcome is not achieved and disappointment and other emotions follow, there’s 2 basic ways kids (and all humans) respond:

1. Wallow in victimhood
2. Learn from the event and come back stronger and smarter

Resilience, or the ability to come back from adversity or “get back on the horse after you fall off” is paramount to building confidence. Confidence cannot be built in the presence of fear. When you conquer anything difficult, you don’t fear it any more. This applies to small kids as well as adults.

How can parents help their child bounce back from failure to be a better person and athlete?

1. Acknowledge and allow the child to express and discharge the difficult feelings after the event.
2. After emotions subside, help them see the silver lining to the dark cloud.
3. Inspire them by reminding them of their proven strengths and abilities.
4. Label them as someone who always comes back or is a “comeback specialist”

If you have any anecdotes and points you would like to add, please let me know.

I have a story I tell often about a 12 year old volleyball player who’s goal was to play on a college team. She came to me in tears telling me “my coach hates me” and a long story about how she is treated unfairly by this coach and was bumped down to the “B” team in her select club.

After she finished, I shocked her by saying loudly: “That’s great!”

“This coach is doing you a huge favor. What if you had nothing but nice coaches the whole way until your senior year in high school AND THEN you got a bad coach like this? And you fell apart like this right when you needed to be at your best for recruiters?”

“BECAUSE of this bad coach, you are here in my office learning mental toughness and by the time you are a senior, you are going to be the most mentally tough player around and it won’t matter whether you have good or bad coaches all along the way. This coach is doing you a huge favor at this age! She said my favorite words:

“I never thought of it that way”

I ran through all 4 of the steps above in that meeting and this girl ended up bouncing back and starting on the “A” team.

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting: http://MentalToughnessTrainer.com

CoachDeck in North America

Did you know folks are using CoachDeck in all fifty states and every province in Canada? Here is a partial list of who is using CoachDeck. We have become the most trusted resource for volunteer coaches in North America, and we’d like to thank you!

More from yesterday’s post

Below you can read the follow-up conversation we had with the coach who asked us our opinion about what to do about a woman who posted something critical of him on Facebook.

Coach’s email:

Thanks for the quick reply.
 
I coach 9-10 baseball in a small town in Arkansas.  Our games are 6 inning or 1.5 hours long.  We practiced with her son at the catchers position during 4 or 5 practices but decided to go with a couple more boys because he son does not hustle and missed a lot of pitches. 
 
I have copied her post below.  It may not sound like much but I am not used to being criticized.   
 
“Really proud of my (name removed) today!! He’s been bat catcher for the entire 6 years he’s played ball. (Since he was 4.)This year, it’s apparent he won’t get to, even though the other kids on his team don’t really want the position. He had a rough game yesterday between not getting to catch & sitting out 2 innings & was pretty upset & pretty much gave up for the 2nd half of the game. We had a talk on the way home about not giving them the satisfaction of giving up. Today he went out there at practice & did what he had to do, even though tomorrow we have to find out if he has a broken or jammed finger. He didn’t let it get him down, even when he was yelled at for taking off his glove in the outfield when he was hurting… and I never saw tears in his eyes until we got in the truck. I’m very proud of the way he played today & that he didn’t give up even when he very clearly was in pain & upset. He has way better of an attitude about things than his Momma for sure! Way to go son!”
 
Her son took his glove off during the last 3 batters of practice and was just holding it under his arm.  I told him to put his glove back on and that he wasn’t ready.  I was on the 3rd baseline and he was in LF so I wasn’t yelling at her kid. 
 
Any more feedback is appreciated. 

Our response:

I would ignore it and just do what you think is right in terms of playing time/positions. If she does it again, then tell her you would like to speak with her privately. I think I’d also report it to the league just so that they’re aware in the event it becomes an ongoing issue. Real shame what she’s doing to her kid.