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Coaches .. What are we doing?!

I’ve taken some time to let this one sit and boil and I think it’s time to actually get out there and talk about it.

I sit back a lot and look on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.,coach a lot of teams and see what a lot of coaches are doing with their practices and games and am VERY confused as to what the real goal is for a lot of these coaches. Are we coaching for the benefit of the players and their development? Is the ultimate goal to win a trophy? Are we out there coaching so our kid can make a team? What are we teaching these boys and girls?

Think about it coaches:

YOU are the reason the players either continue to play or quit. YOU are the reason they fight with their parents about coming to practice or staying home. YOU are the reason that player is developed properly or not. YOU are the person that allows that player to continue to learn the game or not. Remember that it is YOUR responsibility to teach these boys and girls life skills and prepare them for things they will see in the real world. 

I hope this makes some of the coaches out there mad. It’s time for a change. BE THE CHANGE, NOT THE PROBLEM. Yes, this is very ambitious, but someone has to get out there and change the culture of coaching.

WHAT IS A COACH??

WE as coaches have a huge responsibility to not only teach these players how to become better athletes, but better people as well. We teach kids things that they can’t learn at home or in school. Coaches are their “boss” before they ever have a boss. The coaches are their TEACHER about discipline during practice (discipline > motivation), we teach them about responsibility (accountable), we teach them sportsmanship and how to be a good teammate even though they might not be playing how they want (culture), etc. If you have disciplined players who are accountable and create a great process based, inviting culture, you will be very successful.

A coach’s job is to be a role model, a good example. We need to be someone that these kids look up to and aspire to be. We want them to take a lot of the things they learned from us and apply them in the real world. I can always thank my coaches for that. Whether I was happy with them or not, we were always learning something. There was always a plan and always a purpose. I am a better person today because of the coaches I had in my life. I truly believe that anyone who has played a sport for a long time and loves the sport they play, they can say that about their coaches. 

That is our job now as a coach. We need to have reason and purpose behind what we are doing. I don’t care if you are coaching house, travel, high school, college or professional baseball, there is always a purpose behind what you are teaching and what you are doing with those players. We can’t have the mentality that “it’s only house baseball”. Remember that to some of those kids, house baseball is the best thing in the world. Those kids look forward to coming to practices and games! We want to continue to push for them to be there and love showing up.

There are so many things that we have control of in regards to these players, BUT I think a lot of those coaches are doing it all wrong. Here is what I see too often:

  1. Looking out for their son/daughter only
  2. Yelling and criticizing instead of teaching
  3. Taking the fun out of the game instead of teaching them how to ENJOY WORKING HARD
  4. Using working out as a punishment, rather than a chance to get better
  5. Underdeveloped players because they weren’t taught much when they were younger
  6. Less house programs and more travel teams, causing diluted talent
  7. More worried about the outcome of at bats and games rather than the PROCESS
  8. More games, less practices 
  9. Arguing with umpires

I COULD GO ON AND ON about this topic, but I am going to stay on those and talk about a couple things that I think could change the game.

Remember that when we are a coach, we are in charge of the entire TEAM. It is a team game, team sport and we need to make sure we are coaching people like a TEAM. Look out for your TEAM FIRST.

Coaches, I know a lot of you coach your son or daughter. Leave the emotions in the car. Your kid needs to learn how to be a part of a team and learn with the team. They are not put on a pedestal because they are the coach’s kid. They are just 1 piece of the team puzzle. If they deserve to play, let them play. If they deserve to sit, let them sit. If they are being a bad teammate, they should have the same consequences as the rest of the players on the team. If they miss a practice or a game because of their behavior, they should have the same consequences as another player on the team. Putting your child ahead of the rest of the team tells them that they are above the team, which they are not. They are part of the team, just like everyone else. Treat them as such.

I see a lot of coaches yelling at their players, other coaches, parents and even umpires! Parents, what are we teaching these kids?? We are ROLE MODELS! Our job and duty as a coach is to set an example for all players and even parents some times. Believe me, I am competitive and I know that parents, players and umpires can be frustrating sometimes, but there are times in our lives where our kids, parents, bosses, neighbors, etc can all frustrate us, but we bite our tongue and keep things to ourselves because we have to and it’s the right thing to do.

We need to display that on the ball field as well! Players will look up to their coach just as much as they look up to a parent, sometimes even more. How we act shows that player how they should act on the field. If you are yelling at an umpire, the players think they can yell at the umpire as well. If you are disrespectful to another coach, that player will learn to disrespect their elders and other coaches as well. Your actions will directly affect the players on your team.

Where has the fun gone?! I see so many coaches holding kids to a very high standard in games but don’t allow them to learn in practice and FAIL in practice. Why aren’t there as many Sandlot type games? Pick up games? Why aren’t we teaching these kids how to play the game. I feel like coaches are striving for perfection when we haven’t allowed the players to get out there and learn. Coaches, play more wiffle ball, fungo golf, kick ball, tennis baseball. Let the kids bat on the opposite side of the plate during a fun game. Allow them to throw the wiffle balls at each other. Let them have fun again!

There should be a part of each practice where they spend time learning and working hard and there should be time spent in having fun. Remember that at work, you work all week long so you can have your weekends off to have fun! Allow those kids to enjoy the same. Teach them, instruct during the first part of practice and then let them play “sandlot wiffle ball”. Let them make the rules. Let them pick the teams. Kids can handle themselves when it comes to a lot of those things. Yes, there is probably going to be an argument to some extent and THAT’S FINE!! Let them work it out, believe me they will. 

I talk to a lot of the coaches, parents and players at Hot Corner and I tell them all the time that in order for us to learn, we have to FAIL sometimes. Yes, I do think that helping our children and players learn the right things without failing is good, but how many times have we learned from our failures in life? ALWAYS!!!! Let the kids get out there and play, let them get bumps and bruises, let them get hit in the face with a ball because they took their eye off of it, let them strikeout and learn from it, PLEASE. This will allow them to learn more about themselves and about life. That’s the greatest thing about sports! We get to enjoy a game every single time we go out there and if we look at things from the right perspective, we can learn a lot about how to carry ourselves off the field. Remember that if you make a mistake on the field, it could cost your team a run, a game, a tournament, a season. You might get a bump or a bruise or hit by the ball. It’s the same thing if you go out in the real world and run a red light or speed, you’re going to get a ticket. If you do something wrong, there is going to be a consequence. Why not learn how to fail and learn what consequences are like in sports? That is the best place to learn!

Kids and athletes are losing the grind and the grit in the game because they know that as soon as something gets tough, someone will try and bail them out. What happens when your back is against the wall and you have to get out yourself? That is when you really learn!

Coaches, please start to be a role model for the kids. Teach them, help them, use trial and error, but please look out for each and every kid as if they are your own. Baseball needs the coaches to get out there and actually teach, they need people that care about them, that will teach them to be young men and women, teach them discipline and accountability and allow them to do it in an inviting and fun manner. 

As kids get older and the competition gets tighter, I do believe that coaches become tougher and more intense. I’m okay with that and to be honest, I’m one of those coaches. When I deal with a 7 year old, I want to teach them to listen, learn and enjoy hitting, fielding and throwing when they come to see me. I want those young players to learn discipline and respect. I also want them to come back every week enjoying the fun that they had. When I talk to a 16 year old kid who wants to play in college, my conversation is different. It’s discipline and focus on the task at hand. Mentally engaging each repetition. I can have that conversation because they want to be there and they are willing to learn. I can’t mentally engage a 7 year old every rep. They’re 7!!!! What we can do is allow them to learn to listen and allow them to play games and have fun and enjoy coming back each week.

I challenge all of you coaches to teach the game and allow the game to be played with love and fun and respect. It’s not about the trophy you’re trying to win this weekend. It’s about getting the kids to want to come back every week. I know that winning games is fun and brings the kids back, but what happens when you win and they hate it? Then what? Teach them the game and allow them to have fun playing. The more fun they have, the harder they will work, the more they will learn and the more you will win.

Enjoy going out there and changing the kid’s lives. That’s why we coach in the first place!

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