A Parent’s Guide on Steps to Creating a Winning Young Man and Positively Enhancing Your Child’s Youth Baseball Experience!
Let me start off by saying baseball has been my lifelong passion. Since I can remember, it’s all I have ever wanted to do. Like many youth players, I dreamed of playing professional baseball and making it to the big leagues. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was getting in the way of that. I worked so hard, and after being signed to the San Francisco Giants, I felt I was on my way to achieving my lifelong dream. Unfortunately, for me, I was injury prone and ended up failing my physical. It was time to hang up my cleats, and as heartbreaking as that was, I found a new way to put my time into the game I loved.
I wanted to do something that would make an impact, like the one my coaches had made on me. So I decided I would work towards being the best coach I could be with the goal of giving back everything this game has given to me, sharing all the knowledge I gained on my journey as a baseball player, and helping kids develop into successful young men.
Over the past four years I’ve coached and directed teams with players ranging from 5-17 years old, directed youth baseball camps with over one hundred kids, and have done over four thousand private lessons. With this, you can imagine I have experienced many different personalities in players and parents.
One thing I have witnessed with consistency, is the decline of confidence in these young athletes. This lack of confidence, among other things, has resulted in poor attitudes, lack of work ethic, and lack of respect for authority. Much of this is the direct result of parents and the culture we’ve created around youth sports.
Parents, you need to understand you’re a very important part of the team and every successful team needs each person to do their part in order for the TEAM to be successful. With that being said, I’ve outlined some points that I feel are crucial in making your child’s experience the best it can be, while teaching him some of life’s greatest lessons.
BE A SILENT SOURCE OF ENCOURAGMENT, DON’T COACH!!
It’s not uncommon for parents to put way too much pressure on their kids during the heat of battle. All of the yelling – “do this”, “go there”, “make sure you protect”, “don’t do this”, “don’t do that”- really hinder a player’s performance. The game alone (being a sport where you constantly fail over and over) provides enough of its own pressure. They don’t need you constantly in their ear! I’ve even witnessed parents show their kids’ pictures of their at-bats in the middle of the inning, to correct them! I recently read an article about how Clint Hurdle moved the video room from behind the dugout to across the stadium, so his players couldn’t evaluate their at-bats during the game. There’s definitely a time and place for this and its not DURING THE GAME or even right after. That brings me to my next point, which is do not rehash the game on the car ride home. It is bad enough they just failed, or lost the game, and now they have to relive it and hear it from you? The best thing to do is ask, “Did you have fun?” or “Did you give it your all?” Then finish with, “I enjoyed watching you out there today!”
STOP MAKING EXCUSES
The definition of an excuse is: “An attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify. Too many kids and parents have an excuse for everything these days. Gone are the days when the first thing out of a players mouth was “you’re right coach, I messed up, but I’ll learn from it and try my best next time.” Instead, we have parents stepping in trying to justify why they made the mistake. This hurts a kid’s development in the long run and doesn’t teach them responsibility. I challenge the kids who read this message to try this next time. I bet your coach will be very impressed!
LEARN TO LET YOUR KIDS OVERCOME OBSTACLES
This goes hand in hand with not making excuses. Parents tend to mask or put a “Band-Aid” on the problem. They make excuses or complain to their coaches, instead of letting their kids learn how to overcome certain obstacles they might be facing. I get it, you see your son or daughter upset or defeated, and you want to make them feel better, who doesn’t? Empower your kids to learn how to overcome things and deal with adversity, by letting them figure it out on their own.
Case in point: Johnny isn’t playing as much as he or you would like or maybe he’s not playing the position he would like. You feel that Johnny is a better player than some of the boys out there, so your first instinct is to call the coach, complain, and plead your case about how Johnny is hoping the coach will cave in and throw him out there. This teaches our kids that if we complain, we can get our way, or that things can just be given to us without working for them. That’s not how the real world works. How about teaching Johnny to be a better teammate, not to sulk when he’s not playing, stay in the game, work harder to be recognized, or ask about what he can do to get better.
TEACH THE REWARDS OF FAILURE
As a society, we tend to view failure negatively, teaching us that failure is bad, causing us to be humiliated or embarrassed every time we fail. This fear of failure causes kids to be passive or tentative in sports and that creates a bad situation. The reality is you simply can’t grow if you never fail. Failure gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and grow as a person. I’ve known some very successful athletes, and they do some things that set them apart from the rest. One, they are more willing to take risks and thus, fail more. Two, they find a way to turn their failures into positives and use that as motivation to push themselves. Parents and coaches need to teach their kids the beauty of failure and need to start viewing failure in a positive way. I truly believe failure is what makes the game of baseball as awesome as it is. I mean, how many other professions, or events, can you fail seven out of ten times and still be considered one the best at your craft? NONE!
FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE RESULTS
This is my favorite saying while I’m in the cage working with kids. As a society, we tend to become consumed with the results, instead of focusing on the things that are going to give us the results we want in the long run. This is best defined as the process. The best and most successful athletes are those who live in the present and completely focus on the task at hand. They take one step, one pitch, one swing, one play, one out, one inning, one game, and one day at a time. Athletes who are consumed with only the results tend to speed the game up and hinder their abilities through emotion. We need to be reminded that baseball is the most self-esteem destructing sport there is and we need to continue to focus on those things that will ultimately give us positive results while maintaining a positive outlook.
DON’T DETERMINE SUCCESS STRICTLY BY WINNING AND LOSING
You need to learn how to lose, before you can truly learn how to win. Winning isn’t easy and takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I see a lot of kids these days come from winning organizations with this sense of entitlement and persona like they are God’s gift to baseball. These are the same kids who, as the game gets bigger and faster, do not know how to deal with losing and shut down when the going gets tough. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of, or seen, the best kids at eleven or twelve no longer playing in high school. Success needs to be defined by how far you’ve grown throughout the season and how good of a teammate you were!
TEACH THE VALUE OF TEAMWORK
With the growth of travel and showcase baseball, there’s a huge increase of individualism at an early age. Everyone is out to showcase himself or herself in hopes of getting that college scholarship. Many kids these days don’t really care if their team won, they only care how THEY did that day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen teams win, and Johnny goes home upset because he was 0-3 with a couple strike outs. On the flip side, Johnny’s team loses, but he was 3-3 with a double and a couple RBI’s, and he goes home with a huge smile on his face. Ridiculous!
Parents aren’t teaching the value of teamwork because they’re constantly comparing their kids with others on the team. They’re sharing opinions about the other kids’ abilities on the team with their own kids, and this causes major problems when it comes to becoming one unit and playing together.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…Focus on being a better TEAMMATE and the INDIVIDUAL accolades will follow!!
THIS IS YOUR DREAM RIGHT?….WRONG!
We all know that travel ball dad (usually the coach) who won’t shut up about how great their kid is, how hard he works, how much he wants it, and is constantly forcing HIS dream down his kid’s throat. Let your kid breathe and don’t FORCE them to work harder. They have to want to do this themselves. That drives comes from within. The only thing you need to do is try your best to provide them with the tools they need get better. Understand the drive and work ethic sometimes hits kids at difference ages.
One thing I believe that’s very important is that your kids need to know that if they decide to quit baseball, you won’t be upset with them. There are a lot of kids that play the sport because it’s what their dad wants them to do, or what people expect them to do.
I tell the boys I coach all the time, if you’re playing this sport for someone other than yourself and you are not enjoying it, you need to move on. You need to play baseball because you truly love it!
COACH IS ALWAYS RIGHT, EVEN WHEN HES WRONG
Inevitably, your son’s coaches are going to make decisions that you won’t agree with. In some cases, parents might be right, or have a valid point, but don’t gossip and become a part of the problem. Instead, be a part of the solution. Respectfully schedule a meeting with that coach and have a face-to-face conversation to try and work out the issue. It’s a must to make sure your concerns or disagreements stay far away from your child’s ear.
Parents sharing opinions to their kids about coaching decisions is a big issue in youth sports these days for a couple reasons. One, kids lose respect for coaching authority and develop this “know it all” attitude. Two, they become un-coachable and constantly doubt coaching decisions. If kids have no respect for authority and are un-coachable, they’ll never grow as baseball players and more importantly as people.
STAY IN YOUR LANE!
Gossip these days in youth sports is way out of control. Parents are emotionally involved in their kids and I fully understand that, however, if you’re looking for your son or daughter to have the best possible experience, stay in your lane and away from the gossip. Simply don’t get involved in it. There’s a reason why so many NEW teams continue to pop up and that’s not because of the kids, it’s solely because of the parents.
LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY
Last and yet the most important on the list: Don’t miss an opportunity to tell your kids how proud you are of them and how much you love watching them out on the field, regardless of the outcome.
I’ll leave you with this: Sports are a microcosm of society! If we can enhance our child’s experience in youth sports, while teaching them some of life’s greatest lessons, then we’ll have some very successfully people in the future!
Wishing You Continued Success,