• Little Dreams, Big Nightmares

    Posted by on June 20th, 2011 · Comments (7)

    I “officially” coached my son’s Little League team this season. (Me and two other guys helped the manager with the practices and games.)

    Our last game was on Saturday. I loved this season. It was a pleasure to work with these seven and eight-year olds and see them get better as ballplayers.

    In fact, I was thinking about asking to manage a team next season. And, then, I saw this story.

    Maybe it’s better just to catch BP and give out high-fives on the base paths….and not be the one on the hook for dealing with this type of stuff?

    Comments on Little Dreams, Big Nightmares

    1. Raf
      June 20th, 2011 | 2:08 pm

      I love the game, I love watching the kids develop their skills, or that moment when the “light goes off,” or the look of amazement when they make a play when they had no idea that they could make. The unbridled enthusiasm. Following their career, and seeing them in Jr Minor or Babe Ruth, or American Legion ball, and reminiscing about how they couldn’t hold the bat right, or how they couldn’t run the bases, or catch or throw, etc…

      Parents are the reason I don’t coach little league anymore. I simply don’t have the patience for them. Can’t stand them, actually. I’m willing to make an exception for the hot mom in the stands, but for the most part, they can go pound sand. I have a problem with the umpiring as well as the “touchy-feelyness” of today’s little league. I’m also dismayed at the regulation of emotion in the game. While one doesn’t necessarily have to be a red-ass, kids need to understand that sports is a productive outlet of emotion. There’s a psychological as well as physical side to the game. If someone has a meltdown, it’s good to see how they handle it; sometimes they can (the light goes off), sometimes they can’t. It’s ok; the game has a place for you no matter what your talents are. The reason baseball is my favorite sport is because it’s a cerebral game. Brute force is nice, but the game often rewards technique and those who pay attention to the subtleties of the game.

      One other things kids need to learn is that there are winners and losers when it comes to competition. Losing necessarily isn’t a bad thing; just work harder or smarter and come back an play better next time. I would rather a kid lose playing well, than a kid win playing sloppily.

    2. Raf
      June 20th, 2011 | 2:09 pm

      I coached a bunch of 10-11 year olds in MVLL.

    3. Jim TreshFan
      June 20th, 2011 | 3:57 pm

      I managed a Senior Little League team some 38 years ago. Things weren’t THAT bad. But I did have parents who believed junior should play ahead of that other kid at shortstop and bat third. I remember one episode of a parent heckling a player on the other team. Bad, bad. One year was enough for me.

    4. June 20th, 2011 | 5:09 pm

      It really is a skill to manage and naviate the parents. I think you need to be able to make them feel empowered but still make sure that they go with your program.

      I know another manager who has a 24 hour rule – meaning that you have to wait for 24 hours after something happened to discuss it to make sure cooler heads are in play. But, that really doesn’t work if the parent is on the warpath.

      The coaching clinics that I have attended touch a little on dealing with parents. But, maybe it’s time for LL to make a clinic just on handling parents and another for parents to attend, mandatory each year, on how to conduct themselves.

      The latter, of course, would never happen because of time and money.

    5. Raf
      June 20th, 2011 | 6:19 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      The latter, of course, would never happen because of time and money.

      The latter will never happen because the parents don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

    6. Scout
      June 20th, 2011 | 8:27 pm

      I coached youth baseball for a number of years, until my son was about fifteen years old, and never had a problem. The teams and leagues ranged in intensity (fall baseball was the most intense), but people (parents) kept a sense of proportion and appreciated the hard work and time the coaches invested. So count me among the lucky ones, because we’ve all heard the horror stories.

    7. #15
      June 20th, 2011 | 10:55 pm

      I put in my 10 years with my girls’ softball teams. There were a number of years when I had two teams going with different age groups, plus my own time playing in my men’s baseball league. Must have spent 70% of my waking hours either at or in transit to/from a ball field.

      Here’s the key… Never, never, ever, ever take the top job. You’ll spend all your time with league meetings, sensitivity training, league politics, irate parents, numb umpires, drink coordination, shoelace patrol and, in my case one year, a humiliating psychological profile mandated of everyone that wanted to manage a team. Must not have been worth a damn because I passed.

      Take the number two coaching spot. This worked out well with the girl’s leagues. The trick is to find a mom (and yes Raf, a hot one is a definite plus) that wants to organize the team, but knows what she doesn’t know and will yield to someone that can really teach skills, organize a practice and, as important as anything the kids (and some of the parents) will ever learn on the field…. to put together the words team and mate.

      I had my share of idiot parents. Sad to say they were usually single moms (and I understand why) or stepfathers that were clueless about the game. They’d do stuff like directly contradicting the instructions a coach had just given a kid, during the game! Those same one’s wouldn’t think to pick up a ball and practice with their kid.

      We had some great years, especially when the girls pulled together and started to develop their own drive to push themselves to succeed. Some real high points in the parenting arc. We had one stretch over 4 years where we had nearly the same girls every year. The parents got it and the girls got it. We won three league titles. It was a heart-warming moment I’ll never forget when one of the league guys told me that 90% of the girls said they’d only sign up if they could play for Coach #15.

      One other caution, and this may depend more on your kids make-up… Sometimes the hardest job on the team is being the coach’s kid. One year we had three fathers, and all were experienced coaches. To avoid the inevitable father – young teenage daughter issues, we made a pact to avoided dealing with our own kid and let the other two handle those duties. Made the drive home much easier.

      I’m retired from coaching for now. The scars have healed from both teaching the kids to slide on sun-baked dirt while I was wearing shorts, and from telling a few parents to stick a cork in it and stop “helping from the sidelines” during the game. With a little luck, I’ll make a comeback with the grandkids. But I’ll only take the #2 spot.

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