Coaching question / discussion

Was talking to another coach about a scenario and it got me thinking about it, then I was curious what this group would have to say on the topic:

The scenario is this is a travel ball organization that travels quite frequently to play in competitive tournaments:

One of your better pitchers 11/12u age group has yet to really “show up” to team pitching workouts. Consists of stretch, work on certain aspects from week to week then throw short bullpen around 30 pitches not a strenuous amount of work. He shows puts in the work but at about 50-60% effort, and to be honest he doesn’t need to throw 100% balls out every week but 4 weeks before the first tourney and he hasn’t showed anywhere close to his usual stuff. Coaches have told him they want to see at least 95% he says ok still doesn’t do it, they encourage him to turn it loose for at least this week, still doesn’t do it. They have asked if he had hurt his arm, or if it was painful to throw the answer is no, asked if he doesn’t want to pitch any longer or was losing interest, no, asked if he is getting burnt out, no… Asked why he isn’t seeming to give a whole lot of effort in bullpens he shrugs and says “I don’t know” - gives this answer every week. Dad says same thing, the kid won’t talk to him and says every week he is going to go in and give 100% then doesn’t do it. The kid lights it up at hitting and fielding practice, so it is only the pitching aspect where he isn’t giving 100%.

Do you chalk this up to age, hormones, possibly starting puberty and let it play out until tourney time and then see what happens when he takes the mound for real? What would you do and how would you approach this situation?

11/12 year olds are a walk down memory lane that WE ALL seemed to have forgotten ourselves.

  • girlfriends are a stand-in-line kind of thing that a kid that age doesn’t want to hear … “Let’s just be friends.”
  • another group or individual can be making life miserable for the kid.
  • trouble at home may have undercurrents that kids that age, and even younger, can pickup real quick.
  • undiagnosed sleeping disorders and the like can drag a kid down slowly but surely.
  • baseball can be a push-me/pull-me kind of thing that a parent/parents want.
  • and then there’s the "Get off the couch and move your lazy @##… do something!

My advice would be to let things ride the way they are. You’re not Social Workers, you’re not Youth Counselors, and you’re not trained as Child Psychologists. You’re an amateur youth baseball coach - nothing more, nothing less. These “not’s” are not limitations by any means, just reality. By overstepping your abilities with concern, you could be getting into a ball of wax and possible legal trouble.

This youngster’s family is the one to address this. Play ball the best you can and go from there.

I forgot to include - pitching may not be his thing. Good hitting and fielding is a challenge for some, others who are gifted with the “feel” of that, usually like only hitting and fielding.

On the other hand, being pretty good at pitching is probably a natural talent that rides side by side with his other athletic abilities.

In any event, from what I understand, travel ball can be pretty intense, so I would suggest letting the youngster shine in the areas where he’d doing well for the club, and go easy on the pitching part.

Bring a radar gun to bullpens next time and call out mph on every pitch for each pitcher. Boys don’t phone it in when you keep score.

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So don’t allow him in the pen unless he’s giving it his all. Tell him why, it’s disrespectful to himself, his coaches and the other pitchers and is wasting time, it can also ultimately hurt him if he isn’t ready to go and gives it his all. It won’t take long to discover what his problem is. Also, you will show RESPECT to the rest of your staff who are working in good faith, right now you letting this kid get away with his stuff is losing a ton of respect for you from the rest of the pitching staff/team.


Your question is in the third person, kind of. That being said (by me anyway), the situation is missing a lot of background. Therefore:
- Trying to get the most out of kid who has temperaments in orbit is a slippery slope. Unless you know the kid’s parents, are social friends, neighbors and such, be carful with your approach selection.
- Kids come with all kinds of baggage. Athletics is suppose to be an enjoyable experience, even competitive athletics. This " Learn by disappointments," … “Measure up or get out,” … and other such mindsets can put a coach in a unwanted predicament …especially in a pay-per-play environment. If the family is paying for their youngster to :be there" and pressure is on the kid to perform … good luck with the … “we told you so in the beginning.”
- If all this pertains to your current situation, be prepared for being blindsided by other family members wanting their kid to take this kid’s place on the field. All kinds of problems will be dumped into your lap in a heartbeat.

So, here’s what I’ve seen other coach’s do in a similar situations with temperamental players in the amateur, youth game.
They sidestep the issue(s) by slotting someone else, causally, but deliberately. They’ve taken the best assets of said kid and used that player in slots that get the kind into the game - but not with the baggage that the kid dragged with him/her.
There was never any discussion, debates, pre-meetings with anyone. Nor was there any after game meetings with the kid, his/her family - done, over with.

In all cases that I’ve witnessed, coaches have enough on their plate, just coaching. The mix of game plans, politics, shows and no-shows, pending lawsuits from God knows where, and all kinds of other @#!, just doesn’t warrant dealing with more problems , constantly making things worse.

If a coach is going to take on begin a “friend”, a “counselor” and “shoulder to lean on”, well… that’s your business, and perhaps, one of the many responsibilities that a coach agreed to when accepting the job. Just make sure, the boundaries of that kind of job are spelled out completely and in detail, along with what kind of professional qualifications are expected on your part, along with legal advice if and when it’s necessary.

Yes it was in the 3rd person, it is a fellow coach who is experiencing this and was telling a few of us about what was going on. Got me to thinking, and I then posed the question to the group as a what if scenario. Not looking to be the kids psychologist, was just curious how others in the group would approach the issue.