Sorry, but I must get this off my chest
Are we failing to instill the competitive fire in kids? Is being competitive even allowed or valued any more? When I played the game as a child, whenever I stepped out on the field, I played with maximum effort. I wanted to be the one who won our team the game by not making the play on the ball hit my way. I hated striking out with runners in scoring position—striking out at all, for that matter. If I couldn’t be the hero, I surely tried my hardest to avoid being the zero. I’d imagine that if a kid were to be jokingly called the zero today, he would probably emotionally fracture and be institutionalized on heavy anti-depressants.
Kids, on average, have no emotion one way or the other about the game today. They just trot back to the bench after a strikeout and don’t have any interest in finding out what the next batter will do. They make a bad decision in the field and are totally oblivious to the fact that what they just did was wrong. I didn’t want to make a throw to the wrong base and potentially allow a runner to grab an extra bag or a run or even the game. I was constantly playing the “what if” game in my head between pitches and begging the batter to hit the ball to me.
I was watching a SS and 3B yesterday, shuffling laterally on a slow roller toward the hole. Both kids were looking to each other while they gave half-hearted efforts to track down the ball. Neither kid charged the ball or took charge of the situation. No desire to make a play. None. Outfielders chase down a single hit directly in front of them and then, with their head on a swivel, wonder where to throw the ball. That should have been the 1st or 2nd scenario they considered between pitches. They are not being taught to use their heads. They just react to the ball and to the movement of everyone else on defense and try to listen to the voices from the field, dugout, and bleachers for direction on what to do. It’s pathetic. Middle infielders line up cuts to second base with a man on first instead of third.
With an eight run lead and a runner at 3rd base, the 3rd baseman is holding the runner on. No one says a thing. No one recognizes that’s a bad decision. Runners on 1st and 2nd; 2B is keeping the runner at 2nd close, but the first baseman is not holding the runner at first. That runner is getting a huge primary and sickening secondary. The players don’t notice the opportunity to pick him off. The 1B is not even drifting in behind him after the pitch for a potential throw from home. A coach then tells 1B to hold him on. Now the opportunity is lost. That type of thing is repeated far too often. Their bodies are on the field, but their brains are somewhere else. The kids don’t recognize the blatantly obvious.
Kids do not specialize enough today. The positions are assigned like some sick game of musical chairs. The kids can’t learn how to play any position effectively when they rotate positions each inning. My son has never played or practiced first base in his life, but that’s where he played an entire game. Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to put him there during a practice and go over all the footwork and responsibilities at least once before putting him there in a game? He made many mistakes in positioning and got very frustrated with not knowing the best way to get from A to B. This happens all the time. Many kids are put in positions they are ill-prepared for and the coaches are oblivious to what that does to their mental attitudes and their self-confidence. “Go play first base…and have fun!” is the approach taken.
I am the first to tell a kid to shake off a mistake or a strike out at the plate, and get’em next time. However, if the kid makes the same mental error 2-3 times in the same game, I’ll sit them down until they tell me they understand the proper way to make that decision. I think learning how to play the game is taking a big back seat to just having fun, and it’s killing the game. I think back to my knowledge of the game and the knowledge of most of my friends when we were 12, 13, and 14 and I contrast it with today. Not one kid on the field knows as much as my least knowledgeable friend did in our day. I fully understand how that can sound to granola, crunchy, sandal-wearing parents of today. They will think that my vision of the past is embellished reality.
Our coaches knew baseball. I’ll admit, looking back, they may not have been up on the latest and greatest drills or the specifics of great pitching mechanics, but situational baseball, they had it down cold. Today, most coaches never played beyond the recreational level. These were not the athletes in school. Coaches are picked because they are “good with kids” or they are simply available. Their knowledge of the game they are supposed to be teaching is not even a minor deciding factor. It’s essentially like the kids are playing a parental-supervised pick-up game with umpires. I hear things like, “They’ll learn it when they are older.” Meanwhile, they are getting older every year and not learning anything.”
Too many coaches are preaching, “It’s just a game.” Has your child’s coach ever said to the kids, “The last thing I’m concerned with is the score.”
Yes, it’s just a game, but I think they miss the point that it’s the BEST game ever created.
At this age level, they need a more strict coaching style. These kids are in for a rude awakening next year when they try out for a high school team. Believe me, that coach does care about the score, mental errors, and, yes, even the physical errors. He will also be a lot more vocal about them than these kids are used to. For kids who have never had a voice raised to them, many will shatter like candy glass in a spaghetti western saloon brawl.
As a coach, the score often dictates how game decisions are made. I saw a coach last night coaching 3rd base. He’s watching the ball while his runners were looking to him for guidance. His arms were crossed and his mouth was closed. Kids were turning around to find the ball and decide whether to score or take 3rd base on their own.
Do we put too much focus on having fun and not enough on playing to win? Do we even remember what playing or coaching to win feels like?
When we go to watch a game, don’t we want the kids to win? Do we care?
I see many parents talking to each other and commiserating about their busy schedules, and not watching their children perform. Is just being in attendance at these events enough? After the game, by default, they just tell the kid, “Good game!” They have no idea if it was good or not. I don’t want my kids to look for me on the bench or in the stands only to see me chatting away and not watching. If the parents don’t seem to care, why should the kids?
What is motivating these kids? The idea of team sports is to contribute to the success of the team–working together toward a common goal. This is a valuable life lesson for group projects in school, for getting into college, landing a job, getting a promotion. It’s mostly a mindset, and these kids are lacking grit, determination, and ‘intestinal fortitude.’ I heard that phrase more often than I can count from my coaches over the years. I have not heard it once come out of any other coach’s mouth. Sports are not simply a venue to get together with your friends and have a few chuckles. There are many other things that would accomplish that simple goal.
The last time I checked, it was a lot more fun winning than losing.
A coach in our league traded away their best pitcher to my team just to get his son’s best friend on the team. It was not what I would consider an even trade, so of course I accepted. That team is now 0-8. I’m sure they are having lots of fun on the bench spending quality time with their friends. When we play that team, I always pitch that kid I acquired in the trade. We’ve beaten them both times…badly. What is that entire roster and coaching staff thinking about when they get beaten by their own drafted pitcher? As a coach you have a responsibility to every kid on your team, not just to your child. Friends have plenty of time to hang out between games. That coach just tossed away his team’s season, so his son could have a chuckle-buddy sitting with him on the bench. Am I the only one who sees a problem with any of this??