A Coach’s Frustration

As a coach we always have to deal with various frustrations.  Probably one of the most common frustrations we have is when it seems that our players are not “getting it.”  Who’s responsibility is it when the players are not learning what we want them to?

Before you answer, check out this video from my friend Stacie Mahoe.  While she is mostly talking about younger players here, she gives us a principle that is true at any stage in life, and not just for softball.

Help!  My players aren’t listening.

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How do YOU keep score?

In getting ready to release my latest version of How to Keep Score for Baseball and Softball, I want to add a section that deals with your most difficult score keeping issues.

Post your comments here about your score keeping experiences. Do you like to keep score? Do you shy away from it?

By the way, if you need immediate score keeping help, my ebook, How to Keep Score for Baseball and Softball is on sale for $1 in The Coach’s Store. This sale price will stay in effect until the newer edition is released.

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Football or No Football – That is the question!

The NFHS has instituted new rules for football for the 2014 season.  Many state associations have also added new rules.  And even state legislatures are limiting the amount of contact that teams can have in practice.  Here’s one example in Michigan as reported on ABC News.

Depending upon which side you lean toward, the new rules can be just about our Players collide during football game.children’s safety, or as some see it as the beginning of the end for contact sports in our schools.  Will high school football soon be a thing of the past?  Or is football too popular of a sport to legislate it away?  Where do we draw the line when it comes to our children’s safety?  When does it become an infringement on our freedom?

There are those who say we should do everything we can to make sure our kids are safe. But some people translate that into that our kids should NEVER get hurt or injured…something that is just not realistic in sports or in life.  Still others see this as another sideline to the national health care debate and whether or not the government can tell you what activities you can and cannot do.

We have all heard the stories and perhaps even know someone who has sustained a serious head injury playing football or other sports.  I once had a classmate who had a very promising future (He had been accepted to multiple Service Academies and had other scholarship offers as well,) until he had been speared covering an onside kick.  He went into a coma for months and even though he eventually recovered to a degree would never be the person he had been.  And yet we know others who have played football for many years and seemingly have never had a serious injury.

So again, where do we draw the line?  Where do you side when it comes to the subject of safety and contact sports?  This will be a topic for discussion on my new show, Healthy Kidz ‘n’ Sports.  So let you comments come forth.

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Dealing with the Transition from Middle School to High School.

Having coached 11 years of varsity softball and one year of JV, if there is one thing that could be improved upon, it would be finding a way to educate players AND parents about the difference between middle school sports and high school sports.  I have heard and seen time and again how parents are surprised at any number of changes that occur in the way things are done.  Not all parents of course.  Some may have had older children and have already been to the dance.  But that first time, if you had not been informed can be quite an eye-opener.

I remember a conversation I overheard between two moms several years ago.  One had a daughter that was a junior in high school and the other’s daughter was a freshman.  Both were on varsity.  The older girl liked softball but was not a standout player.  The freshman had potential but was…. Well…a freshman.  The freshman would start sometimes.  Again, she had potential, had some good moments at the plate, but generally struggled against varsity pitching.  This is not uncommon.

The one mom, I believe it was the younger girl’s mom, made a comment about how she had struggled in her hitting.  The comment I remember, not sure which one said it, but both agreed, that the girls had done so well, were such good hitters, in the rec league when they were younger.

Hello!  You’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!

Not only are you not in the rec league anymore.  You are not in middle school or junior high anymore either.  Where once you may have been able to intimidate a the coach (who usually is just another teacher at the school) in most cases that won’t happen anymore.  And where there might have only been a year or two difference age wise, there now can be as much as 4 years age difference (if you child makes varsity as a freshman.)  Your freshman son or daughter could now be playing against seniors that are not only 3 or 4 years ahead of your child, but who may have been playing club or travel sports and who may even have a college athletic scholarship in their pocket.  Your son may be playing football or basketball against other boys who outweigh your son by 2-1 or who are five or six inches taller.

So here are a few tips for those parents whose son or daughter are going to be freshman in high school in a month or two.  Obviously there are many variables depending upon the school you are going to and the area you live in.  Feel free to send me any specific questions that aren’t answered here and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

  1. There is no equal playing time guaranteed in high school sports.  The coach will play who he/she wants to play when they want them to play.  The don’t care who your son or daughter’s daddy is, who they work for, or how much money you have, unless you’re going to donate it all to the program.
  2. Players that have been playing a given sport from the time they are six or seven years old, and who now play club or travel ball, are probably better than your son or daughter in about 99% of the time.  Don’t complain about the coach just taking travel ball players.  They aren’t taking the travel ball players just to take travel ball players.  Most of the time travel ball players are better.  They are more dedicated to the sport and they have more experience.
  3. Check out the school’s sports program.  For example, if your high school is a perennial powerhouse in a given sport, let’s use softball as an example, and there are 40 – 60 kids trying out for 10 spots on the team, your daughter who has never played softball has about ZERO chance of making the team.  There’s nothing wrong with trying but just be aware of the situation.
  4. Unlike middle school, you cannot tell the coach how to run the team or when and where to play your son or daughter.  You can try.  But don’t be surprised if the coach cuts your son or daughter because you are badgering the coach about whether they make the team or about their playing time.
  5. Cancel all vacations, special trips, and parties once the season starts.  Your son or daughter is expected to be at practice and/or games on time and ready to go.  Just because Mom or Dad is taking off work and wants to go shopping or do something around the house is not a reason to miss practice, nor school for that matter.
  6. Build a relationship with the coach.  Don’t badmouth the coach behind his/her back.  If you have a concern about the coach’s style, arrange to speak to the coach privately to discuss the matter.  Don’t start yelling at the coach right before a game.  Many coaches are very flexible when it comes to school stuff as long as there is communication and as long as the requests are reasonable.  (And that’s by coach’s definition of reasonable, not yours.)
  7. Finally, remember it is the coach’s team.  You, (mom and dad) are not playing on the team, your son or daughter is.  Encourage them to discuss their future with the coach.  The coach is going to run the team the way they feel is best.  Whether you agree or disagree, it’s their team.  Throwing tantrums, loud complaints, etc. will only serve to embarrass your child.  It won’t gain them any status on the team.

I hope this helps.  Again, feel free to email me if you have further questions.  High School sports can be a great experience for your child.  It can also be a nightmare.  And many times, it’s the parent who determines which it is.

Best of luck in your tryouts.

Coach Mike

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One Place A Union Doesn’t Belong

Perhaps you’ve read some of the articles, or heard about this on the news:  In April, Northwestern University football players voted on whether or not to form a union.  Here’s a link to one of the articles.  There is a wide range of arguments and opinions on the NCAA and college sports in general.  I think a detailed poll would find that many people overlap in their opinions on the various issues.  I will outline what I perceive the main arguments to be and how I think they can be handled.

I am not a big union person.  Yes I grew up in Arizona but that only had a minor influence on my attitudes of unions.  My dad was in the plumbers union and he talked about the good the union had done.  I don’t believe unions are all bad but I have seen unions lie to their workers, just like they claim the big corporations do.  But this article is not about what I think of unions in general.  I am pro-Youth Sports, including college sports.  And I am in that group that believes that unionizing college sports would be the beginning of the end of college sports.  I’m sure you can imaging what that would mean for any levels below that.

I believe that the move to unionize college sports is rooted in two things, greed and misinformation.  Or perhaps more correctly, misperception.  Let’s look at the general topics and break down the arguments.  I do agree there are some things that can be done better.  But first let’s get back to the basics – a college football player, or a college player in any other sport is a STUDENT-ATHLETE.  And notice, the word STUDENT comes first.  Yes I know that most of an athlete’s time is spent being the athlete, to a degree.  But that doesn’t change who or what they are.  They are still STUDENT-ATHLETES.

Argument 1 – Pay for Student Athletes
HELLO – you already are being paid.  You are receiving tuition, books, and for some, room and board, thousands of dollars worth of EDUCATION.  You are getting your education paid for.  For many 100%, for many more, somewhat less.  But you are being paid to play your sport.  It is amazing to me that anytime you see this subject come up, how so many on the pay-for-play side overlook this important point, or they totally downplay it.

Several years ago, a girl who my daughter had played with and against in high school and travel ball, got a scholarship to a major D1 university.  Her dad shared with me how her scholarship was originally 49% which meant he had to pay about $12 grand a year if I remember right.  After her first week on campus, the coach called his daughter into her office and told her that he had more money and turned her scholarship into a full ride.  $25,000 or more (again, I don’t remember his exact figures) for playing softball.  Plus she now had the opportunity to get a college degree which we have all seen the studies that says that degree is worth thousands more in potential earnings over a lifetime.

Insurance for Student Athletes
I had never heard this until this last year, that there were examples of student athletes who had been injured playing who then had to rely on personal insurance to foot the bill.  I think this could be improved but it really isn’t any worse than when you played in high school.  In high school sports most schools now require that the student be covered on parents health insurance or purchase a supplemental policy through the school  (Usually very cheap, about $30.).  It is your choice to play sports.  You are not being forced to play (unless by your parents…lol.).  So just like if you choose to go sky diving, why should someone else be held responsible if you get hurt?   (“Well, the colleges make so much money”…..  uh huh.)  I do agree that college athletics is a bigger picture so from my limited knowledge (I don’t know how much the colleges actually do help out or pay), but I would not think it unreasonable that the colleges have a “supplemental” insurance that would add to the family’s personal insurance.

Students can’t work and are starving because they aren’t allowed to work.
My response when I hear this stuff starts with a B and an S.  For those of you younger than 30 that may not be aware, the reason the NCAA limits student athletes and does not allow them to work is a protection against the illegal recruiting activities that some schools did where players were paid for so-called “jobs” working for a booster’s company, yet never had to show up for work.  If you are a student athlete you have enough to do with your sports and your studies.  You don’t have time to work.  However, as far as lunch money, if you have received a scholarship so that your parents are not footing the bill for your education, do you really expect me to believe that Mom or Dad can’t send you a few hundred dollars a month for food or fun, after they are not having to shell out thousands for your education?  Sure, un huh.  Next.

“But the NCAA and the Universities are getting RICH off of college athletics.”
Perhaps you might want to look at the true financial reports of just about any school’s entire sports program.  Sure in many cases football and basketball bring in big money.  But that program also underwrites most of the rest of the athletic program at the school.  There are number of schools that don’t make very much money, even off of football.  And the MILLIONS of dollars a school gets for going to a bowl game????  How much are they keeping after they divide it up with the rest of the conference (yes, that’s right, the conferences and other schools in the conference share a portion of that money) and a few other places it may not mean as much as you think.  As far as the coaches who get the big bucks, many of them get the extra money from radio or tv programs, or other indirect pay. But even the ones that do get a big contract straight from the school, yes, that is another subject that goes under the topic of What Price Winning?

Lastly I will say this.  NCAA are you listening?  There is one area that I feel it would be appropriate to have some compensation for the STUDENT-ATHLETES.  If a school has one of those superstars, say like a Peyton Manning, or Reggie Bush, etc., and said school is selling shirts, uniforms, helmets, etc. with said superstar’s name on the product, I think a royalty should be set aside in an account.  And when said superstar GRADUATES from college with their degree, at that time they could receive a check for that royalty.  I think marketing a player’s name should entitle that player to some compensation if products are being sold.

College sports is one place a union doesn’t belong.  College sports is giving those players an opportunity to possibly step up and play pro some day.  An opportunity they would probably NOT get if they did not play that college sport.  They are receiving an education for FREE or for a greatly discounted price.  They are in essence being paid.  You know what has happened to many businesses over the years directly or indirectly because of unions.  If you like your college sports, then I think you should keep it one of the  places a union shouldn’t be in.

Coach Mike


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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Kidz “n” Sports fans.

I am most thankful for the opportunity to coach the young ladies entrusted to me at Western High.  I am thankful also for all the coaches out there who give their time and talent to help the boys and girls on their teams to develop their athletic and academic skills.  Remember, the first word in Student-Athlete is STUDENT!

May God richly bless all of you over this holiday season.

Coach Mike

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