Tag Archives: parents

Good Coach, Bad Coach!

What do you do when your child (or you) doesn’t like a coach?

If you have been involved with youth sports at all, you know that there are many different coaches.  Some coaches are good; some are not so good.  Some coaches are better than others.  Some that may seem bad or good may just be the opposite.  So what do you do when your son or daughter comes home and complains about the coach?

When it comes to recreational sports, like little league, ponytail, pop warner football, etc., coaches are volunteers and you may have little say about who coaches your child.  Most states and organizations require that the coaches, even volunteers are checked out.  Many have to go through a background check and be fingerprinted.  For high school sports, that is a requirement.  For travel ball or club ball, while I believe better steps are being implemented to check out coaches, but there you have more say so in choosing what team your son or daughter plays for.  Perhaps your son or daughter is on that bubble where you may only have one or two teams who invite them to join.

So once your child has joined a team, it is a good opportunity to teach your child about commitment.  You all might be excited about being selected for a team only to find out later that it wasn’t quite what you thought it would be.  Or perhaps, there was a conflict along the way and now you feel some tension with team members or the coach.  Too many parents allow their sons or daughters to quit teams too easily in my opinion.  It is sort of a “grass is greener on the other side” scenario.  If you don’t water any grass it soon turns brown, regardless of what side of the fence you’re on.

It is a frustrating thing for a coach when a player is quick to chime in, usually during some instruction, “well, that’s now how my last coach said to do it.”  With a club or travel team, or even some high school teams, you might be invited to go back and play for that “last coach.”  Young athletes need to learn how to play for different coaches.  Just because you don’t like a coach doesn’t mean they aren’t a good coach.  Players respond differently to different coaches so while you might not like the coach, three other players on your team might think he or she is the greatest coach they’ve ever had.  Change your focus to trying to learn everything you can from that coach.  If you quit too many teams, you are not doing your child any favors and you will soon earn a reputation which might make it more difficult for your child later.

In my daughter’s travel ball career, which lasted seven years, we left three teams.  On one, they had a huge recruiting bonus because they made the championship game in a national tournament.  They suddenly had seven pitchers.  As you can imagine, my daughter got very little pitching or playing time.  At the Christmas break, we found another team.  Jessica said she would prefer to stay with the first team, and the manager said they were going to use her more.  We would have liked that too because their practice was 5 minutes away where the other team was 30 minutes away.  So Jessica was going to both practices.  After the first friendly, Jessica got to pitch to two batters.  When we got home there was an email from the new team saying they had a uniform with Jessica’s number on it.  That was one we left.  But we didn’t leave on bad terms and we didn’t leave in the crucial part of the season.

One team we left because they could never get enough players to play.  The third team we left we did so after the assistant coach, who liked Jessica a lot, told us the head coach wasn’t going to use her.  He had brought in a superstar pitcher, who I found out later was overused and had to lay off a year.  Other than those examples we completed our commitment to every team Jessica played on.

Parents, one of the benefits of sports is that it can teach your child how to deal with adversity.  That means even playing for a coach that you may not like very much.  Unless there is a situation that is totally unbearable, such as inappropriate behavior taking place, abusive language or actions by coaches or teammates, or something extreme where you son or daughter could be physically or emotionally harmed (I’m not just talking about being bent out of shape a little), help them deal with the negatives and look for the positives.  Help them learn to take something positive, to learn something new, out of every situation.

Have a great week.

Coach Mike

 

 

 

 

 

Whose Choice Is It?

Youth sports is a great avenue for our children to learn many of life’s lessons such as teamwork, fighting through and overcoming adversity, and setting goals for self improvement.  Just like anything else in life, there are positives and negatives.  So before you sign your son or daughter up for your, er, their favorite sport, I would suggest that you have a family conversation and explain the options. Most importantly, make sure that your son or daughter has input into what they want to do.

As a parent, your primary job is to raise your children.  That means instructing them in things like your family religion, basic education, discipline, and of course, providing safety for them.  This last one is an area that many parents are often left to guess as to what is the best course of action in many areas.  Education is the key.  Also, very important is being realistic about what lies ahead and what the potential downfalls might be.  So here are a few things to put on your list to consider:

  1.  Sports is playing a game.  It can be a lot of fun.  It should be fun.  But as your child moves up the ladder, if they want to improve their skills, there will be work.  It may not always be fun.  But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be rewarding.  Working to reach individual and team goals is the rewarding part of sports.
  2. Your child most likely will get hurt.  A friend who is a local chiropractor pointed out one study that shows that 97% of all people who play football will sustain some trauma to their body during their “career.”  This might mean bumps and bruises, but it could also mean sprains, broken bones, concussions, and even death.  Injuries are germane to any sport.  There are steps that can be taken to reduce and hopefully prevent injury.  But injuries are a part of the game.  Are you and your children prepared for this?  And on a good note, sometimes working through an injury can help improve your child’s character.  But there is a choice that must be made.  And you must live with that choice.
  3. Part of sports means letting go of your children and entrusting them to other adults for periods of time.  You must respect the fact that the coach is the head of the team and it is their team.  They will not always do things the way you think they should.  This can be a growing time for parents as well as their children.

These are just a few things to consider.  To help your child enjoy their youth sports experience, you might want to purchase my book, YOUTH SPORTS; THREE IMPORTANT STEPS TO HELPING YOUR CHILD ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE.  You can find my book on Amazon for Kindle or in paperback by clicking here.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season to you and your families.

Poll: Who’s responsible for our children’s success?

Who do you think is most responsible for our children’s success in the classroom or on the athletic field?  Do you take responsibility as the parent or is it the coaches and teachers who are responsible?  Or is there another answer?

Take this week’s poll and let me know what you think?


What about RESPONSIBILITY?

I’m looking for a guest who would like to discuss Responsibility this week on Kidz “n” Sports.  You can be a coach, a player, an umpire, an administrator…or even just a parent of a player.  Call me at (877)554-5952 extension 2.  Or you can send me email.

I try to teach my players to take responsibility for their success.  Whether it’s about a batting lesson, a strategy, or your grades….it’s the player’s responsibility to learn and grow.  Like I tell my players about hitting, if you can learn what you did wrong before I tell you then at some point you don’t need me to be your hitting coach because you can be your own hitting coach.  It’s about paying attention and ownership of your success.

I hope everyone is having a safe holiday weekend.  Remember don’t drink OR TEXT and drive.

Coach Mike

Finally – My Third Post on High School Tryouts

Well, that week went by pretty fast…..LOL.

I’ve finally gotten a chance to sit down and write my last blog in my series on high school tryouts.  As I had posted, our whole house was under the weather for a week or so and now that I’m in season I have seen time fly by way too fast.  But for those of you who are still with me, I present a synopsis of how I run my program and what I look for in tryouts.  Please remember, every program has differences and whether across the board or within one school’s programs, every tryout is different.

I’ve coached at a small private high school and at two larger public schools, counting my current position.  I’ve also coached one year of a JV program at a public school.  In my experience at my three varsity programs we often found ourselves needing bodies.  We would have anywhere from four to fourteen players tryout for the team.  These are new players, not the returning players.  And while I have cut a few players, I generally keep most of those coming out because of the low numbers.

I am quite sure there is probably not a coach alive that would not want to have skilled travel or club players on their team in any sport.  It not only leads to having a stronger team, but it is also easier on the coach in developing practice plans.  A coach can work on more advanced issues because he or she does not have to spend as much time teaching basic skills.  These players almost always have the basic skills down pat.  That doesn’t mean the coach can skip teaching basic skills.  It just means you do not have to spend as much time.

I remember after I had left the private school I coached at and was hired at Newport Harbor, a division one high school in the Sea View League, which at that time was arguably one of the toughest leagues in the U.S. as far as softball goes.  At one of the tournaments we were playing in, I ran into a coach that my teams had played against previously.  He asked me “So Mike, isn’t it nice to just be able to roll the ball out and let them play?”

Of course the answer is yes, if it were just that easy.

So what do I look for in tryouts and why did I cut the few players that I have cut?

First, I remember back to a philosophy I learned from the UCLA program originally although I’ve heard it repeated many times elsewhere.  There are only two things you can control in life, your attitude and your effort.  That is what I look for in my new players.  If there attitude is right and they are willing to give the effort, I am reluctant to cut those players, even when they are very raw and have a lot to learn.  That’s what coaching is about and that’s also what JV is for.  I have an excellent JV coach that is good about working with young players and teaching basic skills.  Obviously, if I had forty or fifty players trying out the young inexperienced players who have played little or no softball would probably not have a chance to make the team.  So far that hasn’t been the case.  What I have been blessed with are some remarkable young ladies who are willing to work hard and learn.  Sometimes these players only play one season.  Other times they have developed into pretty decent players, even if they were not super players that would go on to play in college.

I am willing to carry a slightly larger roster, say 15 or 16.  I am even willing to carry the limit of 20 players if I had that many while still leaving enough players for JV.  The reason I feel this way is that to me, playing high school sports is different than playing for a club or travel team for one big reason:  PRIDE!

Sure there is pride in winning a national title with your club or travel team.  But it is not the same as winning a league, city, or state championship with your high school team.  Most players will stay with a travel team for one or two years.  But you are at your high school for four years.  And there is something special about wearing your school colors, receiving your varsity letter, and representing your school before your friends.  I like to see as many players as possible have that opportunity as long as they are willing to work together and contribute as a team.  Talent is secondary to making the team.  Of course, I will put the best nine players on the field as the starting unit.

Most schools have students that through no fault of their own did not have the chance to play sports.  Kids are at the mercy of their parents.  Maybe they played at a middle school but just did not receive strong coaching.  And if the parents could not afford private lessons or club ball, is that the player’s fault?  It is easy to say that such a situation is not my problem.  My job is to put a competitive team on the field.  But especially if you don’t have large numbers trying out, if you want to build your program sometimes you have to be willing to take on a player who needs a lot of work but who has a great attitude and is willing to learn.

I am willing to teach first so I can win later.

I had asked for other coaches to share their philosophy with us so that you can see more examples.  I had a few tell me they would send something in but only one did.  Below is that coach’s story.

(I’ve received the following response from a JV coach, Patti Mascone)

Coach:

In response to request for coaching philosophies, I am a JV softball coach at Atholton High School in Maryland, a medium-sized school in the suburbs known for academics.

The JV level offers a great opportunity for 9th and 10th graders who may not make the Varsity team (some don’t want to play Varsity because they may ride the bench). If we did not have JV, we would have to cut too many girls every year. I have to thank our county, Howard, and the high school, for instilling a lot of the fairness and communication into how our programs handle tryouts.

Of course, my tryout portion is based on those who have been “cut,” for lack of a better term, from Varsity, so that puts limits on what I am looking for. I can’t really pick kids to “pieces” of the puzzle, as that is more for the Varsity level. A JV coach needs kids who can play multiple positions and are overall players.

We have very few travel players in our district, so I spend a lot of time at JV level teaching the game to athletes who may not have had much softball experience. We are also instilling educational experiences to help the players in their future adult lives. So first, we have to look for athletes at JV level. For travel players that do come our way, we look for players who are good leaders, mentors, and teammates because of the variance in skill level. We have strict academic/homework requirements during the season, so we also want and have to take kids with good grades. I definitely read the honor rolls and ask the kids at tryouts to describe on paper their school activities and honors and what they would contribute to the team. I had one player who wrote such a great essay on her tryout sheet, I read it to the team as motivation.

I like to keep anywhere from 15-18 players, because at JV, we keep track of playing time and get everyone in. There are also injuries and other school activities to account for–we play three games a week once we get going (20 total). We have priority system so that kids can do both an activity (e.g., ROTC, band) and a sport to the satisfaction of all involved. However, academics and tutoring take precedence over softball in all cases.

It is imperative that a coach keep an objective grading sheet on each player at tryouts and that all prospects participate in the same drills. It is hugely beneficial to give the prospects a copy of a blank evaluation sheet or tell them what the categories of evaluation are prior to the start of tryouts. Of course, some things like “hitting form” will remain somewhat subjective, but by applying a number from a scale, the coach documents what the coach saw, which is better than writing “like her hitting form.” I also allow some time at the end of tryouts to redo a key skill evaluation or add one so that the kids know they were seen by me. (I typically ask the group what they want to show off.)

At the end of tryouts, each cut player is told why she is cut, in private. The player or parent of a cut JV player may discuss my evaluation and ask about evaluation criteria. The parent or player is not allowed to inquire, discuss, or know anything about the assessment of another player. I don’t and can’t discuss other individuals. I find that a total score keeps the decision and discussion more objective by allowing both a “points cut-off” and “highest point total.” Everyone is used to grading systems, so it works.

About 1/3 of the tryout score is based on sportsmanship, attitude, communication, and other teammate or team member qualities (such as the essay). This is so important. The coach also should NOT be fooled by first impressions. For example, I have timed how long it takes a fielder to make a play (and not just running), because some fielders who seem slow actually make quicker and more consistent defensive plays.

I also use the tryout sheet as a benchmark and go over this sheet with the player at the end of the season during individual evaluations; the player then knows what she needs to do to try and make Varsity the next year.

Because our system keeps all JV and V sports separate (they play at the exact same time), there is no concern about players going back and forth. You either play JV or Varsity. Of course, the Varsity coach can call you up, but once you go up, you stay up. This creates a lot more certainty for everyone involved.

(This is the coach’s personal philosophy and is not speaking as a representative of her school.)

I hope you can take something from our programs to help you in your own.  Or if you are a parent of a player trying to make a team, I hope these last three blogs have helped you understand the process a little better.  Next week I will talk about my policy for seniors.  Can a senior play on JV?  Or do you cut them if they’re not a varsity player?

 

High School Tryouts

I heard recently that the daughter of a friend did not make the team at her high school.  I am a bit surprised, as I know the athletic talent and positive character that this kid possesses.  I know this young lady is very disappointed.  I heard some of the same comments from the parent as I’ve head many times as I have coached youth sports over the years.  I have felt some of the same feelings at times when my daughter was not selected for various travel ball teams.  So I thought today would be a good day for a “review” of the tryout scenario, the associated comments resulting from not making the teams, and the opportunities available or directions to consider going forward.  I know that nothing I say here will change the disappointment of player or parent immediately.  But hopefully, once the tears and anger have subsided, it will help both player and parent get back on the saddle and ride that horse again….. or not.

For the purposes of this blog I will deal most specifically with high school tryouts today.  There are different parameters to high school tryouts that may seem similar to other tryouts but which are unique to high school sports.   The disappointment may be greater because if you don’t make a travel or club team, there are many other teams available to try out for.  But high school is special.  High school is unique.  You can’t just keep trying out for different high school teams until you make a team, even though some parents seemingly try to do that.  When I first started coaching high school softball here in southern California, I heard the comment that “high school softball is a joke.”  Yes, if you want to play at the college level you almost have to play travel ball.  I say almost because it is not an absolute.  I say almost because there are some very good high school teams.  There are some schools where the team is as good as a travel team.  But consider again that to many students, wearing your school colors is a different pride that is rarely seen in travel or club ball.  To me, high school softball or any other sport is not a joke.

The first thing to remember is that it is the coach’s team.  This is true in high school, college, travel and club ball, or any other “competitive” team sports.  Unlike rec ball where every player will get to play, at the higher levels every player is subject to the opinions, whims, and directions of the coach or coaches.  The head coach is going to select the players who they think will help make their team the most competitive.  Each coach has different criteria for picking the players at tryouts.  It may change due to the different number of players needed based on returning talent.  Some coaches are very demanding while others are more laid back.  Some like to carry larger rosters, others want the minimum number of players they feel they can get through the season with.  Some demand that you play travel or club ball, others are simply glad if you do.  Some coaches may even have a silent requirement that you play on THEIR travel or club team, or one specified by them.

The bottom line under any coach is that their perception of your son or daughter is THEIR PERCEPTION.  It is their opinion.  If you lined up ten different coaches in any given sport, and each had to pick fifteen players out of a pool of say, fifty players, you are likely to not have any two teams be identical.  I would say, and this is a guess, that the ten coaches might agree on the top five to eight players.  They might even agree on the top ten players.  But I can almost guarantee that the next five players would be different on each team, depending of course on the overall makeup of the pool of fifty.  Coaches will probably agree on the top players but there are always players that each coach will see something in them that the coach thinks he can take a given player and with the “proper coaching” will make them a quality player.  Sometimes these are even called “projects.”  I will discuss projects in a different blog.  But the bottom line is that just because your son or daughter doesn’t make the team doesn’t mean they are a bad player or that they are not a good person.  Remember, teens are often sensitive on the self-esteem issue, as are some parents.  It’s easy to forget that, especially with high school sports, your son or daughter is graded on a sliding scale.  This year they might not make the team but if they try out again next year they might make the team.

Next week I will discuss the associated comments that are often heard from parents when their child doesn’t make the team.  There are many different comments, some are legitimate and some are rumor.  How do you separate one from another?  Or do you listen to the comments at all?

Remember, teach first, win later.
Coach Mike