I’m the type of guy who takes notes. As I mentioned in the first installment of Parent Notepad, I’ve been diligently taking notes on my daughter’s 8U coach pitch softball team, as well as my two son’s T ball team (ages five and four). I’ll focus on my daughter’s team for this post. I’d encourage all coaches to take notes at your games and practices. It’s impossible to remember every detail that might carryover to the practice plan!
As far as our league goes, we are playing against teams from two neighboring communities, and one other team from our own. This has been a nice taste of what it’s like to travel to other fields, be the away team, and just get the girls out of their element a little. I think this has been a fantastic experience for the girls. Administration is crucial though. I have been a bit disappointed by coaches not understanding league specific rules, which has unfortunately bubbled over into some heated disagreement at times in front of the kids. I plan to reach out to our league admin when the season is over to offer some help and share some wisdom that I picked up the hard way from my days of being an athletic director. It is critical for everyone to be on the same page. Adults have to provide the environment that is conducive to not only learning the game, but helps kids develop a love for the sport.
The Weeds are Bigger Than the Corn!
My wife and I have kept a garden nearly every summer since we’ve been married. Now that we’ve added four kids into mix, it gets a bit difficult to stay up on the weeding. A few years ago I had a dream that the the weeds in our garden were getting out of hand, so much so that when my wife saw the weeds she shouted, “The weeds are bigger than the corn!” This prompted me to get my butt out there and start weeding.
Sometimes as coaches, especially with young kids, there is a tendency to make a huge deal out of the mistakes (weeds) and not heap nearly enough praise on the kids when they’re doing it right (corn). With the 8U age group especially, the weeds are never bigger than the corn. The way I see it, you have neither weeds nor corn. We’re still planting seed! The soil is bare! When the kids do something the right way, even if it doesn’t achieve the desired result, coaches are obligated to enthusiastically let them know. That’s not a time to use library voices. I really believe this helps nurture the kids, and from what I’ve seen, most of these kids are hard enough on themselves already.
What Kind of Coach Are You?
Every coach I’ve seen has been obsessed with winning. This is probably what drives the “weeds are bigger than the corn” mentality. A lot has been said on the internet about this topic, but I want to chime in and share where I stand.
I think winning is important. I do not want to diminish that whatsoever. I understand that the main argument against a trophy culture is that there are winners and losers in life, and the sooner the kid learns this the better off they are. After all, how will little Timmy land his first job as an adult if he isn’t competitive enough to interview well? We can learn life skills (like competitiveness) from sports right?
Two things here: First, it takes a special coach to infuse life lessons into sports. Next to the Bible, the best teacher of life lessons is life itself. A coach will never be able to top life. Think about the sexual misconduct or abuse allegations with the NFL players over the past decade or so. Some of the best athletes in the world also happen to be some of the most ill equipped to handle life. Somewhere along the line a coach didn’t focus on the entire man or the athlete got by because he was gifted, plain and simple. I’ve NEVER had a coach even try to merge life lessons with baseball skills, and I’ve played for many highly regarded coaches who were also quality men.
Second, your athletes will take on a portion of your personality when they buy in. That’s what good coaches do. They get kids to buy in and coach them up. From what I’ve seen at these young ages though, players are catching the wrong stuff from the winning mentality. Here’s a quick story to explain what I’m talking about:
I helped out coaching third base last night at my daughter’s game. One of our girls hit a rocket down the first base line and it hit the first base bag and kicked up into the air. Our girl made it to first base safely and drove in a run. Over top of the crowd cheering came a yell, “that ball is foul!” I noticed that one of the coaches from the opposing dug out was in the process of losing his mind. I confidently went over and corrected him (since we don’t have umpires) and explained that the ball was in fact fair. The situation de-escalated and play resumed. Later on in the game, a girl was walking from the third base line out to her position. The coach was again losing his mind trying to correct the girl’s behavior. He was yelling, “run out to your position! Run!” The girl continued to walk. Come to find out, the guy doing all the yelling that night was her dad. Not only did he lack a fundamental understanding of baseball/softball, he also emphasized winning over development, and it appeared as though he lost his daughter in the process. Finding a balance between winning and development is key. As the adage goes, “more is caught than taught.”
What kind of coach are you? What are your priorities? Are your weeds always taller than your corn?