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Last night at our junior legion practice I spoke to our kids about I, ME and WE. The team has been successful and is in the position to finish the season on top. The speaking was geared towards doing the small things, the extra work and thinking through the game and becoming a team. That each and every player brings a necessary skill to the team each and every game.
Do not be afraid to think and make a personal decision during the game. Act on your instincts during the game, no one can fault you for trying and that we as a team can all learn from your efforts.
Points were brought up about how our infielders can gain an edge by being more involved in the game, knowing that the catcher is calling for a pitch and its location, remembering what the batter has done in his previous at bats against us and other teams if possible. Supporting one another through the good and tough plays.
It was like talking to a room full of corpses, no emotion and very little input coming back. I tried to lighten the conversation but that didn't work.
It was not until my son and I were on our way home that I believed I had found a possibility of what may be the reason why the kids were not getting involved. Too much instruction and too many coaches involved in each player throughout the year.
We are talking about 15 year old players, young men. The majority of which are involved with personal trainers during the off season. Then in the spring, February / March, their school ball coaches become involved. Somewhere in the middle of school ball, if not earlier, most of them are involved with travel baseball programs and after the school ball season we have two summer leagues American Legion Baseball and Little League Baseball Junior / Senior programs.
We have had three players quit our legion team to focus on Senior Little League All Stars. Their coaches advised them it would be in their best interest to do so. Our roster was reduced to 13 players and our team has an 8-1 record heading into our final 7 games.
Not once in the several years I have been involved in coaching / score keeping my sons teams have I witnessed a players trainer, school ball coach, or other coach attend a game to watch their progress or to provide support.
It has me thinking that these kids are confused and are unsure as to what to do confidently. That they have been over coached / instructed and rely on spoken instruction during play to guide them and not their own instincts / baseball IQ.
Common sense tells us that each coach has a different approach, a different vocabulary on how they instruct their player(s). These kids are sponges and soak it all up. Thus I believe we have the situation that we are experiencing with out group of players.
One of our players has been instructed on middle infield play. A ton of footwork, bouncing, hopping around on a batted ball to him. The end result has been that doing so he has allowed the ball to get to him instead of approaching the ground ball and fielding it. His throws were not sharp. We talked with him and asked him to just be himself on the field, to see the ball off of the bat and to attack it and make the throw. Since then his throws have been sharper, plays are not as close and he has made more plays fielding ground balls. He agrees with the approach but also we both know that his other coach will disagree and want him to do it his way. We talked about instruction and how everyone, including us, has an opinion on how to do things to become better. I told him that throughout his life people will always offer their opinion on what is best for them, but in the end you and only you must decide what is the best approach. To not disregard other peoples thoughts, instead remember them for when you may need to refer back and use that approach.
In closing we cannot and will not change these young men, only they can decide what is best for them.
Don't know what it was, but last nights practice was the best we have had this season! The kids were talking it up, supporting one another and encouraging each other to do better. Practice went smoothly and was noticeably less stressful. Advice was given, corrections made and support from the coaches was as usual.
Baseball was fun again last night, so much so the kids wanted more when we told them we were finished for the evening. Have to admit practice flew by last night with our constant movement philosophy.
Hoping it stays this way for the kids.
I agree with Richard. Great topic and Kevin handled it well. The coaching is done in practice. In games, kids need to relax and play hard. Confidence is the key. My 10U kids this season was a very nice group of kids. Fun, polite (almost too polite) and strong players, but many times during games they appeared to have little to no energy. Some parents felt kids didn't care, but it was just a nervousness until someone made a play or got a hit to break the ice. They then perked up, showed emotion and played loose. They needed a little confidence to get loud.
The boys finished their season last night 14-2, but that does not matter. They came together last Friday when we played the second place team and were down 4-2 in the top of the 7th to rally 4 runs across the plate and hold the lead in the bottom of the 7th for a 6-5 win, but that does not matter. We earned an automatic bid to the junior regional tournament, but that does not matter to me.
What does matter is this. A group of young men have come together during this season as one unit. Helping one another during the tough times and getting the job done. This is important of every team.
The most impressive part is this. 6 of our 13 players have travel ball tournaments the same time as the junior regional tournament. The coaches asked the players, what would you like to do and the next day each and every one of the 6 players came back with the same answer - "We want to go to regionals".
This is a huge commitment that the players and parents have given to the team so that we can play in the regional tournament and we are humbled. I hope and pray that as coaches we can provide each of our players with the best opportunities and experiences possible.
After regionals I will not longer be involved as a coach. I'm not leaving the kids, and will always be there to talk about baseball, chicken wings or fidget spinners. The stress that other coaches in our league have subjected our team and coaches to is juvenile and they have been proven wrong each and every time they tried to manipulate the game and our team. Simply because we read the rule book and each coach has a copy of the rules with them at all times to refer to.
For example in a tight game opposing coach drops his DH and moves that player into the catchers position, removing the existing catcher # 9 batter from the game. In the last inning batters # 7, # 8 & # 9 were due up. Batters # 7 and # 8 made outs and then they sent up their leadoff batter. When I brought this to the attention of our coaching staff and then the coaches went to the umpire you could not imagine the incident it caused. I was verbally degraded by their coach for bringing this up. Thank god the lady umpire knew and was waiting if something were to be brought up. I lost a friendship this season over nonsense like this because people who want to coach sports are not aware of the rules.