Ozzie, your paradigm of optimism!
Go To Hell carolina, Go To Hell!
9F 9F 9F
A couple of thoughts.
1: many of the parents are frustrated trying to relive their youth athletics they were maybe not great at.. or those who don't know when to hang it up.
2: when I was young, there were try outs to make a team, to be picked by one of the coaches. Not everyone who came out to play little league made a team. So those who made the team, felt special and tried maybe harder.. circa 1960's .
The Dads-and sometimes, Moms--who were the problem were the folks who didn't volunteer to help out but criticized, whined, yelled at the officials and spent an inordinate amount of time and energy promoting their kids at the expense of every other entity involved, including such abstract but useful concepts as fairness, teamwork and sportsmanship.
Wasn't every parent. Wasn't even most parents. But I coached in must-play rec leagues, not cutthroat travel teams or anything like that. But it was amazing how many parents significantly over-rated their children's athletic abilities and didn't think they should ever sit.
I didn't mean to disagree. Believe me, I understand what you are saying and you are spot on. I was just adding that there are a few coach-parents (not you Jim! I wish my clumsy, large son had played for you) who can be pretty insufferable, too.
Peace my brother!
I coached LL baseball for 11 years. I had 2 sons who played on the teams I coached. I would not give Ben or Matt preferential treatment over the other kids, in fact they may have played less than the others and it wasn't due to talent. For the all-star teams I coached - we rotated the kids so everyone played the same amount of innings(non-Williamsport games). The way I see it - young kids should share the PT much more evenly than say a varsity sport. Locally - we start seeing the PT skewed around the JV age.
Jim - we didn't have that saying but in later rounds where the talent wasn't all that, ummm, strong we'd draft on the GLM status(Good Lookin Mom).
I did coach my son and he understood that he was held to higher standards as a result. He couldn't be late for practice, couldn't mouth off, couldn't slack on warm-ups or hustle issues and so forth.
He understood that going in and was fine with it.
FWIW, he was never the best player on any of his teams, never the worst, either.
The world of kids' PLAY has become world run by adults, well meaning ones to be sure, but the pitfalls to self esteem and development for many of the kids involved cannot be overstated.
The very structure of "organized sports," practices run by "coaches," drills that often are unnecessarily too complicated, and much more often terribly intimidating, can serve to produce and reinforce poor self images and pigeon hole kids as those who "just don't get it," are "uncoordinated," lack "hand eye coordination," and other labels that become fixed. These labels also are often terribly incorrect, and underscore precisely why children should be left to play without adult intervention, that is, teaching, coaching, and all the rest of it.
I can recall going to or coaching youth rec games, going to travel and club games, and having been profoundly saddened with the damage I witnessed. You watch a rec soccer practice among 6-9 year old boys and see how a coach lines the kids up and has them drbble to a spot in front of the goal and then try to kick it in. A number of the kids, those less comfortable in their bodies, will lose the ball way before they reach the shooting spot. The coach and everyone else makes a judgment that the kid cannot even dribble the ball, he or she simply does not get it.
I think myself reasonably well coordinated and easily learned any sport I tried. As an adult, I took a soccer skills course--dribbling with the inside or outside of my foot, stopping it in various ways, first touching it with directionality, I was an ace. Now, dribbling it while going at what for me was some pace and then trying to kick the thing, much less kick it anywhere in the universe that I wanted to, well, that was an entirely different matter.
So, why have such drills, which usually are performed at the end of a practice. How many of the players on a rec team that any of you have seen are capable of dribbling toward the goal and delivering a shot, much less on target. Those that can do NOT need a structured drill run by an adult to hone their skills. Those who can't will get nothing but embarassed when such skills are run; they are scared to death that if they dribble to that spot, the potential for unbearable embarassmkent will be too great--missing the balll entirely, missing it and having your legs slide out from under you, taking a big kick only to have the ball squibble a few feet. As a consequence, they never get to that spot--better to be someone who doesn't get it then someone who is made the fool of. What does this kid learn? Let's find another place to make friends, to spend time with friends in the fresh air running around, place without judgments, where kids can just be kids, only there is no place.
Then you go to a game, let's switch to basketball. The rules are nice, you can't press full court, everybody must play at least one half. Some coach who thinks he is coach K (coach K will never do what I am about to describe) yells at his best player to attack a kid who has just caught the ball just past half court and who is obviously as uncomfortable as he can be, the coach yells to his player to "pressure him" or "go get the ball" or some derivitative. It gets better, Billy does as the coach says, attacks this helpless kid who is in a position to do the other team no harm, takes the ball away from him, and dribbles down the court and happens to score. Whether he does or not, every parent of a kid on Billy's team, lead by Billy's coach, is cheering, clapping, and yelling some derivative of "Way to go Billy." Really. You all know this happens and we have all done this. At who's expense? How can adults, grown adults, be so incomprehensiblyo insensative. Nobody asks, and nobody protests, not even the parents of the kid who has just been laid bare by the cruelty on display. Hey, speaking out by those parents would only hurt their kid more, wouldn't it.
Look, you can rock it anyway you want but kids who are thrust into these adult-run playing environments are at risk, at significant risk, and that goes even for those who are especially precocious at a young age.
Billy is not only great at stealing the ball from helpless opponents, but he also actually has some facility at scoring the ball, and that facility develops much faster than other boys his age for the next three years. Everytime Billy touches the ball for the next three years everyone in the stands and on the sidelines is yelling for him to shoot and/or goes nuts when he does and scores the ball. You see this in soccer even more than in basketball.
Now, Billy gets to be 12 or 13, he does what everyone has asked him to do and he has become really great at, whch is dribbling to create his shot and then shooting it, only now his adult coach doesn't want him doing that. Now, it is seeing the field and making the easy pass, making the pass that reverses the point of attack that Billy is supposed to see, is supposed to do. But, Billy wants to do that which he is really good at, that which has gotten him so much praise and yes adulation, and continues to play to his strength, only to find himself in the dog house and then on the bench and then burnt out at the age of 12 from playing a game that he loved. We shake our collective heads and whisper in the stands about what a shame it is that Billy has not been able to progress to the next level, to develop his "game."
This is the world that parents confront. I can tell you from my own expertise about such matters, and I am professionally trained, that all these kids who are dismissed as "not getting it" or as "uncoordinated" need is a sensible learning environment, not a bunch of skill drills which only intimidate and embarass them. Do I expect that rec coaches or even paid youth coaches would know how to create such learning environments, how to help kids view their bodies as laboratories for exploration, how to see approaching sports as an opportunity to play with how to play; no, I do not. But, do I expect coaches and parents to be humble enough to know that such volunteer coaches do not possess such knowledge and are best there to supervise and not to instruct or coach. Yes. Instead, championships are won, everyone receives trophies, parties are made, speeches in praise of the job the coach has done are given, and the kids who just "don't get it" are made to participate in that as well. And, when there is a social function held and a guy lets out to a stranger that he has just finished a season coaching his 8 year olds' -- team, what is the first and almost always the only question asked?
I am completely sympathetic about all the behaviors, protective and promotive, of the parents of kids who participate in the adult-supervised games that their kids play. I think tt the territory is extraordinarily dangerous, that parents sense this, and are being protective. There are some who see stars in their eyes for their kids way too soon for anyone's good and they behave in proactive ways that I find least sympathetic, because, hey, these parents are on one level beyond obnoxious. But, what they are doing is simply of one piece with the system that stomps on kids from the tenderous of ages; they have seen kids trampled, their kid has survived, even flourished at a young age, and they can't bear the thought of their kid's enduring some of the hurt they've witnessed for years. Sure, it is wrapped in aggrandizement, and they believe that pushijng for their kid will help get him to where he should get, but the system of kid's sports remains at the root of the problem.
Are there alternatives, especially at the ages of 6 to 11 maybe 12, you bet. There was this priest that ran a basketball league at St. Ann's elementary school in NW DC who was both genuis and saint. A story for another time.
Last edited by greybeard; 05-29-2012 at 05:10 PM.
All that said, I will be a terrible baseball parent because I (a) know too much and (b) won't have the time to devote to being a head coach very often. I grew up with a father who coached me on and off all the way through high school and really dedicated himself to the art of coaching the game, game strategy, fundamental skills and drills, etc. He took one team to a high school state championship and got a Little League team to within a couple games of Williamsport, and could probably have coached a collegiate team of small stature by the time he was done. And for better or worse a lot of his knowledge rubbed off on me. Now, I will never yell at an ump or coach (opposing or otherwise), or do anything other than be a source of positive cheering during a game, because I've seen way too much of that and know how it looks. I also will not be the dad who questions playing time or tactics or whatever to the coach (though I might question the kid, if there's been a reason given him). What I will be, I fear, is that guy who tinkers with my kid's throwing mechanics or swing behind the coach's back. There's a fine line between just taking your kid out to take bp, and throwing him some bp while giving instruction contrary to what he's getting from someone else. So, I'll state in advance, that when it appears to me that someone coaching one of my sons in baseball doesn't know what they're doing with regards to basic mechanics, I'll be working against them behind their back and telling my kid to ignore what they're saying. And I'll find the time to do that, and we'll get more instruction time from me working one on one than anyone will in a team setting. If they do know what they're doing, I just pray I have the intelligence to both recognize it and get the heck out of the way. With the way kids are weeded out of sports by the hypercompetitiveness of it all these days, I assume (hope?) that if either of my boys are still playing ball by age 12 they'll have a coach who knows a boatload more than I do and I can learn from them, anyway.
If you are a coach that is on the cusp of bringing a team to Williamsburg, you are not trying to help such kids; such kids are not on your team, never have been, or, if they had been, they did not last very long. Helping such kids involves meeting them where they are, developing a net a safety around them, and letting them know that you know that they can teach themselves how to swing a bat or do anything else involved in playing little league baseball that they want.
Here's what they really do not need even though looking at how they approach the batting box might tell you differently. They don't need anyone to tell them how to stand in the batter's box, how to grip the bat, how to take a batting stance, and the plane upon which the bat should travel to strike the ball. These things anyone can plainly see. You encounter a kid that approaches the plate and seems lost, does not know how to stand or hold the bat and I'll show you a kid who is frightened and distrustful, of the coach, his teammates, his teammates' parents. His biggest fear is not in failing, but rather appearing the fool, the incompetent, the kid who can't get it. So, they take away the surprise, they present exactly the way they expect people will judge them, and are not caught with their pants down by trying to succeed and then failing.
The shortcoming in the coach as teacher/instructor lies not in the student but in the teacher/instructor. You make it safe and get that kid's trust, you take judgments out of the field of play (I'll address that briefly in a minute), and then you tell the kid something about the laws of physics that are at play in making a swing, and the kid will be swinging within a single practice and by the end of four or five will be hitting the ball consistently.
Here's what I'd do to create safety for every kid on the team, trust that they won't be laughed at, if not out loud in front of their faces, then behind their backs and without the giggles. You make a circle in which you are a part. You make some ridiculous action and howl like a wolf. Then point to the kid next to you and nod, and indicate, tell him if you need to that he should replicate it; and then the next guy, and the next guy after that. When it comes back to you, you repeat that ridiculous action again and then tell the kid next to you to repeat it also and to add a ridiculous action of his own to it; you then tell the ext kid to repeat both the ridiculous actions; and continue this little exercise until each kid gets to add his own ridiculous action. People will be trying to invent ways to be more ridiculous, they will forget parts of some of the ridiculous actions that have already been added, will trip over their feet and tongues and arms trying to replicate all of them, and have a great time laughing at themselves and eachother. Laughing in friendship, laughing as kids who are playing, who start getting it that everybody at some point is going to feel ridiculous, or much worse, are going to disappoint.
Talking to kids about trust, telling kids that it is okay if they miss, if they fail, will reassure them about nothing. People are much more comfortable with the devil that they know than the devil that they don't. Kids who "don't get it" you can bet your life are being held back by exactly that paradigm and they are dead on right to be. Sadly, that is the best that we have to offer them, the best that we have to offer them by taking over their world of play and making it into a competition of who can do some silly things better than others. I say "silly," because striped of all the adult fans and coaches the game is silly, silly is good, silly is fun, silly is safe, silly allows for experimentation, experimentation allows for failure and failure allows for its opposite.
Kids can learn to swing a bat and make contact with a ball; they can see that to catch a ground ball they need to take a wide stance, bend at the knee, open the glove, hold it close to the ground and navigate it so it meets the ball at the correct height and in the correct place. If you have to "terach" kids this, if you try to teach them this, it is because they are scared and distrustful and then also embarassed.
Big John Thompson is oh so fond of saying, "it's amazing how I suddenly became a really good coach as soon as I got some really good players." Big John was not trying to say that he did not think himself an extraordinary coach and I am not even wildly suggesting that your father isn't. I just don't think that that is what most kids need, and, absent the structure that adults foist on them from the time that they are barely out of diappers, it is not, I believe, one that they would chose. Why would they?
I don't think you can cast a net this large over kids. I totally agree with you that there are some that are scared out of their minds and no matter what you try, it's probably not going to happen for them. But there are others that like to learn about the game, like to be taught the right way to do things. I've seen both but most fall between these extremes. I tended to raise and lower my expectations based on the ability of the child and never berate them if things didn't go so well. Some kids take criticism well, others clam up tighter than a drum. They're all sooooo very different.
I will say I'm a big proponent in kids playing without the supervision of parents. It's important for them to learn how to make up their own rules and be "kids." The movie "The Sandlot" is fantastic, makes me think of my childhood. I could watch that movie all day.
Last edited by Doug.I.Am; 05-30-2012 at 11:52 AM.
I had a team of 7th graders once who had no connection with one another and had not played in a competative league previously. I had a couple of players, my neighbor's kid and Freddie Brown Jr., yes that Fredie Brown, who had played before. Well, the competition was as I have described previously, with scores being run up. Coaches were telling their kids to pressure my guys who were not yet comfortable and take it away which they did, even while the lead was like 16 to 2. I'd said to a coach, "Why are you doing that?" He just looked at me. I repeated, "Why are you doing that. Look, I just met these kids and I am not the only guy out here who is responsible for them." The coach would call off the dogs, the ball would get passed around a time or two, maybe Freddie and my neighbor's kid would score a basket or two and boom, back taking the ball away from kids who were scared. This happened more than once, three times in fact. After each game, the other coach would say something like, "you've only got 2 kids who can play; don't worry, you'll get rid of the other kids before next season and pick up some better players.
The most vulnerable of the kids happened to be a black belt in Karote. He was shy and withdrawn. In practice, I'd take him and another shy kid and we'd play three on three against Freddie, my neighbor's kid, and another kid "who really got it." This shy guy got my eye signals, was back door cutting, I'd throw it over Freddie's shoulder the kid would make a ridiculous catch and score the ball. Freddie et al still did not trust the guy out on the court. The kid went on to play freshman ball with Freddie and my neighbor's kid. Another guy whom the coaches were saying didn't get it was the best high post passer of anybody his age I'd ever encountered--long snapper for Michigan State. Another, played basketball and basketball for another of the DC private school, varsity, but gave up basketball because he was terrific at baseball. Another guy played excellent rec basketball through college. Freddie and my nieghbor's kid played varsity for their private school. Another kid, the sone of an African heart sugeon who had just come to the states, was an extraordinary athlete and quite a good soccer player. A word about him in a minute.
I really didn't want to, but after the third game of this nonsense, I told my guys this is what we are going to do: We are playing in your shirt man to man. If a guy starts dribbling to an area you are in, forget about your man, get real low and get the ball from the dribbler, get it no matter what you have to do. He doesn't get by you. The scores in the rest of the games never passed 15 and the guys "won" two games. Nobody played basketball and nobody had any fun. The tow guys who were incredible off ball defenders, who you did not want to go in the same universe they occupied, not because they'd knock you around, but because they would get the ball, whether you kept dribbling or picked it up, the karate guy and the African kid.
Another true story, the year before, I had my neighbor's kid and drafted the rest of the team. At any rate, I thought I would help them learn basic skills and basic two and three man play in the context of operating in a very elementary rotation offense. I drew up the offense, four sequenced pictures, gave each a copy, and during the first two practices they didn't come close to approximating it even once. The next practice I began with that little game I mentioned--one of the guys, Moasis, a hulk of a kid new to this country, was too shy to even innitiate one of these silly things on his own but did participate. Moasis' friend, who actually interacted on Moasis's behalf although Moasis contrary to what John Pierre had first said, could handle English quite well. The other thing I did was scribble up another high school offense of mine, one which had four or five derivations run off it. Four pages worth. I gave a set to my neighbor's kid and a set ot John Pierre, had each take half the squad and told them, "when you think that you have got it, come back and let me know." It took one maybe 10-15 minutes to return, the other 15 or 20. Each had all the permutations down. All that was needed was a little tweaking from me as to spacing, timing, the type of passes that might work best at key points.
These guys won more than their fair share. Some began with a bit of shyness and even at that age we encountered coaches with that pressure nonsense. When that happened, I take John Piere and his running mate Vivian, a scrappy black kid, and put them with my neighbor's kid (they normally played on different fives, and tell the three of them that as soon as the ball crossed half court "I want it." John Piere was a small 8 year old with an angelic face; he was a great athlete who played for fun. Not when you started with him or his own. I'd tell John Piere as the ball crossed half court, "get me the ball." He did, always! I'd look at the other coach after a few minutes of this and say, do we really need to keep this up. Somehow, he no longer saw the point of his "pressure" defense.
The first few games, Moasis played in the background, occasionally reaching to block a shot, occasionally getting a reboujnd that came to him. Once he got that he was among a nice group of kids who were not judging him, Moasis got every rebound there was to be found, showed a great feel for where rebounds were likely to go (okay, I told him they often came off on the side opposite from where they were shot), played terrific defense, especially at clogging the middle, and scored a couple-three baskets each game, as his teammates found ways to get him the ball in good position inside.
The last game of the season was ridiculously special and I had not a thing to do with it. It was like out of the movies. At the beginning of the second half, Vivian points out that one of the guys had not scored a basket yet that season. The guys decided that Seth would be on the court the entire second half until he scored and did everything they could to make that happen. It came down to the last minute ofr so. We got the ball, one of the kids called time out, John Pierre, I believe, and he and Avi, my neighbor's kid, drew up a play that had the kid on the off side low in the lane, the ball coming in on the wing, a downscreen with Seth coming off the downscreen, catching and shooting it. Just like they drew it up and yes it went in and no that play was not among the plays that the guys had learned that third week.
Look, the reality is that physical skills can only be learned, not taught. Sure, you can model and give someone a feel for what a particular aspect of performance might look like, but in the end the person must put the picture and feel together, experiement with approximations of what he understood he had seen and been told, and figure it out for themselves. If you think that someone is teaching a skill to anyone you would be wrong, as rain wrong. And, writing off a kid who you only think you understand is incapable of getting it is precisely why adults should supervise and not instruct or coach play, in my opinion. They can help make talented kids "better," but it will usually be at the expense of kids who might well have greater potential and never even attempt to realize it because of the negative experiences that had when they were five, six, nine, or ten. Like I said, in such an enviroment, I'm not hatin on the behavior of any parent who is advocating for his or her kid, the coach's prerogatives and talents be damned.
Btw, thanks for the stories of your teams you've coached.
One of the big problems is that the variance in kids' strength and size at the prime little league ages (11 and 12) is huge.
The LL I am involved with owns our own fields. Becuase we rent them out for travel ball tournaments some weekends (to make money for the LL) we have gone to using all portable mounds and having multiple settings for bases. There certainly are disadvantges to this, but it gives us a lot of versatility, and because we can have multiple base path lengths we can also have multiple pitching disances to meet the needs of LL, USSSA, TopGun, Dixie Ball, Ripkin Ball, some Charter schools that rent our facilities, etc.
I used to be much more involved in LL than I am now (as kids get older it is harder to be an effective coach if you don't know a lot about pitching). I was always a proponent of "small ball" as I felt you could teach most kids to effectively bunt and move base runners and it kept everybody in the game. I had some tiny little kids with terrific on-base percentages.