Today’s guest post is by our friend, Rob Monaco, a dad and little league coach who offers refreshing straight talk on parenting and coaching.
It’s not about winning as much as it is succeeding. And it starts with you, Coach.
When you stand in front of your young Little League team, I want you to keep something in the back of your mind. Winning is good, but getting through to your players, helping them understand the game and giving them confidence in themselves is greater. Do it now, and you’ll understand why later. In short, it’s the best gift you can offer.
I have been a coach for 21 seasons, or, seven years. I’ve been a commissioner for one. Through it all, I’ve seen a Little League culture deteriorate dramatically. I’ve witnessed kids being pitted against each other, the equivalent of a prison-yard mentality, to prove who the best player was on the team. I’ve seen kids ride the pine for three to four innings every game while others play all six at shortstop or first base. But the worst thing I’ve seen is kids walk away from baseball because their coach, their alleged mentor and leader, pushed them aside to collect a six inch trophy at the end of the season rather than take the time to teach that player how the game actually works.
That’s not what Little League is all about. Sadly we are in a culture of rating kids as early as seven years old, and offering half ass tryouts to build the “A Team”… whatever that is.
Trust me, this culture only brings heartache and disappointment. Yet, these are the same coaches that wonder why player numbers are dwindling in baseball. Kind of ironic, don’t you think?
Here’s the truth. No child should be judged at seven, eight or even nine years old. Hey, you wanna have a tryout at 10, as towns start to develop competitive teams a little more? Well, be my guest. But if you’re gonna start creating the “best player” list, you best be sure the less talented learn from you too. It’s not about the “best”12. It’s about the “better” 36, or 60 in the league. Improve them all! Because it’s right around Little League age and right before their teens that kids need the biggest push of inspiration and confidence YOU can give. That’s right…YOU… the Coach. The guy who took the job that no one wants. You had the time. You took the gig, now own it! And as you’re standing on the field with 12, nine-year-olds and a bucket of balls, think about how important that job is! Make it the greatest moment of your life. Teach. Be their hero. Encourage. Build them up. The time you spend will lead these kids to greatness and whether your team ends the season 0-12 or 12-0, know this; Coaching is the most important and hardest job on the planet. You know how I know? Because if it was easy, everyone would do it. But they don’t, do they?
You want success on the baseball diamond? Let the kids play. Let the kids make mistakes. Let them be challenged. Show them how it’s done the correct way. Not by grabbing them by the shoulders and shoving them into position. And no, not by yelling. But by handing them the ball and letting them know you believe in them.
They could go out there and fail five times, and those five failures can be very hard, trust me. But it’s that sixth time, the one that’s a success, that they’ll remember the rest of their lives. And it won’t only be that moment they’ll remember. They’ll remember you too, Coach…the guy who took the time to build them up when the other coaches gave up on them. You were there for the sixth time, and they’ll never forget it. It’s about patience, Coach. And you did it, and they know it. You just inspired a kid to play baseball one more season… maybe more.
You’re only as good as your player’s success in Little League. Teach them everything you know about the game. Let them make mistakes so they can grow. Then… as they learn in this game, they’ll understand and recognize challenges and move forward. The confidence they learn will make them great. That starts with you, Coach.
–Rob Monaco is a father of 4, Little League Commissioner and Coach for the past 7 years. He is passionate about the game of baseball and writing.