Welcome to this week’s edition of Ask Travel Ball Parents. Last Tuesday, we tackled the travel team vs school team question. Today’s dilemma is such a hard one! No doubt, you’ve been there as a parent at some point, on some team. I know I have.
“Every time my son (9) gets on a team, (rec ball or travel ball) he ends up getting the least amount of playing time of anyone. he is a good player but there is always someone better. He is really starting to get down on himself. He likes his current team and has a lot of friends on it, so he doesn’t want to leave the team. He loves playing baseball more than anything. He practices almost every day by his choice also. How can I handle this situation so that his self esteem isn’t so low?”—–Too much bench time mom
Travel Ball Parents neither endorses nor opposes any of the responses below. “Don’t shoot us. We’re just the messenger.”
First, emphasize to your son that he made the team. He earned his spot – let me say that again – he EARNED his spot. The coaches didn’t have to select him but they saw potential and talent and chose him. Second, encourage him to continue to give 100% in practice and to continue to work on his own to improve his skills. He is just as much a member of that team whether he’s sitting on the bench cheering or he’s on the field playing. At the varsity level of play, the kids on the bench have enough experience that they can give insight to other players on the court (how to block the lefty more efficiently, whether or not they have a stable platform for passing, how to beat the block as a hitter). I know that was a volleyball analogy, but hopefully you get the point. Has he asked his coach what specific things he needs to improve in order to gain playing time? As a coach, I appreciate when kids are eager to improve and want specific instruction for improvement and then see them put it to use in practice. I am more apt to play those kids if another player is underperforming in a game or I have an injured player. It gives me confidence in their skills and hopefully gives them confidence as well. When he does have the opportunity to play in a game, he will be ready to contribute. In life there will always be someone better than us at something. This is good character building, as well as good skill building.——Catherine Wrighter, high school volleyball coach, sports mom, Lexington, SC
This is a tough situation. I would sit him down and try to explain to him about how, for some kids, things come natural and for some, they don’t in athletics and school as well. Try and compare it to something that comes easy to him and doesn’t for others; and maybe that will shed some light on it for him and he will understand that he just needs to keep working hard at what he’s doing and that he will get better each and every day. My philosophy is practice how you’re going to play. I would take a team of 12 kids who gave 110% all the time but weren’t the very best. I love scrappers.——Joe Walsh, coach and baseball dad, Springbrook Township, PA
There is clearly something that doesn’t seem right with this situation. At your son’s age, travel teams “mine” the rec teams to select the best boys. So just being on a travel team indicates to me that the playing time issue is not necessarily related to your son’s skill level. You need more information to sort this out. So try this suggestion.
Talk to your coaches. Express your concerns and ask what area(s) your son needs improvement. Don’t ask them before or after a game, but try to talk to them after practice or schedule a meeting. Be polite, be courteous and be professional. Don’t accuse and don’t raise your voice. Be open minded. And most of all, be prepared to hear some things that you may not want to hear. I’ll give you some examples of non tangibles that can cause a player to sit on the bench.
Has your son been giving the coach or other players a hard time? Does he have a bad attitude, or does he openly show emotions and create drama with other players? Doe he not run hard to first on routine ground balls? Does he strike out often? Is he always late to practice? Does he frequently miss games? Is he hurt, but not telling you?
I’m not inferring that your son does any of these things, but often playing time is lost because of issues such as these, and not due solely to skill level. The only way to find out for certain is to talk to the coaches who are making the decisions of who plays, where and how often. And during this discussion, be sure to ask what you can do to help with the situation. —-—Tony Midea, coach, baseball dad and author, Navigating Travel Baseball, 7U to 14U
This may be where the issue lies. If he is good at rec level, he may not be good enough for travel level. That could hurt his self esteem. You need to find a team that best suites his athletic ability. Reality is there is always someone better than your child at any level. Your child may
have to “up his game” if he wants more playing time. Showcase his skills so that he is that kid who the coach wants on the field and not on the bench. Coaches will tell you in tournament play or big games that they will be playing the 9 best players.
Also, speak to the coach and ask how many players they will be carrying on the roster. For our team, 9U is considered kid pitch, which is a completely new game for these boys. Our bench has to be deeper than in the past. It was hard for the parents to understand at first. Once it was explained that different players would sit each inning, their heartburn subsided.
As parents we have to be honest with ourselves about our kids. There is a reason he isn’t getting as much play time as others. Ask the Coach about his weaknesses and work on those. ——Lisa SantaRita, baseball mom, Houston, TX
I will let Herm Edwards answer this for me . please play video below. ——Thomas Hall, baseball dad, rec and travel ball coach, Chesterfield, VA
This is a difficult question and a concern that most parents are critical of no matter the age or skill of their child. In rec ball there is normally a minimum amount of innings that a child can sit per game. In travel ball your child is with all elite players and there is no minimum, which most teams make you well aware of going into their league. I feel that there is more that goes into playing time than just a child’s skill. Many factors such as the competitor your team is facing, has the child missed practices or games. Does the child not contribute all effort while at practice? Do they come with a positive good attitude? Do they practice teamwork or are they cocky and for themselves? Do they pout and not hustle off the field if they strike out or make an error? Each game, especially in travel ball, the coach wants to optimize the team’s chance to win and succeed. If a team is leading by 6 to 8 runs, most coaches switch out the 4 or 5 top players and give other kids chances to play in better positions. Some coaches may not have a better player in all the time, but utilize him in specific circumstances in the game where he is strongest and at his best. Always talk to the coach in person. They are human too and may not even realize your child is not getting as much time as others. As a coach’s wife I have learned that there is a lot more than what the average baseball parent thinks regarding what goes into making a line up and placing kids in the field.——Chrissy Stewart, baseball mom, Highland, IN