Ask TBP: Sitting the Bench Three Games in a Row? Infuriating!!!

This week’s Ask TBP question is, no doubt, one that so many players and parents have experienced in some way or another. Sitting the bench three games in a row? Just wow!!!
QUESTION:
My son is 11 and has been playing baseball since he could walk. He started Little League at 5 and has played every year. His first year of machine pitch our coaches recommend we get our son in travel ball and get some extra lessons for him. We waited on the travel ball but started him with one-on-one lessons during the winter and then we started fall ball. Ok so our son finally decided he wanted to give spring travel ball a shot this year after friends travel for a few years kept telling us he really needed to play. We originally were going to go with the team he does fall ball with but we decided to give this team he’s on now a try. A friend of mine recommend them. We just had two tournaments (two weekend, back to back). The first one was great but the second, this past weekend was not. After the first tournament my son’s head coach was so surprised that my son hit the ball every time up to bat so he told me he was moving him up in the batting order. Well this weekend 2nd tournament Saturday first time up to bat didn’t get a hit so he bumped him down to last–being last isn’t always bad!! Then played one inning and sat the bench the rest. Our coaches brought another kid from another team to play with us the whole weekend. Before our first game started I went over to make sure my son had his drink and he was ready to go. He tells me him and another player from our team are on the substitutes list and they will only play if someone gets hurts. We played 3 games yesterday and my son and the other player sat the bench the entire day, not even batting. We totally understand the coaches want to win every game. So my question is how do we go about trying to talk to our coaches about this? It was so disappointing to see our son sitting the entire day instead of playing in the game. The boys tried to ask why they couldn’t play and the head coach said we can’t have people making mistakes we are here to win and so on. The entire day we kept talking to our son, building him up because he was so torn heart broken to sit the bench for 3 games. Our team ended up getting 2nd place. Heading home our son told us “I don’t even feel like I deserve this metal – I didn’t even help my team today.” As parents, it’s so hard to see kids hurt. So any advice would be great.
—Bench Mom

giangiulioFirst, there is no place in youth sports for a ‘coach’ like this guy. No, it’s not all about winning. Youth baseball is about developing young players, and helping those players to grow into outstanding young men. Any way you look at it, benching two full share players for virtually an entire weekend while playing a guest player the whole time…..and at 11U?! That takes some serious cojones! Like driving a pickup truck with a lifted suspension, oversized tires, and a set of brass ones hanging from below the trailer hitch, cojones.

Now, as for how to approach this, I would recommend talking to the parent of the other child that rode the pine that weekend, first. Then ask to speak to the coach together. United we conquer or something like that. Make a list of talking points to address. Questions, concerns, things you need to get off your chest, etc. As hard as it might be with this coach, try to keep it productive. Let him explain his rationale for the benching and the use of a guest player. Discuss how you would like similar situations handled in the future. Ask what you can do to improve the situation on your end. If nothing else, you’re handling it this way so that if you must walk away, you’ll do so knowing that you did everything you could to salvage the situation. If you leave in a huff, it makes it that much easier for him to lay all the blame on you.

You also must be willing to accept that there are always going to be times when your child has to earn their place on a team. He, however, has to accept that a player can’t earn their place on a team if they’re never given a chance. I wish you the best of luck, as I fear that with this clown you might need it. —-Christopher Giangiulio, baseball dad, Berwyn, PA


First things first. As a parent, you pay money, so regardless if the coaches feel like they can do what they want, they work for you. And rob monacothey are not expecting parents to complain. But you should. You don’t pay to have your kid sit. You pay to have your child learn.  Sitting more than playing is not learning.

The coach made a glaring mistake. He said he doesn’t want kids ” making mistakes.” That’s on him. If he’s not teaching kids, he’s not trusting them either and that’s TERRIBLE coaching. At 11, these kids need a little motivational push, not just from the parents, but from the coach. I’ve been where you are now. I ripped into the organzation pretty good. My argument was NOT that it’s “pay to play,” but it was “pay to grow,” there is a difference. I pulled my son from that toxic organization and found a new one. He played nearly every game, 5 innings some games, 4 innings a few and full games as well. That’s because while he wasn’t perfect, he was good and playing got him better. The coaches drilled them but explained the plays and the process. He learned, he grew and they won every single game including tournaments last spring. My point is 2 fold.

  1. Even if they lost, it was crystal clear to my son that he was NOT a liability.
  2. The coaches took the time, even though it was an elite team. They took chances, they put trust in the kids and they taught about how mistakes allow you to grow. It was eye opening and refreshing!!

You boy will be an amazing ballplayer because he has great parents who encourage. I’m not saying every team will be perfect. I am saying the right team can take him to the next level.

Coaches who sit kids and bring in non-roster players to take your child’s spot means they don’t trust their players and only want to win. That’s not coaching. That’s, pardon my french… bullshit.

In the age group your child is in, he would most likely rather learn, play, make an error once in a while‎ and not win, than win the whole thing and not play. Your job is to find the right coach.

It’s not about championships at age 11 because if they’re not playing they’re not learning. It’s about “moments.” That means if the kid plays and does something small or big, it’s significant to HIM and because of that,he gains confidence. Ask that coach how much confidence he gave your son that tourney weekend. If he can’t answer, get your money back… he’s a loser.

I wish you the best of luck. Keep that kid loving baseball, but find the right mentor!

Rob Monaco, Little League coach and commissioner, Bergen County, NJ


lisa santa ritaThis is the ugly part of youth sports.  Unfortunately there are coaches and organizations out there that run their teams like this.  And there are parents that condone this as long it’s not their kid that sits the bench or subs in.  As long as their kid is playing, they are OK with running a team this way and that keeps these teams and organizations going.  For those parents that want to see their kid enjoy the game, continue to learn the game and respect the game, you will have to find that coach that fits your son and your family’s goal.  Questioning a coach before a season is key!  Ask the tough questions – How many kids are you carrying?  How many are in the line up?  Will you bring in kids to play in tournaments, when we have a full roster, just to win?  What do you do when kids are in a slump? They may not answer all your questions the way you want them to, but you will have to figure out if your son can deal with that.  We have had 10-11 kids on a roster in the past and different kids sit out an inning in each game, even in a championship game.  I don’t think I personally could keep my son on a team that only wants him to sub because, much like your son, he will think he didn’t do anything to carry that trophy home.  My son will quickly decide he doesn’t want to play baseball anymore because he’s really not playing with the team ….only practicing with them.

Get with the coach, ask him those tough questions I talked about above and whatever his answers are, discuss with your son.  Good luck!—Lisa Santa Rita, baseball mom, Houston, TX


There’s a lot going on here.  Without knowing more, it’s difficult to say where the issues lie specifically.  For example, some 8u traveltournaments have specific rules regarding rosters and substitutions which may be in play here.  What is clear is there isn’t a shared understanding of the coach’s philosophy and objectives.  There seems to be little to no communication which is one of the key things a coach has in his control to establish a good environment for his players and his parents.

My advice to the reader’s son is to have a discussion with his coach.  He should ask the coach what mistakes the coach is seeing and what he should be working on (i.e., what the coach wants to see.)  I would encourage him to stay away from making it a discussion specifically about playing time and more about what the player needs to work on to show the coach he can help the team.  It takes a lot of courage for a player to approach a coach and ask how he can get better, and frankly it’s a great life lesson applicable to so many situations in school or in the workplace.  As a coach, it is something I’ve come to respect and value from a player.  And if the player shows he is working on what we discussed during practices, I know the desire is coming from the player and not parents who are upset because they think their child should be playing more.

To the reader, if you haven’t done so already or if the coach didn’t have a parents meeting at the start of the year, you should also have a discussion with the coach.  This one should be about his philosophy in general, his philosophy on playing time and what the objectives are for the season.  Listen carefully to what he says.  You don’t have to accept “the coaches want to win every game” so some kids get buried at the end of the bench.  By that I mean, if the coach’s philosophy and objectives do not align with your son’s and yours, this probably isn’t the team for you.  I would also encourage you to seek a time for the conversation which works for the coach.  My rule with my parents is I am open to discuss anything and everything on their mind, but immediately before, during or immediately after a game or practice is not the time.  I have a kid who needs to get home and finish his homework and dinner that needs to be cooked just as does everyone else.  Tell me you want to discuss something or email me and we’ll find a convenient time that same week to discuss.  Here to, I would avoid a playing time discussion.  First because you risk putting the coach on the defensive which isn’t going to help your son get any more playing time.  Second, because I don’t believe parents have a say in who plays or on in-game decisions.  The coach is the coach and, truthfully, he sees a lot more of what is going on either at practice or games than the vast majority of parents do.  It doesn’t mean his decisions are right or necessarily fair, but he is in charge of the team.  What you do have every right to understand is what his approach to managing the team is, what he expects from his players and what his playing-time philosophy is.  Any good coach should be more than willing to have that discussion.

If at the end, you think his decisions truly are unfair or his philosophy is at odds for what you son wants and what you want for your son, it may be time to find a new team more closely aligned to your goals.—Coach Brian from the blog, 8U Travel


jessica perryHave your son talk to the coaches to see what he needs to do to earn his spot in the line up and on the field. Have him ask for feedback. If they don’t or won’t give him any then ask the coach yourself. If a good answer isn’t given then move on. If they are willing to pick up other kids on a whim and base his performance on one at bat, then they aren’t the team you want him on. It already sounds like they will hop onto the next kid in a heartbeat. Before you get too invested, move on. There are other kids out there. Before joining the next team, do some guest playing and find out what’s more important to the team, winning at all cost or developing the kids. —Jessica Perry, baseball mom, Tampa, FL


dan schillaciLet me start off by saying this is a loaded question.  In any given situation, there are at least two sides to every story. There’s going to be your side and your son’s side and the coaches’ side.
I do not believe in moving a player to the bottom of the order because of one failed at bat.  Baseball tends to be a game of failures. A major-league player who hits a lifetime 3 out of 10 times, thus giving him a .300 average, is going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Nobody bats  .1000. For a coach to expect that is unrealistic.
Putting a player on the substitute list is a coaching tactic that is not often accepted by the player or the player’s parents.
I would be interested to know if there was an issue at a practice with your son. Was the only mistake your son made failing to hit the ball?  I would also like to know if the coach was trying to evaluate the new players he brought on to the team.
All that being said, if you want to approach the coach, do so in an off-field manner. Without being confrontational, ask the coach what his goals are for your son and what he sees as your son’s role in the future on that team.  If you are not satisfied with the answer, then you always have the option and ability to remove your son from the team.

In all my years of coaching, I have yet to meet the perfect player in playing ability or attitude. If the perfect child exists he is probably going to be headed for the priesthood and not a baseball player.  There is always going to be a bigger, better, and faster player on the team.  However, it is a coach’s  job to equally develop all players.—Coach Dan Schillaci, Pleasanton, CA


I don’t get the whole ‘win at all costs’ mantra, no matter what the age of the kids. This is a game. Kids play the game because they love kariit. Yes, I’m sure they all want to win and do well, but it comes down to them being passionate about the game and their teammates. The moment a coach benches Johnny for too many balls thrown on the mound, or has him sit out a game (or two or more!) because coach doesn’t feel he’s hitting to his potential, well that just crosses the line! Parents pay the same amount of money no matter if you’re a regular or a sub on the team. These kids practice throughout the week for a chance to glisten during a tournament game. But I’m sorry, even major league players make mistakes. Errors are made. It’s human nature. No player – no matter the age – is perfect. Instead, this coach and these teammates should offer up support and chant things like “you’ll get ’em next time” or “shrug this one off.” Just because your son didn’t bat well doesn’t mean the next kid in line, or the one after that, won’t get the job done. That is the wonderful thing about baseball – quite often if one kid has a rough outing, another kid can pick up the pieces! They will all shine at one point of the game or another
I would have no hesitation to take the coach aside and speak with him. Make it clear how this benching made your son feel. It’d be one thing if your son was belittling an umpire, or purposely ran over an opponent. A move along those lines cannot be tolerated, and a penalty should be upheld. But to simply not bat very well in one game? Are you kidding me?
I would also speak to the coach about your son’s role with the team. It sounds to me like you were under the impression your son was a vital part of the team, and not a substitute. If the coach can’t answer your questions, perhaps it’s time to look at other teams! The last thing you want, especially at this age, is for your son to have a bad experience playing a sport he truly loves. If the coach can’t understand where you’re coming from, then you’re better removing him from a team that is doomed to run itself into the ground. All teams will lose at some point. All kids will have off days at the plate, on the mound, in the field. The sooner this, and all coaches, realize that, the better. Otherwise, your coach is going to soon end up with zero kids left on the team!

Good luck!–Kari Hicks, baseball mom, Buffalo, NY


Navigating Travel Baseball Book CoverEDITOR’S NOTE: Tony Media has an excellent chapter on playing time and talking with coaches in his book Navigating Travel Baseball-7U to 14U. 

While I truly feel for you and your son, it is not possible to completely answer your questions without more information. Your situation is more common than you can imagine.

My short answer is that you may be playing for a team that favors the coaches’ kids, is overly focussed on winning and/or there is a problem with your son’s other skill sets, such as fielding.  Possibly a combination of these things and other potential issues, you just don’t know and shouldn’t try to guess.  The best advice is to ask the coach for a private meeting and ask him what the situation is.  Do not do this after a game, but after a practice or any other mutual time you can agree to. Brace yourself because you may hear things that you do not want to hear, that you may disagree with or that will upset you.  Do not get emotional, listen, discuss and try to understand the situation.  If there are issues, consider whether they are legitimate, and if so, address them accordingly.  

It may be that your son does not have the skills to be on this particular team.  It may also be possible that the coach is playing favorites and is not being fair.  If either of these scenarios are the case, you need to either consider joining your fall ball team for travel season, or tryout for another team that is a better fit for your son.  You do not have to live with this situation, but you must make an effort to understand what is going on.  Your son is counting on you to sort this out for him, even if he cannot fully express this himself at 11 years old.—Tony Media, coach, baseball dad and author of Navigating Travel Baseball 7U to 14U


Got a question for Ask TBP? Message us on our Facebook page. 

3 thoughts on “Ask TBP: Sitting the Bench Three Games in a Row? Infuriating!!!

  • May 7, 2016 at 2:08 am
    Permalink

    I am with you all. I signed my grandson up for baseball. He has never played before. Every thing was fine. This coach was his basketball coach. So He known how he is. Because he has a medical proable. Went basketball was going on . my grandson an the Kids up the road . went an mess up a picky table up. Were some people are to build a house. So wen the coach found out about it .he started to treat him like shit. And. The First ballgame. He ask my grandson about it. And said to him .them are my friends. Atfer that he change . So He only get to play about 5 minutes at the end . sometime none. Thank for listening.

    Reply
  • February 26, 2016 at 2:48 am
    Permalink

    I have coached travel teams for several years. Part of being the manager, is selecting a team that fulfills the teams needs, and taking boys that will contribute. In tryouts, some will be selected, and some will passed by. But as the manager, it is my responsibility to train, mentor, coach, all the boys on the team. That also means being committed to having them play on the field. Why would any coach take boys, then keep them benched. My policy is that all boys will sit one inning. If your team can’t function, be competitive, or win, by doing that, you probably should not be coaching. After having this player sit for three games while a guest player filled in, shows the character of the coach. No sense “talking to him”. He is what he is. And if willing to do that to an 11 year old player, please make an effort to find another team. One of the things with travel teams nowadays, whether good or bad, is that they are everywhere. Teams are watered down, and there is ample opportunity to play for many teams. I have several children. I look as coaches as something more than a team manager. I look at them as people who help mold, shape, influence, and determine the person I want my kids to be. Don’t take crap from a bad coach. When it gets to the point you are thinking about moving on, that usually means you should have already done so.

    Reply
  • February 25, 2016 at 11:25 pm
    Permalink

    Were you told ahead of time that everyone would receive playing time? If so, then you should leave and find a better fit for your child. Certainly NO outside players should be brought in when your child, a team member, is sitting the bench without discussing it with you first. If he wasn’t “good enough” they should not have taken your money. He just should not have made the team. I am sad for your son. I would have a serious talk with the coach and then move on. No one is getting recruited for anything at 11. Players need to earn their spits but there is always a spot for a kid who made the team..maybe not his first choice, but to be benched for an outsider in exchange for a win is inexcusable.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Follow Travel Ball Parents

Get Travel Ball Parents in your Inbox