First, 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 they 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.
- Even if they lost, it was crystal clear to my son that he was NOT a liability.
- 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
This 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 tournaments 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
Have 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
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
Good luck!–Kari Hicks, baseball mom, Buffalo, NY
EDITOR’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