EDITOR’S NOTE: This is going to be controversial, but I’m posting it anyway. Thanks, Rob Monaco, for another well-written, thought provoking piece!
When Jose Bautista flipped his bat in the ALDS verses the Texas Rangers last season, it was full of adrenaline and confidence. It was a home ballpark and while emotions run high in a Major League Baseball season, it especially does in the playoffs. The message is clear; you are there to win and if you’re that good… well… let it all hang out.
But here’s the irony. While the goal through life is to win, and “winning is everything,” that same type of emotion should never be seen on a youth baseball field. That’s because doing it there not only appears arrogant, but it demonstrates disrespect. It’s exactly what you teach your young players NOT to do. That’s because, as a kid, it’s about good sportsmanship…character…integrity.
People asked me if I thought Bautista’s bat flip was arrogant. It is… but it’s also emotionally driven. This is a 35-year-old man in a defining moment of a season. It’s not his first rodeo. In fact, he went through the youth baseball ranks as your child is now. Here’s the difference. In sports, while role models need to exist, they are not the ones training your young player. It’s us coaches and parents that raise and train our kids.And so, with that, we need to drill it home that while the passion and emotion is there… as young ballplayers, it’s about respect for your opponent. It’s about growing through the baseball journey together. It’s about tipping your cap in a big moment, but also knowing we still have work to do as a young team.
When a youth baseball player steps onto the field to play baseball, his resume is pretty slim. The experience is nowhere near a pro ballplayer’s, and so, he needs to “take his lumps” so to speak. That means learning about the game and the integrity that goes with it. I mean sure, the feeling of hitting a home run is incredible for any kid, but the last thing you want to see is that same player flipping his bat at 11-years-old and shoving it in the face of their opponent. That is NOT what youth baseball is about. Youth baseball is about development and character, and I’ll tell you something right now; As a coach, if I see that happening from one my players, whether it’s a walk-off or we’re down 10 runs… that player gets benched. It’s wrong. These are kids. Enjoy the moment; don’t showboat. You’re too young, you’re too inexperienced, and you’re still in the learning process. Bottom line, you want to be great one day and be respected by your peers? Show that same respect to your opponent and to the game of youth baseball.
Kids need discipline on the baseball diamond, not a free ticket to show off a big ego and arrogance at age 12. As coaches, as parents, we need to instill that in our players. We need to let them find themselves as athletes too, but through the building blocks that they are presented in the game.
Respect your opponent always. But most importantly, at their young age, they need to respect the game.
For a daily dose of baseball wisdom and player encouragement, follow Rob Monaco’s Facebook page, The Heart of Youth Baseball.