Don’t let our Athletes get Soft

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There are good coaches in this world and there are also very bad coaches. There are also parents that overprotect their kids so much that in the end, they alienate good coaches only to insulate their own children from discipline and hard work on the field, be it baseball, football, or whatever.

Now look, baseball and football are very different, but the message as a coach should always stay the same. When it comes to working with kids, you need to instill the fundamentals of hard work, respect, discipline and everything in between. You don’t have to yell, you have to teach, and my rule of thumb is you do it in a way that gets through to that kid enough, that come game time, even if there’s a hint of accomplishment, you make sure they know you see their improvement.  Alittle praise never hurt anyone. But I have news for you; alittle discipline never hurt anyone either.

Coaching kids is the hardest job in the world, and most likely you signed up to coach because you were passionate about it. And let’s face it, your peers didn’t because they were ‘too busy’ to give their time… even though you’ve heard the same line from them for the past 4 years. The point is, if you love to teach kids the fundamentals of the game, the goals and the teamwork and confidence that comes with it, you get the fever and fall in love with coaching, teaching and making kids believe in themselves. And personally for me… it’s the greatest gift in the world to be a coach and watching a player blossom right in front of your eyes.

This is Travel Ball Parents, a blog for baseball parents and kids to read, but tonight, my story is about coaching as a volunteer. That’s because coaching is close to my heart.

I want to share a story with you about a volunteer football coach out of Connecticut who was fired for doing the right thing. He wasn’t a harsh, angry coach. This wasn’t about him slapping the crap out of a player or yelling at them where the child cried his eyes out or any of that. This story is about a coach, a very good coach who took the time out of his busy life to volunteer to help kids improve in their craft, but there’s a twist.  When he heard about an incident of bullying, he found a reason to make it a lesson for his team.  Unfortunately for him, this world is now way too politically correct, and so, he was fired, even though he volunteered his time, no matter how small it was… because he loved to coach kids and make them into better players.

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The story is from USA Today High School Sports, and here’s a portion of it:

“Todd Kennedy, coach of Durham Middlefield’s football team in Durham, Conn., had talked to the team about bullying and, afterwards, heard that one of his players was bullying someone at school. He spoke with the alleged bully in front of the team, had him run a few laps, and then praised the boy for running without complaining.

He was later fired by the football league’s board.”

Now, was this firing a knee jerk reaction because of one outraged family? Probably. The point is, this could be you, or even me. I have coach kids for 7 plus years. Sure, I coach baseball, but think about all we do as volunteer coaches. You try and sneak out of work a little early to get to practice. We deal with a bunch of knuckleheads for an hour and a half on the field, trying to teach the basics, the fundamentals, the disciplines and challenges of the game, and then, you notice something going on that you don’t like. And so, you have a team meeting on the mound and you go off the script and explain what being a team is, and how bullying is the wrong way to go. AND YES… maybe, just maybe you make a player or 2 the example and you make them run a few laps. I have been doing that for years. I’m proud of it and I’ll tell you why; Because you can no longer yell at kids, you can no longer call a kid ‘lazy’ and you can no longer whack a kid on the backside, a practice that was done when my dad was a kid in Little League. And I get all that. But luckily for us volunteer coaches, someone somewhere decided that if you can’t do all that when a kid gets out of line, “At least you can run them. This way they get punished for bad behavior and at least they get alittle cardio to help your team in the long run… AND IT’S DISCIPLINE. Hopefully they don’t act up again!”

But now… you can’t even do that. Now, you can’t do anything as a coach that’s even a suggestion of “harsh” discipline. Because if you do, that kid’s parents will ride you and get you fired. Mind you, these are the same parents that never show up to practice to support their kids, and rarely show up to games. Most importantly, they never volunteer, ever. But yup… they have it all figured out, they call the shots and they can have the board fire you, even though you’re a volunteer. What in the world is going on in this world that you can’t run an unruly kid for a few laps. My goodness.

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Baseball, Football, Bowling… it doesn’t matter to me. This story about Coach Kennedy being fired really bothered me because my feeling about this is simple; if you don’t coach and never, ever volunteer… shut up. Don’t start making waves while we mind your kids for almost 2 hours, 3 to 4 times a week for practice and games twice a weekend. We’re the ones raising your kids to be better athletes and better gentlemen in the long run… not you. It’s disturbing to me what type of society we’ve become. It’s no longer about making tough, strong, disciplined players. It’s about whether or not that kid interpreted that coach’s conversation as “yelling” or not. It’s sad really.

I don’t believe in ‘soft’. As a volunteer coach, I believe in working hard, proving your worth and never giving up on yourself or your team, bottom line. I believe in teamwork, building confidence and integrity of the game. I believe in respect for each other and more respect for the coach who’s dealing with 12 rowdy players, their schedules, his strategy and ultimately the end game. And I believe that if a kid’s acting up, be it bullying or just plain goofing off… sometimes a few laps straightens a kid out, be it that they realize they were being a knucklehead, or that they need to understand that discipline is part of the daily routine on my team.

Whatever it is, I do know this. I would be fired as a volunteer coach today because I’m Coach Kennedy and if you’re a coach, you’d be fired too. And if that’s the way this P.C. world wants it, sadly, I have news for you; that’s the end of competitive sports in America as we know it, folks.  Wake up… better yet, volunteer and learn what it’s like instead of insulating your children from alittle discipline and life lessons…  For crying out loud.

Rob Monaco, Little League coach & Commissioner

Read more items like this on our Facebook page The Heart of Youth Baseball.

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One thought on “Don’t let our Athletes get Soft

  • October 16, 2016 at 10:31 pm
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    I could not agree with you more. I totally appreciate all my son’s coaches….little league and travel ball. And being the daughter of a formal high school football/baseball coach, I’ve seen how frustrating it can be. I’m all for discipline on the field and making kids understand respect and teamwork. Thanks for all you do and for writing this.

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