There is nothing good about a selfish baseball player. There is nothing good about a player that will make comments and criticize his teammates after that teammate commits an error or strikes out in a big moment. The game is hard enough, the last thing you need is a teammate razzing you because you made a mistake or folded under the pressure.
Instead of the negative, that group of 12 need to support each other, bond and become a team, through tough times… through big wins. In fact… Always.
Be a team player. Be a hard worker. Be coachable. Be respectful. I’m not sure if many of you saw that viral video that went out from Geno Auriemma, the head coach for the University of Connecticut Huskies girl’s basketball team last week, but it was music to my ears. As a coach, a father, I have always preached about that positive attitude that needs to come from a player, from day 1 at practice, to game time, to the championship… whether you have good games or bad ones, it’s your attitude that is vitally important in a game setting.
As a player, you need to cut through the garbage and negatives of mistakes and failure and rise up, not just individually, but as a unit. If you don’t that team is going to have a pretty hard time winning anything, because it takes a TEAM win ball games. You need to be positive. You need to be coachable. That’s the bottom line.
Now look, every parent thinks their kid is coachable, but being a coach and seeing kids over the years, there is no question… there are some real hiccups when it comes to team comradery. Sure, the pressure is enormous so kids fold and criticize and bicker often, but if there is a strong team bond, especially among young players, that needs to defuse the negative energy. But you gotta get there and so, I have a suggestion. Set the tone for your team early!
Maybe the first couple practices or in the first few games. Lay the groundwork.
You may notice an almost alpha-male type mentality early on with a newly formed team. Certain players pulling rank… thinking they are better than others. Fix it. Because the goal is that over time, with players and patience, bonding needs to happen. Different personalities need to inter-mingle and the goal needs to take the form… Teamwork!
That starts with a solid foundation be it at home with good parenting or on the diamond with an attentive coach. It’s a foundation that needs to be put in place day one. A foundation that requires players to ‘learn to work together’ through thick and thin. To ‘support’ each other. To ‘respect’ each other… and to ‘pick each other up.’
If that is explained and enforced, players will understand that without those fundamentals, that team will implode. As a coach, you cannot let that happen! That means if a mistake is made, the whole team should feel it, but then rally to erase it on the next play. You need to pick a teammate up!
That means, big play or bad one, you are the first player there to let them know that you have their back and support them. It doesn’t have to be words, but it should be something. Maybe it’s a helmet slap. Maybe a pat on the back or the leg, or knuckles. Whatever it is, you find what works with your team and do it. And it goes both ways. You want to know and feel that in the heat of battle, your teammates, your fellow players are there for you too. It’s a give and take that forms, and with that, a support system is created.
As the Rec season approaches for example, there will be kids with great skill and others with not so much. You will see a wide range of talent, but that was almost why Rec was created and why every child should play it. Diversity! Rec brings all kinds of skill together to form a team and to learn to work together with whatever talent surrounds them.
A solid coach will pick his players and find the positions that benefit not only the team, but his kids based on skill, and based on safety. He’ll also work to improve the less talented, and never turn his back on them. It starts from the top, and if the coach is fully engaged in bringing motivation and training to his guys, a solid team should rally behind that, willing and able to help, work and train with whatever is necessary to improve that club.
In other words, answer the call! If little Tommy keeps letting that grounder roll under his legs, the last thing you should be doing as a teammate is *Sighing* in frustration or telling him that he ‘sucks’. If you see the pitcher isn’t paying attention to your guy at second base, try and let him know that he can get more of a lead, in hopes to get that run home! Collectively, be a leader! Stand by your teammates!
Sometimes the presence of a solid foundation and some good motivation will turn that less talented player into a more determined, confident individual. Not because he suddenly became an All-Star in that one training session or moment, but because he knows he has support and is willing to work harder to not let his teammates down! Working together and your group of 12 will allow you to tackle anything, no matter the size or talent your team has. If you love the game and respect each other, great things can happen!
Look, baseball is full of challenges, and none of them are consistent. The best thing you can do as a player is support your teammates, listen to your coach, and do the work… TOGETHER! Look around you. Some of the best teams in sports history did it together.
Stockton-Malone-Layden-Sloan of the Utah Jazz, for example. John Stockton holds the NBA record for the most assists and steals. That’s not shots, that’s assists… assisting his teammates so they could take the shot to help his team win. Think about that. Unselfish.
Jeter-Rivera-Posada-Pettitte and a Yankee run for the ages. Their teams weren’t always the same when they won championships in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000, but their bond and morale motivated the players around them.
Rizzo-Zobrist-Baez-Ross of the 2016 Champion Chicago Cubs. A perfect mix of kids and veterans to do something unthinkable… break the curse of the Cubs that stood for over 100 years.
It’s never one guy. It’s always a group of players each taking a role, sometimes big, sometimes small, but always contributing in some way to help their team win. And that can translate to any youth sport today.
Stop pulling rank! Stop criticizing! Support each other and you need not care if a kid strikes out or gives up a home run. Instead, let that kid know that you have his back and ‘we’ll get them next time’ because in baseball, there always is a next time! When a teammate does that, that teammate is a complete player. A smart, coachable player, because he’s learned the principles about what it means to be a good teammate. That mentality hopefully rubs off too, and if it can for the 12 players on a team… you got something. You may have a group of mixed talent, but if you stay positive and keep working as a unit, the team bond will be strong, and over time, with solid coaching, you CAN be victorious.
But if it’s never taught to your players, you will never see the possibilities of this great game. Baseball is a team sport, and if you have 6 kids that have it all figured out and show arrogance and 6 who can’t field a grounder and are criticized every single moment, and you never teach or set the tone, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing the Boston Red Sox or the Talladega Balloons… you have no shot, because you have no bond.
So be the team that forms a solid foundation of teamwork and respect and be the team that will be remembered and stands out. That’s the team that will succeed, because that’s the team with complete players.
Skill. Mind. Attitude. And they’ll always fight hard together… no matter what.
–Rob Monaco, Father, Coach and Baseball Commissioner
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