Ask TBP: Is New Coach Sabotaging Player’s Skills and Confidence?

Welcome to this week’s edition of Ask Travel Ball Parents. Last time we had mulled over the correct protocol for dealing with an overly flirty team mom. (Thank God that one’s over.) Today’s dilemma is a difficult one that, no doubt, your player will face as he or she progresses in sports.
My son is/was the best hitter on his travel team. Recently, he began working out with the coach of his high school team. (This will be his first year playing HS ball.) The HS coach is trying to change everything about his swing and insisting that it’s HIS way or the highway. Of course, my son’s batting has now taken a turn for the worst. His confidence is shaky and he’s questioning everything about his plate appearances that were once pretty flawless. He uses the same -3 bat in travel that he’ll use for high school. My son is a teachable kid who takes orders well. But I have no idea why this coach is trying to change something that has been working great for two years now. And he doesn’t want to be questioned about it. Do you have any suggestions for working this out?

Travel Ball Parents neither endorses nor opposes any of the responses below. 

rob monacoGet your son away from that coach quickly! There is something to be said about a kid in his own head and that happens when coaches think they know everything and without realizing it, crush a kid’s confidence with over tweaking.

The best advice I could give right now is allow your son a week off. In fact, demand it.  Don’t even let him swing a bat. After a week, let him get into the box with HIS approach. Let him get back to the swing that works for him. If there’s a sudden tweak like keeping the hands, that can always be introduced subtlely without over tinkering with a kids swing. But the moment a coach walks in and moves their feet and reteaches a load… that’s when a kid gets lost.  Trust me, if your son is a great hitter, he needs to get away from that coach and he needs to approach the batters box the way he used to. Throw BP at him and let him find his rhythm again. Let him crush a few balls so he knows his swing works! ‎ Let him casually swing on a tee until he feels confident again. Your only job now is to build him up. He’s been stripped of his confidence by a know-it-all coach who is actually hurting your son’s progress, not helping it. —–Rob Monaco, baseball dad, Little League coach and commissioner, Bergen County, NJ

Every coach has his own unique techniques, strengths and weaknesses, and no two coaches are the same, but that is not what this is Navigating Travel Baseball Book Coverabout.  There is a natural conflict between high school and travel ball coaching, generally speaking.  A good travel ball coach is normally looking at the long term success of his players, and is providing instruction that will allow the ballplayer to develop into a high school ballplayer first, but also into a college player and perhaps beyond.  So, irrespective of short term results, a good travel ball coach is going to work hard with your son on the fundamental techniques that will serve him well throughout his career.

A good high school coach might also have these aspirations, but honestly, they are typically more interested in how to use your son to win ball games at the high school level, and maintain their position.  In many cases they will overlook poor technique as long as the results continue to be positive.  I’ve been told this is also the case in college, to an even larger degree.

I can’t tell you how many times our travel ball coach has lamented the poor coaching his players get at the high school level, and how long it takes to re-train his players.  I once thought this was arrogant, but I’ve seen, firsthand, the truth in his statements.

That said, I was impressed last year with the freshman coach at our high school.  My son and his travel ball teammate are the two leaders on their travel ball team, and also both attend the same high school.  When they started practicing for their 9th grade team, the coach initially was very critical of their footwork and approach to fielding ground balls.  When the boys explained what they were doing and how they had been trained, (and after the coach saw the results of their fielding as starters at third and short), the coach asked the boys to train the other infielders in these techniques.  The freshman coach has been promoted to varsity, and has told me that these are the fielding techniques that they will also adopt at that level.

—–Tony Midea, baseball coach/dad and author of Navigating Travel Baseball-7U to 14U

Liz BlanksSince your son’s HS coach doesn’t seem open to a dialogue about it, I would ask your son’s travel coach for a few minutes so your son can show him the changes in mechanics that the HS coach is asking him to do and get his opinion.  There may be some valid reasons for why he’s monkeying with your son’s swing and everything hasn’t fallen into place quite yet.  Be professional and polite about it, because it’s a small world out there and you never know if your travel coach is his cousin or Saturday night poker buddy, but ask him for his help in evaluating the changes to your son’s swing.  If he thinks the changes are valid, then it may just take some time for them to click.

Also, is the HS coach new to the school or is he a long-time coach?  What is his team’s record like?  If he’s a new guy, he may just be trying to make his mark and hitting might be his “thing” so he’s going to do whatever he can to prove a point.  And if he’s been there forever, he may be stuck in his ways and if your son wants to continue to play it might be one of those times he’s going to have to grin and bear it.  Either way, I think every player is going to be caught up in what feels like a no-win situation at least once that they’re going to have to figure out.  Sometimes that means that the coach isn’t a good fit and it’s time to find another team, especially if they are unwilling to be flexible or discuss player development in a constructive manner.——Liz Blanks, veteran baseball mom, Chesterfield, VA


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Angela Weight

Founder and publisher of Travel Ball, Angela Weight is still a little shocked to be running one of the most popular youth sports parenting sites on the web. Click the ABOUT US tab to read her story.

One thought on “Ask TBP: Is New Coach Sabotaging Player’s Skills and Confidence?

  • November 20, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Devils advocate, what if the coach believes if he makes certain changes, it would make him even better than before. Sometimes kids are successful at the younger ages because they are better than everyone else. When you get to HS things are more even, weaknesses can be exploited. If the coach has legit qualifications and experience, be patient and see if what he asking him to do works. Sometimes the changes being made are rejected by the player , and that’s why it’s not working!
    Happens a lot , just another perspective


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