Ask TBP: Sitting the Bench Three Games in a Row? Infuriating!!!

This week’s Ask TBP question is, no doubt, one that so many players and parents have experienced in some way or another. Sitting the bench three games in a row? Just wow!!!
My son is 11 and has been playing baseball since he could walk. He started Little League at 5 and has played every year. His first year of machine pitch our coaches recommend we get our son in travel ball and get some extra lessons for him. We waited on the travel ball but started him with one-on-one lessons during the winter and then we started fall ball. Ok so our son finally decided he wanted to give spring travel ball a shot this year after friends travel for a few years kept telling us he really needed to play. We originally were going to go with the team he does fall ball with but we decided to give this team he’s on now a try. A friend of mine recommend them. We just had two tournaments (two weekend, back to back). The first one was great but the second, this past weekend was not. After the first tournament my son’s head coach was so surprised that my son hit the ball every time up to bat so he told me he was moving him up in the batting order. Well this weekend 2nd tournament Saturday first time up to bat didn’t get a hit so he bumped him down to last–being last isn’t always bad!! Then played one inning and sat the bench the rest. Our coaches brought another kid from another team to play with us the whole weekend. Before our first game started I went over to make sure my son had his drink and he was ready to go. He tells me him and another player from our team are on the substitutes list and they will only play if someone gets hurts. We played 3 games yesterday and my son and the other player sat the bench the entire day, not even batting. We totally understand the coaches want to win every game. So my question is how do we go about trying to talk to our coaches about this? It was so disappointing to see our son sitting the entire day instead of playing in the game. The boys tried to ask why they couldn’t play and the head coach said we can’t have people making mistakes we are here to win and so on. The entire day we kept talking to our son, building him up because he was so torn heart broken to sit the bench for 3 games. Our team ended up getting 2nd place. Heading home our son told us “I don’t even feel like I deserve this metal – I didn’t even help my team today.” As parents, it’s so hard to see kids hurt. So any advice would be great.
—Bench Mom

giangiulioFirst, 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 rob monacothey 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.

  1. Even if they lost, it was crystal clear to my son that he was NOT a liability.
  2. 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

lisa santa ritaThis 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 8u traveltournaments 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

jessica perryHave 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

dan schillaciLet me start off by saying this is a loaded question.  In any given situation, there are at least two sides to every story. There’s going to be your side and your son’s side and the coaches’ side.
I do not believe in moving a player to the bottom of the order because of one failed at bat.  Baseball tends to be a game of failures. A major-league player who hits a lifetime 3 out of 10 times, thus giving him a .300 average, is going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Nobody bats  .1000. For a coach to expect that is unrealistic.
Putting a player on the substitute list is a coaching tactic that is not often accepted by the player or the player’s parents.
I would be interested to know if there was an issue at a practice with your son. Was the only mistake your son made failing to hit the ball?  I would also like to know if the coach was trying to evaluate the new players he brought on to the team.
All that being said, if you want to approach the coach, do so in an off-field manner. Without being confrontational, ask the coach what his goals are for your son and what he sees as your son’s role in the future on that team.  If you are not satisfied with the answer, then you always have the option and ability to remove your son from the team.

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

I don’t get the whole ‘win at all costs’ mantra, no matter what the age of the kids. This is a game. Kids play the game because they love kariit. Yes, I’m sure they all want to win and do well, but it comes down to them being passionate about the game and their teammates. The moment a coach benches Johnny for too many balls thrown on the mound, or has him sit out a game (or two or more!) because coach doesn’t feel he’s hitting to his potential, well that just crosses the line! Parents pay the same amount of money no matter if you’re a regular or a sub on the team. These kids practice throughout the week for a chance to glisten during a tournament game. But I’m sorry, even major league players make mistakes. Errors are made. It’s human nature. No player – no matter the age – is perfect. Instead, this coach and these teammates should offer up support and chant things like “you’ll get ’em next time” or “shrug this one off.” Just because your son didn’t bat well doesn’t mean the next kid in line, or the one after that, won’t get the job done. That is the wonderful thing about baseball – quite often if one kid has a rough outing, another kid can pick up the pieces! They will all shine at one point of the game or another
I would have no hesitation to take the coach aside and speak with him. Make it clear how this benching made your son feel. It’d be one thing if your son was belittling an umpire, or purposely ran over an opponent. A move along those lines cannot be tolerated, and a penalty should be upheld. But to simply not bat very well in one game? Are you kidding me?
I would also speak to the coach about your son’s role with the team. It sounds to me like you were under the impression your son was a vital part of the team, and not a substitute. If the coach can’t answer your questions, perhaps it’s time to look at other teams! The last thing you want, especially at this age, is for your son to have a bad experience playing a sport he truly loves. If the coach can’t understand where you’re coming from, then you’re better removing him from a team that is doomed to run itself into the ground. All teams will lose at some point. All kids will have off days at the plate, on the mound, in the field. The sooner this, and all coaches, realize that, the better. Otherwise, your coach is going to soon end up with zero kids left on the team!

Good luck!–Kari Hicks, baseball mom, Buffalo, NY

Calling all 2018 Cooperstown Dreams Park Parents, Coaches and Players

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–Which bat models are allowed for play at Dreams Park?
–Why your player should bring a swimsuit to Dreams Park even if he/she isn’t planning to swim?
–What time you should arrive for check-in? (Hint: it’s earlier than what’s listed on the Dreams Park website.)
–If Dreams Park concession stands accept credit/debit cards?
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–If you should bring your ball field chairs from home?
These questions and hundreds more are answered in our new e-book Taking Your Team to Cooperstown: The Ultimate Guide for Your Week at Cooperstown Dreams Park
Make sure you’re properly packed and prepared for the biggest tournament of your kid’s youth baseball career! Get dozens of tips from past attendees, packing lists, daily itineraries, bunkhouse dos and don’ts, uniform laundering hints and much more!
Click the link above or the book cover below to download via Amazon Kindle. 
Got a question for Ask TBP? Message us on our Facebook page. 


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.

6 thoughts on “Ask TBP: Sitting the Bench Three Games in a Row? Infuriating!!!

  • January 4, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    From my experience with my son, if you talk to the coach about playing time, your kid gets cut from the team. My son played for a travel team for 2 years at age 10 and 11. This team had been together since the kids were 8 years old. There were 4 coaches (dads), which meant (obviously) that there were 4 guaranteed positions for the coaches’ sons plus another guaranteed position for the head coach’s son’s BFF. My son attends school with most of the boys on this team and the head coach is our neighbor (we have a trail through the woods from our house to theirs). The first season, the head coach would make comments to my son like “that’s some of the worst base-running I have ever seen”. During a post-game meeting while they were getting chewed for losing, one of my son’s teammates said “Thanks a lot!” to my son blaming him for a mistake that lost the game. My son left the fields in tears that day. I asked my son if the coach said anything to the teammate (because the coach was always pushing the boys to build each other up). My son said coach didn’t say a word. My husband and I tried to encourage our son and tell him not to take it personally. We never said anything to the coach. My son was not the best player on the team, but he was by far not the worst. These boys were pretty close in talent and ability. He is a decent pitcher (for age 11) and a power hitter with several home runs and leader in RBIs for the season. He made several great game-saving plays but never received much praise from the head coach. Our son rarely missed practice, he was on time (many were not), he was always cheering for his teammates and was very supportive of them. The second season we started noticing that the head coach would pull our son any time he made a mistake while other boys remained in the game. Still, my husband and I tried to hold off on saying anything to the head coach. Actually, we made excuses for him to our son (which I regret). Finally, when our son said “he (coach) hates me”, we decided it was time. My husband took a 6 pack of beer over to the coach’s house (we were friends at the time) and talked with him for a couple hours. We thought it was a good talk, but the benching continued and eventually got worse. During this time, one of the boys on the team was saying things to our son, like “you shouldn’t have swung at that” when he struck out and “you should have had that one” when he missed a ball. My son said it was really bothering him. We told our son, next time politely ask him to stop saying those things, which is what he said he did. This boy (whose dad has money) told the coach. The coach calls my son out in front of the team and tells him when our teammate is offering us advice, we listen. I called the coach and explained to him that, according to what my son told me, this kid was not giving advice, he was criticizing. Coach said “I guess I should have heard both side of the story. I will apologize to your son.” To this day he has not apologized. When the season was over, the coach called and cut my son from the team. This crushed my son. I think he was already at the point that he was tired of being called out on every single mistake he made when other kids weren’t. I think he was to the point he didn’t know what to do because, no matter what he did, he would get yelled at. One game, the money-boy made one mistake after another and ultimately made a mistake that lost the game. A parent overheard the coach tell him “If you continue to make errors, I can’t leave you in.” He didn’t have a problem pulling my son. My heart was broken for my son. I’m still trying to understand what the coach’s problem was with him. I did send a message to the coach later expressing my disappointment (really, I did it in a nice way…really). He responded with a comment saying he could tell my husband didn’t like him and life is too short to have to deal with people that don’t like you. He said “Why would I cut the #2 player on my team? It’s not always the players fault.” So basically, he punished my child because of my husband. My son has now decided he doesn’t want to play anymore. He says it’s just not fun anymore. It’s so sad because, at one point, he was having so much fun. He loved being on this team with his friends. I think that was his favorite part-being with his friends. Now they don’t even play together anymore. It’s sad to look out and see the trail between our houses is overgrown and no longer visible. I’m trying to stop being angry at the coach, just not there yet. If you could have seen the look on my son’s face when he called to cut him, you would understand. I’ll get there eventually.

  • September 24, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    To a kid this is humiliating, to the parents it is gut wrenching not to mention expensive! You have to wonder why someone would want to be a coach with this type of mentality! These are kids and at this age they need mentoring and to be treated equally, otherwise they will regress! The coaches do not realize the damage they can do to a child’s confidence! A good coach can figure out how to rotate players, treat all kids equally and still accomplish the same results, it’s called management! Some of these jokers take the easy way out and play their favorites and could care less about how it impacts anyone else! Setting out 1 full game is damaging, setting someone out for 3 should be dismiss-able! It seems that the parents of the kids that play every inning do not necessarily sympathize with the parents of the kids that get mistreated! There I’ve said it,, “Mistreated”, “Mismanaged”, and “abused”! Parents wake up! is It’s just wrong!

  • May 9, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Yes it is upsetting to a parent, but more so your child. This happens alot in school sports also. It’s a shame when friendship and favoritism rule over an actual athlete that can play any position on the field and has to sit the bench game after game because coaches have kids on the team or a favorite player who plays every inning, every game, making the same errors over and over and causing losses. All the while the parents of these chosen ones are smiling and happy because their kids are on the field playing, (more like struggling). You can only carry these kids throughout graduation, then what are you going to do cause you’re not their coach anymore? You kid will hate you and themselves for not letting them earn to play, because “daddy-ball” don’t last forever!

  • May 7, 2016 at 2:08 am

    I am with you all. I signed my grandson up for baseball. He has never played before. Every thing was fine. This coach was his basketball coach. So He known how he is. Because he has a medical proable. Went basketball was going on . my grandson an the Kids up the road . went an mess up a picky table up. Were some people are to build a house. So wen the coach found out about it .he started to treat him like shit. And. The First ballgame. He ask my grandson about it. And said to him .them are my friends. Atfer that he change . So He only get to play about 5 minutes at the end . sometime none. Thank for listening.

  • February 26, 2016 at 2:48 am

    I have coached travel teams for several years. Part of being the manager, is selecting a team that fulfills the teams needs, and taking boys that will contribute. In tryouts, some will be selected, and some will passed by. But as the manager, it is my responsibility to train, mentor, coach, all the boys on the team. That also means being committed to having them play on the field. Why would any coach take boys, then keep them benched. My policy is that all boys will sit one inning. If your team can’t function, be competitive, or win, by doing that, you probably should not be coaching. After having this player sit for three games while a guest player filled in, shows the character of the coach. No sense “talking to him”. He is what he is. And if willing to do that to an 11 year old player, please make an effort to find another team. One of the things with travel teams nowadays, whether good or bad, is that they are everywhere. Teams are watered down, and there is ample opportunity to play for many teams. I have several children. I look as coaches as something more than a team manager. I look at them as people who help mold, shape, influence, and determine the person I want my kids to be. Don’t take crap from a bad coach. When it gets to the point you are thinking about moving on, that usually means you should have already done so.

  • February 25, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Were you told ahead of time that everyone would receive playing time? If so, then you should leave and find a better fit for your child. Certainly NO outside players should be brought in when your child, a team member, is sitting the bench without discussing it with you first. If he wasn’t “good enough” they should not have taken your money. He just should not have made the team. I am sad for your son. I would have a serious talk with the coach and then move on. No one is getting recruited for anything at 11. Players need to earn their spits but there is always a spot for a kid who made the team..maybe not his first choice, but to be benched for an outsider in exchange for a win is inexcusable.


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