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The Reluctant Coach

The Reluctant Coach

It’s happened.

My oldest son asked me THE dreaded question. He’s asked before and I had always been able to deflect or change the subject, but now he is older and is acutely aware of my tactics. This time he was persistent.

“Dad, can I play baseball?”

Now this may seem to be a silly question to cause dread for some of you, but baseball has never been my forte. Well… that’s an understatement, I truly dislike baseball. The other problem, the real problem, is one that I find with any new sport, trying to find a place that he can start playing at the ripe old age of 10.

Perhaps parents with younger children will read that last sentence and think I’m making a joke – I wish I were.

The Problem

We’ve all heard the issue of children not being allowed to have free unstructured play time, but there is a problem with team sports as well. The era of children being able to play multiple sports according to the season of the year are gone. This disappeared first in secondary school, but the movement has trickled its way all the way down youth sports.[sws_pullquote_right]At an early age, children are pushed to play travel leagues, city leagues and clubs to focus on ONE sport and then to play that sport year-round. [/sws_pullquote_right]

At an early age, children are pushed to play travel leagues, city leagues and clubs to focus on ONE sport and then to play that sport year-round. Then there are development camps, instructional aides, and even tryouts for most of these teams. I am not saying anything against those leagues, but it does make it hard for those kids who are coming into a sport late, say past the age of 7-8 years old, to try new things. These leagues are very competitive and there is little ability for children to get ‘up to speed’ quickly, especially if they are still unsure if they want to play or not.

There are other ways for children to play some of these sports, but with these avenues the experience level and quality of coaching is greatly diminished. Looking between these options you can either try to get your child to ‘play up’ to the level of clubs or have the chance of an ineffective coach or program, both of which can make for an unhappy child. We’ve had both good and bad luck with other sports outside of city leagues and travel teams with places such as the YMCA.

All of these things come back to the quality and the attitude of the coach.

The Solution

My wife doesn’t like it when people complain and then not offer a solution to fix the problem. So, here is how I’m going to handle my issue -I’m going to coach my son’s baseball team.

I’ve always been afraid that someone else would be a much better coach for my children, especially with sports that I never participated at a team level before. My skill set is not one to where I would excel if I were suddenly put out on the court or field, but that’s not what I’m asking of our coaches.

Which leads to the question, what do I want in my kid’s coach? Obviously I want the coach to teach the basic skills. I want a coach that listens, to know the kid’s names, and to offer words of encouragement and guidance. Children need to understand both winning and losing, but children can never understand either one if they are completely shut out of playing. I may not know all of the things that are needed to be a successful coach, but at least I know that I will care and I will show up.

One day my sons may need to be challenged more, but right now I’m trying to cultivate a joy for playing sports. If my kids never play one down or one inning in a high school, collegiate, or professional level that would be perfectly fine with me. In fact I assume they never will, but if one day in the future they play a pick-up basketball game once a week or an office softball game, I will feel that I have been successful in my attempt of youth sports.

Now if you would excuse me, I’m going to see if the coaches really do have to wear those baseball pants.

Got some advice for a new youth baseball coach? Leave it in the comments below! 


View Comments (3)
  • Good for you, and best of luck. I used to hate baseball then happened to have a little bundle of baseball loving joy 19 years ago. He had good and bad coaches. We never played travel ball and he did just fine, even played 4 years at high school. Good teaching coaches are the best!

  • Caleb, thank you for stepping up. It’s a big deal what you’re doing, and you’re going in with the right frame of mind. You want to be there for the kids. Your heart is in this, and they’ll know it. (And psssst: they’ll pay you back 10 times over.)

    I was never a coach-type until four years ago, when I assistant-coached with the guy we wanted to have for my older son’s Upward basketball team. I was hooked. Now I’m in my fourth year coaching and this year I’m actually co-coordinating the program at our church, and it is profoundly rewarding.

    Have a great time!

  • The problem is that parents and coaches are not being realistic about a child’s chances of becoming a professional athlete. These parents and coaches push the kids mercilessly because they feel that the children will be the next great star. In reality, statistics prove that less than 2% of all children who start sports stay with it. Of that less than 2%, less than 5% of those children make a High School team. Of those who make High School teams, less than 1% make college teams and less than 2% of those make professional teams. Wake up and let them be children instead of trying to live through them because you could not make the big leagues yourself.

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