Did Someone Write My Book?!?!

Last year I came across a post on LinkedIn announcing a new book about teaching youth sports. Then, I recognized the author…retired Air Force General Greg Gutterman. Finally, I noticed the title, Hustle and Have Fun! A Coach’s Guide to Winning Over Players and Parents. Those of you who have been with me on this blog for a while know that I am a retired Air Force officer and have off-and-on had plans to write a book for coaches based on my Hustle & Attitude philosophy. I’ve even had the working title for several years now – The Hustle & Attitude Guide to Coaching Youth Sports. Needless to say, Gen Gutterman’s announcement on LinkedIn scared me to death. Had someone written the book I have always wanted to write; had I missed my opportunity?!?!

I had to know. So, I ordered a copy of the book and read it cover to cover on a flight back from LA. My conclusion: while similar in concept, title, and author background; Gutterman’s book is NOT the book I have been planning to write. Phew! It is a good book and one that adds value to the library of books offering advice for youth sports coaches. I’ve reviewed a number of the others on this site. Here’s my review of Hustle and Have Fun! A Coach’s Guide to Winning Over Players and Parents.

First, I know General Gutterman. Our paths crossed while we were both on active duty in the Air Force. Further, his kids and mine attended the same high school. I can remember sitting in the stands of Beavercreek High School girl’s soccer games near the Guttermans. He has been the Beavercreek hockey coach for some time now.

His book is chock full of stories both of his youth sports playing and coaching experiences. These stories are presented to offer lessons for coaches to apply in their coaching. I would characterize the target audience for this book as high school sports coaches. There is much a youth recreational sports coach could take from the situations and recommendations in this book, but I think they pertain mostly to high school sports.

Our coaching philosophies overlap in many ways. On the importance of the players having fun and that being more important than winning, he says “The scoreboard is not how we will define success this year” and “After all, what good is winning if half the kids quit the sport after the season is over, because they didn’t have fun?” I tell coaches that my ultimate measure of a successful season is whether the players want to play again the following season. Also, on coaching your own child, we agree that “There’s no Mom or Dad here, only coach”.

Gutterman suggests there are three elements of an effective practice required to empower players to become their best: conditioning, team play, and skills development. He says when all three are present, you have a well-balanced practice plan. I’ve always trained coaches that they need to have a plan for each practice with goals to achieve. The goals to be achieved drive the drills used in the practice to improve the players’ skills. Gutterman’s three elements add conditioning and team play as important aspects to be deliberately incorporated into practice plans. Further, where I encourage coaches to run multiple drills at the same time to reduce the amount of standing around in practice (often cited by young players as a specific reason the season was not fun), Gutterman points out the practical aspect that “The small group sizes (inherent in running more than one drill at a time) ensure each player accomplishes numerous repetitions of the skill”.

Where I feel Gutterman’s philosophy is geared more toward high school (or at least select/travel league) sports coaching is in his discussion of playing time. He suggests that ‘Participant’ and ‘Show-off’ players should not be rewarded with playing time. Gutterman says, “If the participant player doesn’t ‘get it’, they should not be rewarded with much if any game time” and he “reminds the players, and their parents, that in sports and life, you get what you earn, through hard work”. I’ve written before on the idea of earning playing time – and even my Dad’s thoughts on the subject. In youth recreational sports (which are different from travel/select and high school sports), I believe that every child who signs up deserves to play the same amount and the opportunity to play multiple positions. It is the youth coach’s responsibility to discipline/teach the ‘Show-off’ player about sportsmanship and teamwork and to try to motivate the ‘Participant’ player.

In summary, there is much for a rookie youth sports coach, particularly a new high school sports coach, to learn and take away from Hustle and Have Fun! A Coach’s Guide to Winning Over Players and Parents. It has earned a place on my youth sports coaching bookshelf.

1,000th Coach Trained!!!

It’s Flag Football Fanatics (FFF) coaching clinic season again, as the league is about to start its fall season serving almost 4,500 youth in Ohio and northern Kentucky. I am so pleased to continue my relationship with this outstanding youth recreational sports league by providing coaching clinics to the many volunteer coaches that make this – and all youth sports leagues – a possibility. I’ve been doing clinics for FFF since 2018; starting with in-person offerings and pivoting to virtual ones during COVID and when I moved to Goodyear, AZ.

I’ve completed two of the four planned clinics for the upcoming fall season. 179 coaches participated in the two clinics this past week. During each clinic, I show the coaches the number of coaches trained under the Hustle & Attitude coaching philosophy with the slide below.

Do you see what I see?

That’s right…one of the coaches trained earlier this week had the distinction of being the 1,000th coach I’ve trained. That’s pretty fantastic. While I have held clinics for the BCNAZ basketball league and for the Goodyear Parks and Recreation leagues, the overwhelming majority of those 1,100 coaches trained are from the FFF league. I told the coaches that one of them was #1,000, but since I couldn’t identify exactly who it was, there was no prize.

I’m honored that, almost unanimously, the feedback on the clinics from these 1,100 coaches has been very positive. Coaches appreciate the philosophy itself and the practical tips I offer with regards to dealing with the players, parents, and referees; planning and running effective practices; and managing playing time.

Adults Behaving Badly

What makes me righteously angry?

In my coaching clinics, I show the slide above. The voice track is about when I was asked a while ago, “What makes me righteously angry?” My response was that I get righteously angry when a child stops playing youth sports because of a bad experience with an adult. Notice the statistic from a 2001 Sports Illustrated for Kids survey: 74% of the children surveyed had witnessed ‘out of control’ adults at their games. What is most concerning to me – and one of the reasons I started this blog and offer coaching clinics – is when the adult behaving badly is a coach.

Last night I witnessed three instances in one Little League baseball game:

  • Taking an extra base when the pitcher is on the mound.
  • Encouraging a player to get hit with the ball.
  • Calling a player a “dipsh!t”.

Two of these seem baseball specific, but are indicative of issues that can occur in any sport. They are both indicative of emphasizing winning over teaching the game and player development. The third…well, the third is unacceptable in any situation.

Overemphasis on Winning

No baseball coach would teach their players to attempt to take an extra base when the opposing pitcher has the ball on the pitcher’s mound. It’s not baseball. In Little League, it is taking advantage of the fact that 11-12 year-olds can not reliably throw and catch the ball. In baseball parlance, I would say it is bush league. It happened several times last night. I’m not sure the opposing coach teaches the technique, but he also doesn’t stop it – in essence condoning the behavior. Again, this isn’t teaching the young players how to play the game; it is taking advantage of lesser skilled players in order to score runs and win the game.

Also last night, one of the opposing team’s players was encouraged to let the pitch hit them…by his coaching staff. This player appeared to be afraid of the ball – he stepped out on just about every pitch. At one point, one of his coaches ‘reminded’ the – again, 11-12 year-old – player that if he were to get hit with the ball, he’d get to go to first base. Given this player’s skill level and fear of the ball, getting hit by the pitch may have been the only way he was going to get on base. So, these adults thought it best to recommend to him that he stand in there and get hit. Why? Because then he’d get on base and not make the (almost automatic) out that he often does.

Hustle & Attitude coaches coach to win the game. However, they do so in a way that makes several factors more important than winning. These factors include players learning how to play the game right and not being afraid of being hurt.

Cursing / Name Calling

Seriously!? Am I having to talk about this? The player’s coach – it turns out the coach is also the player’s father – gets upset that the player drops the ball. The coach tells him to hold onto the ball and then calls the – do I need to continue to emphasize; 11-12 year-old – player a name that involves a curse word. I would like to have a discussion with anyone who thinks this is appropriate behavior for an adult.

The SI for Kids survey referenced above is somewhat dated; having been completed in 2001. However, my experience getting back into the coaching game the last several seasons is that a poll taken today would provide similar results. Three quarters of the youth involved in sports have seen adults behaving inappropriately at their games. These adults – and most importantly, the coaches – need to remember that the children are watching. How do we want our children to behave when they are adults? I would suggest not like the coaches last night that allowed bush league play of the game, encouraged a player to risk getting hurt in order to win, and then cursed at an 11-12 year-old and called him a name.

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