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.