For travel baseball parents and players, some very hard decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks. All across youth baseball websites and social media, there will be posts announcing tryouts for 2017 teams. Kids will go to baseball fields all over the place to show off their skills for coaches with a clipboard and a stopwatch. Some may even have a radar gun.
If your kid can play, he will be courted by many coaches and teams. Some coaches will promise fancy uniforms, road trips and playing time. They will pump up your kid by telling him how he has a cannon and can mash the baseball. They will tell you how he should be a star pitcher and bat in the three-hole.
That’s all great to hear. But what do you and your son want to get out of this process? What are your goals? Why are you spending huge amounts of time and money with travel baseball?
Every parent should sit down with the coach ask how he can help their son become a better baseball player. Instead of clamoring over his positive attributes, focus on areas of needed improvement. The coach should be someone who can teach the game, not just fill out the lineup card.
Talk about the team. Where does your son fit in? This has as much to do with his personality as it does his baseball skills. Are the boys together off the field? Does the team do a lot of non-baseball activities? If you know someone who plays for the team, ask them about their experience.
Do your research. Ask questions. The bottom line is you want to find a place where your family will be happy and your son can become a better baseball player.
It seems to begin earlier and earlier each season. Some parents begin to separate themselves into groups. The whispers are aplenty. You can feel the tension and anxiety. All travel baseball teams go through it and it all comes down to one question.
What about next year?
Some parents love the team and are hoping their son is asked to return next season. Some parents have blinders on when it comes to their son’s playing ability and are looking for what they perceive to be a better opportunity. Some parents and coaches may agree that the team just isn’t a good fit for the player.
The coach feels the anxiety as well. If a family wants to leave the team, he will wonder what he did wrong and why that family didn’t have a good experience. There is the pressure to improve the team by finding new players to join the families that will be staying around. The absolute worst part of the entire process is cutting a kid.
As hard as it is on the parents, I am sure the kids feel the most pressure. During a tryout, hopefully, the kids are not trying to impress their parents. I don’t even think they should try to impress the coach. Kids should just go out and play the game during a tryout the same way you should play it everyday – have fun and give your best effort.
So, as a person who has been on every end of the tryout process (parent, coach and player), I would advise you to just relax. If your son loves the game and hustles all the time, he will find a place to play. If your son is currently on a team, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Switching teams can be tough on a youngster. Have several conversations with those involved before making any hasty decisions. Always remember, this is ALL ABOUT THE BOYS.
I used to think umpiring youth baseball games was tough. You get to the field 15 minutes before the game, listen to adults complain for two hours and you go home. My dad and I used to umpire together. We did it for several reasons. We both had a love for the game and enjoyed being a small part of allowing kids the opportunity to develop that same passion for baseball. Also, it allowed us to spend time together and the little bit of money we made meant we could go out to dinner on the way home.
Being an umpire is nothing compared to be a coach. As a coach, you don’t go away. You have a cell phone that will ring constantly. I get more text messages than my teenage daughter. I need to create a “Hate Mail” folder in my email inbox. I have coached baseball at the recreation level through high school and have seen it happen at all levels.
I don’t need to list specifics because it’s ridiculous. I am sure you have heard them all anyway. Obviously, the most common complaint is about playing time. People will do and say anything they can because of a perceived vendetta against their son. It truly brings out the worst in people.
By now, I am sure you are thinking, “Why doesn’t this crybaby just stop coaching?”
When you watch the kids celebrate a victory with huge smiles on their faces, it’s worth it. When a kid comes up to you and says, “Hey Coach! I tried the thing you showed me at practice and I went 4-for-4”, it’s worth it. When you see the kid that sits the bench more than anyone come through for his team, it’s worth it.
Most coaches will try to keep a positive attitude even when dealing with negative adults because the reward is worth it. Call it selfish, but seeing the kids enjoying success and developing a love for the game makes me smile. That’s why I coach.
To start the drill, one player plays a normal third base position. One player will be stationed at each remaining base, straddling the bag, as if they are ready to make a tag. Extra players will line up in foul territory near third base.
- Coach (C) hits ground ball to third baseman (P1)
- P1 fields ground ball, throws to P2 and follows his throw, replacing P2 at second base
- P2 throws to P3 and follows his throw, replacing P3 at first base
- P3 throws to P4 and follows his throw, replacing P4 at home plate
- P4 flips the ball to the coach and goes to the back of the line in foul territory near third base