Set up a meeting away from the court to address parents' critiques

ASK CAL

Youth Sports

March 18, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- I coach a girls basketball team. One of the parents has a habit of critiquing my performance and the girls' play after every game. I've tried to be patient and thanked him for his input, but he has become increasingly frustrated with my coaching decisions as the season has progressed. Is there a way to tactfully deal with this situation without it turning into a shouting match?

John Stevens, Towson

DEAR JOHN -- I would invite this parent to lunch at a quiet venue away from the court. Think about how you would broach the subject in advance.

If you value this person's opinion and it helps your coaching, then you can say that. But it's not the right time or place to do it immediately after the game. If he would like to meet privately, you could start to set up those kind of meetings. My guess is this is an outlet for the parent and he needs to get it off his chest.

If the parent has good information to give, it would be beneficial to you to meet on a regular basis. And, if you really value the information and like him enough, maybe you could ask him to be an assistant coach.

On the other hand, if you don't value the information provided, then you might take a different approach. Still take him out to lunch and then be honest with your feelings. Tell him that you are trying to do the best job you can and that his input is starting to take the joy out of coaching, which ultimately is going to have an impact on the kids. Then tell him that you would rather not have him do that.

Either way, set up a meeting away from the court so that the emotions have calmed down and the discussion can be private and meaningful. And be sure to prepare for it the way you would prepare for any other meeting.

DEAR CAL -- I will be coaching in a player-pitch league for the first time this spring. Never having pitched, I want to ensure I provide proper pitching technique to my players. What are the best fundamentals I can emphasize?

RJ Stanley, Sykesville

DEAR RJ -- Our pitching guru, John Habyan, has developed a way to communicate the different mechanics of pitching to kids to make it easy for them to understand.

He breaks down pitching into five parts that he calls the links of the chain. The five links are covered in our instructional books and DVDs, which can be found at www.ripkenbaseball.com. Articles from our free e-newsletter, Parent and Coach Clipboard, also available on our Web site, have covered many aspects of pitching mechanics as well.

You need to develop an understanding of what the basics are, then come up with a simpler way to communicate them to the kids.

When I first teach kids the fundamentals of pitching, I look at the five links of the chain as simply as this: stand on the rubber at a 45-degree angle; take a small step back so you don't lose your balance; put your foot in front of the rubber and turn it; lift your front leg up; point your front shoulder toward the target; and release the ball.

That sounds oversimplified, but when you break down the five links and look in books that discuss the more advanced mechanics of pitching, all you are trying to do is communicate that same sort of method in a way that kids can understand.

Kids don't always grasp the more advanced terminology such as the balance position and "loading up," so you have to simplify the message. You want to teach your kids to use their bodies to throw the ball to home plate. That's what pitching mechanics are all about: using the body to help the arm throw the ball with more velocity and accuracy.

So educate yourself about the mechanics and test yourself to try to find a way to communicate that to a younger group. That's the fun part of coaching.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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