Balancing coaching duties, time with family a difficult task


Youth sports

April 15, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- I have recently begun coaching baseball at the high school level, but I am concerned about the effects on my children. As any fan of the game, I want my children to grow up loving and playing baseball. What advice can you give a dad who coaches about keeping his children interested in a game that will certainly take him away from them?

Andrew McNamar,

Everett, Wash.

DEAR ANDREW -- I'm guessing that you'd like to be more involved in your children's baseball development, but that your practices and games often interfere.

When you are able to be with them on the baseball field, you probably are more than willing to help out in hopes of making the experience more enjoyable for them, but don't want to step on the toes of their coaches.

If you really enjoy coaching, you are going to have to make family sacrifices at times. But, as your children get older, they will have the benefit of being able to hang out with you at practice and be around the game quite a bit.

Young kids like to please their parents, so if you show a love for the game, there's a good chance they will develop that same feeling for the sport.

For now, make sure that your limited baseball experiences with them are fun. Play home run derby or some other fun baseball-related game in the backyard on weekends; play baseball video games or share a fantasy baseball team with them; watch games on television with them and explain the rules and strategies; buy them baseball cards and take them to see local college or professional teams play.

Try to make them feel like they are a part of your high school team by giving them a team hat and maybe even a small jersey to wear to your games and allowing them to be the bat boy or bat girl if they are old enough.

Then, be sure to play catch with them or pitch to them after your game is over. And, when you do get to their practices and games, make sure they know you are there, encourage them and be excited that they are playing.

DEAR CAL -- My 12-year-old son is an extremely strong ballplayer and was always interested in baseball, but after one season of travel ball and a bad coach he no longer is interested in playing. How do I encourage him to continue the game without pushing him too hard?

Don Parkinson,

Kingston, Ontario

DEAR DON -- Situations such as the one you describe unfortunately seem to arise quite a bit when the word "travel" is associated with a sport. For some reason, many coaches and parents feel that travel teams should place a greater emphasis on winning.

Often at even the youngest age levels, parents and players are faced with the prospect of competing for playing time and possibly spending more time on the bench than on the field.

While I am a firm believer that the goal of youth baseball should be to develop baseball players - even at the travel level - and not to win ballgames, the reality is that many coaches make winning the top priority at the expense of player development.

The good news is that these days, even when it comes to travel ball, you have plenty of options. Since your son has played on his current team for a couple of years and probably has developed many friendships, for his sake I would recommend having a private conversation with his coach.

Explain your son's feelings and any feelings that you might have and see if you can work with the coach to come up with a solution that is acceptable to everyone.

If that doesn't work out, there may be other travel programs within driving distance that would embrace your son, but make sure that the team you choose has a coach whose philosophy is going to mesh with your expectations.

A third option would be to let your son play in a less-competitive recreational program in which he would be one of the dominant players. That may allow him to assume a leadership role, regain his confidence, have more fun and revive his feelings about the sport.

If you are concerned about the level of play and the effect it might have on his skills, you might want to look into working with him more yourself or purchasing some private lessons for him to help keep his skills sharp.

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