I need to begin by saying, "I'm no saint" when it comes to kids sports. I've yelled at my sons during practices and games, including one time when I yelled so loud at my son Tyler that a few dads asked me to take a seat in the dugout to relax. Talk about embarrassing.
This past year, in a Memorial Day baseball tournament, I went semi-ballistic over what I thought was a missed balk call. The umpire, basically, told me to shut up or he'd run me. I shut up.
But later in the spring when I complained to my dad about a Little League coach who intimidated an umpire, my father (as always) was quick to point out, "Was it worse than when you argued the balk call?" My answer was, "Uh, no." Thanks, Pop.
So I make mistakes and, if there's a silver lining to my confession it's that I am usually overcome with guilt immediately. The point is, I know better.
It's so basic, isn't it? The games are for the kids. The games are supposed to be fun. There's really no reason to yell at a kid unless he's really misbehaving or possibly going to injure someone. I honestly believe this to be true, and try really hard to live up to it...even though I fail sometimes.
I do have my good qualities (in my own humble opinion) as a coach. I'm steadfast in my belief that baseball is a game that kids can only play well when they're relaxed. So I am pretty good at keeping kids loose (maybe not as good with my own sons) and staying positive.
I'm also pretty good at letting the kids decide the game. I've never been big on the "hands-on" youth baseball coaches. The guys who, in my opinion, turn the game into Kid vs. Adult rather than Kid vs. Kid. In all my years of coaching town-level Little League I've never told a kid not to swing the bat. In other words, there's no "take" sign. We do try to teach a kid that if he's going to swing at, say, a 3-and-0 pitch, he should be taking a good swing, not a defensive swing.
It's my personal philosophy (it's okay if you disagree) that it's my job as a youth coach to try and help the kids improve their baseball skills. Honestly, I do not think I need to teach a kid how to draw a walk. I've had a lot of my less-talented kids through the years make their best contact on 3-0 pitches, when the pitcher is trying to put the ball right over the plate. Pretty elementary.
I've got other philosophies, but I won't bore you with them.
But the point of today's blog is simply that, more and more it seems to me that the only people capable of ruining kids sports are adults. In recent weeks I've seen:
* A U-11 soccer game called at halftime due to rain, with the score 0-0. OK, fine that the game was called (even though there was no lightning), but then the league officials declared that the game was "official." Now, shouldn't these officials have asked the coaches of the two teams how they felt about that ruling? Don't you think, maybe, the kids wanted to play a full-game? If the coaches were able to get their kids to the field, either for a replay or a resumption, shouldn't the league have given that the ok? Nope. Of course, there was something in writing, in the bylaws or whatever they're called, to back the league's stance. Blech. Let the kids play.
* A U-14 soccer game where a team, depleted by injuries, down to 10 men, was forced to play, even when one coach asked the other ahead of time if they could re-schedule. "No," the coach responded. "Show up and play with 10, or forfeit." Think that coach asked his players, A. How they would feel about a forfeit, or even, B. How they felt about playing a depleted team? My guess is that the kids would've voted for playing against a full-team. Maybe I'm wrong. Doubt it.