Cure for the Forgettful? : Positive Discipline

This is really a fun post. I’m a stickler for team rules and discipline, but I want to give credit to a coaching friend for this one.  After a varsity baseball practice our sophomores were taking the field and the coach, Mr. Ryan Pierce, found the glove of one of my players. My first reaction was to make that player run the next day, but Coach Pierce had a better remedy. 

“I’ve got the cure for this,” he said.

I thought, ‘I’ll see what he’s got in mind.’

The next day he showed up to practice with that glove, covered in the most interesting array of pre-pubescent stickers in the history of Nickelodeon.  When that player saw his glove, he laughed. His teammates laughed. The coaches laughed.  Coach Pierce turned a negative into a positive. Needless to say, that player has not forgotten his glove to this day.

I have since adopted this policy. Below are some recent victims….. I mean players that were in need of discipline.

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It’s become a family event at my house. As you will see, my 4 year old daughter really enjoys artistic expression on varsity gloves.

I guess the point is, to be disciplined, yet find ways to have fun with it.  There are ways to make your point with out blowing your stack.  Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that every so often, the bear needs to growl, but if the bear growls too often, it loses meaning.

DON’T PACK UP EARLY

 “Never do today what you can as well do tomorrow, because something may occur may occur to make to make you regret your premature action.”

-Aaron Burr

This one is part respect for your opponent and part superstition.  I guess the old saying about not counting your chickens comes to mind.  With only one inning left in the game, sometimes players get the bug to start packing up the equipment bags as though they are in some sort of hurry to leave.  Maybe they’ve got a hot date or something.  This is never a good idea whether a team is either winning or losing. 

In the lead, it is extremely disrespectful to your opponent to start packing up in anticipation of a victory.  And who wants to give the other team added motivation to come back and beat you? Not me.  When behind, a player that packs up gear is showing disrespect to his own team.  This type of player sends a “we suck, we can’t come back” message  to his teammates.  This should never be tolerated.  Hopefully, another player will see this poor display in action and convey the proper message to the not-so-sharp player.  Otherwise, it will be up to the coach to explain the situation.  I have found that a little extra cardiovascular activity will typically remedy this type of behavior.

Some people are more superstitious about baseball than others.  “Early gear packing” seems to be a big one.  I can remember coaches and players saying that this habit was taboo for years.  I suppose the fear is that some innocent bench player that is just trying to be tidy will upset the baseball gods.  In turn, the gods will strike that team down with horrible luck.  Though, we all know teams make their own luck.  Besides, there are no baseball gods.  Right?

CARING FOR GRASS = CLASS: Caring for Your Baseball/Softball Field with Limited Resources

“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,”

-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

            One time during late August, I was sitting in a conference room at the IHSA office in Bloomington, Illinois. This is where the state advisory committee meets once a year.  It was an eclectic group of coaches from every corner of the state.  Sitting immediately to my right was a coach from a more affluent Chicago suburb.  He reminded me of Tony Soprano in stature and attitude, likeable but one that made me leery to approach. The previous spring, his team had won the 2A state title, when Illinois was only two classes, not four, as it is currently.  I knew this because, he was talking about it with some of the other suburban coaches that were congratulating him. Also, he was wearing a ring the size of a Volkswagen. It was really cool.  I sat back to listen to him speak.  Maybe I could pick up a pointer or some secret to get my team to that level.  I didn’t hear any secret strategies.  What I did hear was the difference in resources amongst schools his size and a school our size.  Our schools were in the same class despite his school having about 1,700 more students.   He was discussing their booster club that had a budget of $80,000 and that was strictly for baseball!  He discussed the 11 coaches on his staff.  In between my intermittent drooling episodes, I began to hear him discuss their field.  It sounded like a college field with the sprinkler system, stadium seating, new lighting, prescription dirt, and two other diamonds for the freshman and sophomore teams.   Then he mentioned the team of field maintenance men that kept the fields in tip-top shape.   We were competing in the same state class, but our worlds couldn’t have been further apart.  Now I don’t fault this coach for any of these differences.  He has a great job and does a great job utilizing the resources at his disposal.  He has the hardware to prove it.  My focus is on how the “have-nots”, which are more common than the program I just described, can do great things with very little capital.

            It is very easy for someone who comes from a program that has barrels of money to look at someone else’s diamond and say it’s “bush”.  Chances are that guy hasn’t picked up a rake since he’s been there.  His team of maintenance people who keep the field up are proof of that. The average coach must get his hands a little dirty in order to stay out of the bush category.  I’ll be the first to admit that 20 years ago our diamond was in that category.  For example, there were so many rocks in the infield we would occasionally walk around with buckets and collect them in order to get them off.  Also, for the first 90 years of our program’s existence we didn’t have dugouts.  We just put two wooden benches about 40 feet away from home plate to sit on.  Do you think that might have been a hair on the dangerous side? Hmmm, I wonder?  There’s nothing like dodging foul balls all afternoon. One season while playing as a freshman at my high school, I can remember a 4 foot mound of dirt that sat in the middle of right field.  I’m surprised other coaches didn’t just pack it up when they saw what a mess it was. 

            99% of all junior high and high school baseball fields leave something to be desired.  It’s really just like buying a house.  There’s always something to improve.  It’s just a matter of taking on the battles one at a time.  Improvement on our field began with a new prescription dirt surface.  The coaches that preceded me had seen it on other diamonds.  They lined up the equipment for excavation of the old dirt and spreading of the new.  Many times, jobs that require big equipment like trenchers or a backhoe require seeking volunteer time from local contractors.  More often than not they’re glad to do it.  Chances are they have a son or nephew that plays baseball. When everything was all done that diamond took rain better and was flatter than any in our conference.  Over the next 10 years, different improvements such as, a donated scoreboard, fenced in dugouts, a new backstop, and others were added. Some jobs are little, and some are huge. Here are some tips for getting them done:

1)   Find money from different avenues.   A school’s budget, fundraising, and seeking corporate donations, are all sources.  The first place to start is with your school or affiliated booster organization.  But don’t be surprised if you run into a brick wall when money is concerned.  The best way to approach them is with an organized proposal. Let them know that you’ve researched the most cost-effective way to get your pet project done.  Next, have a fundraiser.  There are a myriad of ideas out there for raising dollars. I’ve heard of everything from magazines sales to playing a 100 inning game.  Lastly, many corporations set money aside for donations.  Writing a few letters is never a bad idea.  Always address it to their “Community Relations Department”.  I have a friend who works for a nationally recognized insurance company.  He helped us received up to $250 every year.

2)   Do many of the cosmetic things yourself.  If you have a vision for the way your field should look, then get up and do it.  Cleaning up trash, weed trimming, straightening out edging, and painting are all economically miniscule projects that really require someone who is willing to work.

3)   Ask for help.  Parents, players, and school custodians are all your friends.  Some parents are dying to help you.  It gives them the same feeling of accomplishment that you get when a job is finished.  I had one parent that after a conversation with me fundraised over $2000 dollars on his own for an outdoor batting cage.  The players help put it up and take it down each season.   Ultimately, my favorite group of guys at our school is our custodians.  I don’t know what it is, but they love baseball.  They would much rather be working on a baseball field than be all kooked up in the school cleaning a chalkboard. In fact, one of our custodians coached a state champion summer league team.

Infield Pop-up Responsibility

There is nothing worse than when two or even three players are standing in the same area and a pop fly drops between them.  It is so demoralizing for a team. It can change the momentum of a game.  Outs are precious.  The defense can’t give them away.  This unfortunate event is typically the result of  one or more of the following three things:

  1. Lack of communication
  2. Lack of knowledge of responsibility
  3. Lack of leadership on the field

  • A pop-up on the infield is the responsibility of all infielders until someone takes charge
  • You can never yell too loud
  • It’s OK to call “Ball” too early; never too late
  • On pop-ups bordering two zones, the player further away from home plate trumps
    • Outfielders trump 2B & SS
    • SS trumps 3B
    • 2B trumps 1B
    • 3B & 1B trump C
  • P should only have to field pop-ups on the front of the mound area
  • P should direct traffic by calling the name of the player in the best position to catch the ball