Mountains: Setting Player Expectations

Below is a handout that I gave to prospective players during an off-season meeting. I drew it up about 6 years ago. Simply, it describes the types of players needed to have a successful program.  I also like to share this at the pre-season parent meeting. I guess it would be similar to the classic, John Wooden “Pyramid of Success”.  The link below has a great printable version of Wooden’s “Pyramid”.

http://www.coachwooden.com/

 

Bulldog Baseball Player Types

Mountain- a champion, dedicated student, serious about weights, encourages others, involved in other sports, + leader, goes to camps, always relaxed & focused, wants to do extra, bottom line is “will help the team”

Rock- good student, does lift weights, occasional detention for tardy, sometimes satisfied with performance, plays summer ball, could be a leader but sometimes chooses not to be, bottom line is “won’t hurt the team”

Gravel- up & down student, very seldom in the weightroom, In School Suspension, frequent detentions for preventable reasons, leadership is limited to weekend party locations, plays summer ball, bottom line is “if things are going well he’s fine; if things get rough he may jump ship and point fingers”

Dust- MUST BE ELIMINATED, poor student, no weights,  In School Suspension, Out of School Suspension, constant detentions, KO of classes, talks a good game, may be very athletically gifted (not willing to be coached), party scene is central focus, nothing extra beyond the season, bottom line is “he will destroy team concept”

 Where do you fit?

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BOOSTERS, NOT ROOSTERS: Parental Support During Games

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

-Herm Albright

 foghorn-3Parents can work with you or against you.  Do not forget when you play at home they’re there, and when you go on the road they follow.  I’m not knocking fan support, because I adore it.  Although, I am knocking fan detriment.  I want as many parents at our games as possible.  I want them to come to our games and enjoy seeing their young man or young lady represent his school and town to the best of his or her ability.  I also want them to support the other players on the team and the program as a whole.  No one needs a college of coaches in the stands that criticize players, coaches, and officials. Talk about bush league, that’s the worst.

            At the beginning of a season I host a parent meeting.  I require players to have someone to represent them at this meeting.  A mom or dad may not be able to attend in some cases. So I tell my player to get an alternate, like a sibling or a grandparent.  I’ve never had a parent meeting last longer than a half an hour.  The discussion topics are the team rules for players, the schedule, travel procedure for road contests, and parent expectations.  That’s right, parent expectations. I expect them to be part of the team.  My rules for them are:

1)   Be positive at home.

2)   Don’t address officials.

3)   Be a booster, not a rooster.

            Be positive at home.  Parents need to cultivate the team concept at home when their son or daughter is not around me.  If his or her child comes home after striking out 3 times, he/she doesn’t need someone talking down to them.  Nobody feels worse than the player. As well, maybe someone’s child didn’t play that day.  Of course, that kid feels bad about it. I’d be disappointed in a player of mine that didn’t. A parent that tears down the coach or another player to give their son some false pride isn’t sending a very good message.  Parents at home need to encourage their boys when times are good and bad.  Encouraging their children to work harder at practice and be more involved in off-season activities is the best thing a parent can do. 

            Don’t address officials.  If something needs to be said to an umpire, I will say it.  I have only seen rude and obnoxious comments from the stands work to the advantage of the other team.  You think the strike zone was tight before, just wait.  Umpires are human. There is no instant replay.  We must live with their calls.  99% of them are trying their hardest to be impartial.  If an umpire is hustling and calling the game consistently for both teams, no one can complain.  I feel there are good and bad times for a coach to talk to the umpire about calls.  There are no good times for parents to do so. 

            Be a booster, not a rooster.  I make mistakes. We all do. Hopefully, we learn from them.   No coach needs some know-it-all former little league coach critiquing his every move. Those type of parents are like pussy cats waiting to pounce on a mouse.  They view the game with negative glasses.  And like a rooster at 5 AM, begin cackling their head off with some foolish coaching advice.  No one in the crowd is impressed.  In fact most of the other parents separate themselves from that type of fan.  These roosters always like to crow at the worst possible time. For example, during a regional game, after a lead-off double, I had a player wander too far off 2nd base on a ball hit in front of him and get caught in rundown.  Prior to the miscue, I said all of the right things to him to remind him of the situation, and of course he acknowledged me. We all know the teenage mind is one of mystery, and he did the wrong thing.  In the rooster’s head, I’m sure he was elated.  He began to ruffle his feathers, stick out his chest, and crow sarcastically, “Nice goin’ coach, way to teach base-running.”  He was right. It was a poor base running play.  I was sure excited that he pointed it out and so was the player and his parents, I’m sure.  We went on to get 5 hits, 2 stolen bases, and score 3 runs that inning.  He shouted no compliments for our team. We went on to win the game 5-1 an advance to the regional championship.  The rooster had magically turned into a hen. Encourage your parents to disagree with you in private.  Shouting disapproval during a game helps no one.rooster

            A parent meeting is really an attempt to preempt any miscommunications between the parents and the coach.  Your expectations for your players are made clear on an in person basis.  A coach that hosts a parent meeting will find that he has a more positive relationship with the parents than the coach that neglects to do so.  The parents will be more likely to give you help when you need it.  As well, they will support you on disciplinary issues with players, because the rules were explained clearly ahead of time.

DIRTY LAUNDRY: How a Coach Should Deal with Player and Parent Problems

“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

 Yogi Berra

 

            At some point, unfortunately, all coaches run into problems with players and/or their parents.  Some problems are major issues and some minor ones.  A well-prepared coach has a set procedure to deal with these occurrences head-on.  If problems are not dealt with quickly, assertively, and tactfully, they will boil over onto the field.  When this happens, the exact cause isn’t always apparent to the objective eye.  Although, the bush league atmosphere will be apparent.

            If a player has broken a training rule, has poor grades, has a poor attitude, or has done anything that clashes with team rules or my coaching philosophy, I feel compelled to say something.  Sweeping a problem under the rug only allows the problem to fester and become worse.  Too often, coaches try to ignore things.  I understand that as coaches of young people we must pick our battles, but you know how it goes, “give an inch, they’ll take a mile”. For example, I am a stickler about players being on time.  If I ignore the lateness of one player, the message is then sent throughout the program that it’s OK to be a couple minutes late. Pretty soon another player is late. Then, players start coming 10 or 15 minutes late.  Talk about “bush”. 

           I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t handle the situation on the spot.  The best way to handle most problems with players is in PRIVATE. Private can be behind closed doors or at practice 20 feet away from the rest of the team. Berating players with a loud, foul tone in front of the rest of the team may work once, but it will soon create an air of hostility.  Handling things one on one tells the player that you’re focused on his issues and his correction for the sake of the team, not embarrassment.  I have a friend that was also a high school baseball coach.  He was a great first half of the season coach. I know this because we used to play his teams twice each season, once at the very beginning of the season and once at the end.  When we saw his team the first time they looked sharp.  They were focused.  When this coach said jump they’d say, “How high?” Then during the progression of the season, his supposedly constructive criticisms became louder and more public.  When we’d play them at the end of the season, the players seemed skittish during pre-game warm-ups, as though they were walking on glass.  The moment one player would make a mistake this coach would verbally jump all over the guilty party.  This continued throughout the game.  His players lacked enthusiasm and were having no fun.  Rarely did he pull a player off to the side and “talk” to the player.  I’m not saying that he had to be a teddy bear, but people run from grizzly bears.

          The next scenario is when someone has a problem with you and your coaching.  Typically, the problems that I’m referring to are in relationship to playing time. Usually the problem is related to playing time.  Hell, I’d be disappointed in a player if he/she didn’t want to play more.  My first step is to address the players and parents at the parent meeting at the beginning of the season.  I feel that it is much easier to anticipate potential problems and not have any, than is it to not prepare for problems and then have to deal with them.  Our team’s procedure has 3 steps:

 

1)   I want to hear it from the player 1st, not the parent.  I want the player to approach me one on one, before or after practice.  If something is bothering a player enough, he or she should be mentally tough enough to address it with the coach. I will not discuss an issue on the phone.  On the phone, people say things they don’t mean.  As well, words are misinterpreted via lack of visible body language.  If the parent approaches me about a pressing issue, and it is the first time that I’m being made aware of it, I politely tell the parent that their son or daughter has not brought that to my attention. I then add that I would like their son or daughter to see me in private prior to the next practice. Until then, it is not a discussion point.

 

2)   After the player has addressed the problem with me, if he is not satisfied, I will make an appointment to meet with the player and the parent(s).   95% of the time it will not come to this.  Most players accept what you tell them during the one to one meeting if you give them honest reasons.  But keep in mind that that not everyone shares your perspective, honest or not.  The biggest and most important rule in this situation is to not discuss other players on the team during this meeting.  If you allow this to happen, the parent will quickly compare his kid to every player in the line-up.  As opposed to being a supporter of the team, the parent will tear down the skill and ability of any given player ahead of his/her child own on the depth chart.  The proper way to conduct the meeting is to focus in on what his/her child can do to improve.

 

3)   If there is no resolution to the problem at this point, I advise the parent to make an appointment with the athletic director or principal of the school.  In a school situation this option exists.  It really should only be used for emergency situations.  School administrators should have more important things to do than worry about who’s playing 3rd base and hitting 5th for the baseball or softball team.  You want to maintain the support of the administration.  Only involve them in very difficult situations.  They will appreciate it.

 

            By following this procedure, the number of peripheral issues that can distract a team will be filtered.  A player will think twice before going home after practice and griping, because parents’ initial reaction will become, “Did you talk to your coach about it?” If the player answers, “No,” then reflection upon the validity of the problem goes on in the player’s head.  Upon reflection, if it is still a problem to one of my players I want to help them figure it out. That’s part of building a cohesive “non-bush league” team.