I was having a discussion with a friend of mine earlier today. He is a fellow Baseball Father. His son is a tremendous 9-year old baseball player.
We were talking about Coaching and whether or not coaches are actually coaching kids or are they taking advantage of the kids on the other team.
Let me explain.
His son plays travel baseball in the greater Philadelphia area and does not play on a rec team. They travel up and down the Coast and, so far, as far West as Indiana. Because they play on Travel teams, the rules are a bit different. It’s basically the same rules as the MLB.
Usually, 9-year old baseball has rules such as; no leading before the pitch, you can’t run to first on a dropped third strike and every kid must play at least 2 innings in the infield. The Travel teams he plays with have none of these rules.
Coaching or Taking Advantage of Kids?
The discussion was about kids that get a secondary lead off of third base after a pitch is thrown.
The pitch is thrown, the catcher makes the catch and throws it back to the pitcher. The pitcher receives the ball and then turns around to walk back to the mound. The coach sees this opportunity and tells his player to run home. Run scores. The coach is a genius, the kid is an idiot.
Obviously that is absolutely not true. But the coach surely thinks he is King of the game. And the 9-year old pitcher thinks he is the dumbest person on the planet.
Is that what we are going for with 9-year old baseball?
My friend suggested that this is a grown man taking advantage of a 9-year old boy. The coach told his 9-year old baserunner what to do and therefore it was no longer 9-year old vs. 9-year old. It was grown man vs. 9-year old. Not a fair matchup.
Don’t tell kids what to do, instead teach them how to play.
What we need to do as coaches is stop telling our kids what to do but rather let them do it themselves. Isn’t that the idea behind 9-year old baseball? To teach our kids how to play the game and not to teach them to listen for our instructions.
We should be coaching the kids in practice and off to the side when the opportunity is presented. We should teach them the things to look for and build within them the confidence to take a risk, like running home when the pitcher has the ball.
It’s fine if the runner knows the game well enough to know that he has the opportunity to run home if the pitcher turns his back to him. That is 9-year old vs. 9-year old. The pitcher will still feel bad, you can’t fix that. But at least he’ll be playing on an equal playing field.
I realize travel baseball is a different animal. It gets crazy. The talent is superior and the stakes are higher. The pressure to win is higher as well. But these are still 9-year olds or 10 -year olds. 11, 12, 13-year olds…I’m not sure what the cutoff is. But what I do know is that we should be looking for any and every opportunity to positively teach a child.
Lessons should be taught on a practice field and in the dugout rather than instructions given in the field of play.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Or do you have a no holds barred attitude towards coaching?
I welcome any comments.