The Little League Coach"/>
After hosting the Florida State Championships, there is no doubt in my mind that the Little League International tournament is the Granddaddy of them all. I know there are a number of other organizations out there, but none equal the Little League tournament. Let’s take a look at the other options.
First, there are other league options out there. I won’t list them by name, but we all know of another organization that offers children an option to play. They also have international tournaments of sorts, but nothing on the scale of the Little League tournament. However, the one thing that makes them less genuine than the Little League tournament is that there is no need to win to advance.
Teams that do not win their local tournaments are allowed to advance in other organizations. Hardly a reason to win any more is there? In Little League you have to win your District, then your Section, then your State, then your Region and THEN you are in the World Series! You have to perform to advance, not simply do “good enough.”
Ironic, that many call Little League “feel good” or “league ball.” First, you have to make the All-Star team in your LOCAL and WELL DEFINED AND ENFORCED league boundaries, and then you have to win to advance! While tournament organizations may offer better teams to compete against and I encourage everyone wishing to improve their game to play these tournaments, they are simply about the money, plain and simple, pay and you can play.
Want to make it to a state tournament in a tournament organization? Pay the fee, you are in. There is one organization that holds numerous state championships in the great state of Florida. Huh? Isn’t there supposed to be only one state champion? And the World Series? Same teams that compete in the local and state championships and every team has numerous “guest” players on their roster.
Again, I think you should play in these, but still no requirement to actually earn you way into them or win to advance. In fact, the same thing that these organizations say about Little League how it is “feel good” is practiced in these organizations as they have multiple levels of state champions! Good for us, for sure, we usually are in the silver bracket, but certainly nothing compared to the “win or go home” that exists at EVERY level of the Little League tournament.
Anybody can get a bunch of great players together and go win a tournament, not a real challenge there. But let’s see you accomplish the things our leagues have done here. In our league, we have only 300 kids yet we have 3 district champions, 1 runner up, and 2 sectional runner ups. Our neighboring league had 2 sectional champions AND a state championship runner up, they have about 120 kids or so. Now that is an accomplishment!
Meanwhile, next week we will all sit down to watch the ONLY true World Series Championship tournament on the planet. We can watch with confidence knowing EVERY team from 8 regions in the United States and 8 regions in the rest of the world will come from 1 local league, have won their district, section, state, and region, and will have worked to earn their position in the Little League World Series!
Now there is a true international tournament!
I used to be pretty good at golf, had my handicap down to 9, was MVP on the “B” team at Stoneleigh Golf Club in Round Hill, VA and held “executive staff meetings” every Friday morning on the course. Paid for by a vendor of course! Then I had kids! And poof, no time for golf, I discovered coaching!
My parents raised me on the golf course. From the age of 5 I was thrown on the back of the cart, given a sawed off club, and told to keep up. See, I was a pleasant surprise, my parents were supposed to be done raising kids and, “poof”, there I was! This turned out to be a great thing for my golf game as learning at an early age is truly the best way.
Another thing that can make your game great is good Golf Clubs. Some of my favorite clubs are Cleveland golf wedges. I love flying high over a trap and sticking the ball right next to a pin. And the once a year I do it, it is the greatest feeling in the world! No matter what degree wedge you are looking for, you won’t find one better than Clevelands. They also have a full line of putters, drivers, and hybrids.
So, I continue to count the bittersweet days until I have more time to work my golf game. This time I am getting the handicap to 5 with Cleveland at my side!
You hear life coaches talk about it all the time. “Get out of your comfort zone, the good stuff makes you nervous” etc and it is true. But in baseball/softball there is an addition dimension to this expression. Don’t be afraid to succeed!
See, the harder you work at this game, the harder it becomes. “It’s not football” said Jessica Mendoza during the regionals in the College World Series last weekend. She said this in reference to a player who was in a bit of a slump and had been pressing. Only pressing in softball just makes it harder! Her point was, if it was football you could just play harder, exert more energy and run over your opponent, but trying that in softball simply makes it harder.
At the younger ages I see kids so afraid to fail that they don’t give themselves a chance to succeed. You see it all the time, Johnny is so afraid of striking out that he doesn’t even swing hoping for a walk and then he ends up striking out anyway. Jenny is so afraid of not making contact that instead of taking a rip and driving the ball she just makes a weak effort that doesn’t even get past the pitcher, 1-3, easy out.
So how do we as coaches encourage them to overcome this fear? Well, the answer is simple actually. Make it OK to fail! If the kid isn’t afraid to fail, they will inevitably succeed! It is almost magic. As they learn to succeed, suddenly they swing with power, make plays with confidence, and begin to win on a regular basis. All because you made it ok to fail in the first place.
Ok, I admit it, I have never ridden a horse! I had a great softball player one time who decided she wanted to lead the Equestrian Life, but I never really got it. I know on my favorite show Mad Men Donald Draper’s wife was hanging out riding with her friends, they seemed to enjoy it.
If I did right, I think I would be a major customer of the Manhatten Saddlery company thought. You can get riding apparel here. It appears they have everything the avid equestrian would need including boots, chaps, tack and saddles. They have some really cool new pics for Manhattan Saddlery as well.
I do admit I watch the equestrian events in the Olympics and act like I am a pro. I actually enjoy the steeple chase events and I always watch the Kentucky Derby. This year we have a triple crown contender as well, so I believe the sport is alive and well. So if you ride, make sure you visit Manhattan Saddlery.
So, I am sitting in the parking lot after practice tonight and up pulls a kid in a little white car. I hear, “is that Mr. McBride”. After confirming my presence, a proud voice announces, “thought you would like to know that a DeBary Little League Alum just got an offer for a scholarship today”. Upon further investigation, I learned that the scholarship was from a quality mid-major school in South Florida and the scout had seen him play this last weekend in a tournament game.
He went on to tell me that he chose not to play high school baseball this year because he felt he had a better opportunity playing on a showcase tournament team than on a high school team. I don’t know, don’t really care either way, that is an argument for another time not fit for an article really, but more a four-hour debate at Mickey Finns.
What did I take from this interaction? First, the kid sought me out because he was PROUD of what he had accomplished. Second, the kid was only a junior! Third, he carved out his own path. He has no idea if he will accept this offer or if he will pursue other offers, but he knows whatever he does, it will be done on his terms, not on anyone else’s! We should all learn a life lesson from this young man!
Every day I hear “you have to do this to get on the high school team” or “you have to do that to get into college” or “you have to play on this team to get onto high school” or “if you don’t play on that team you don’t have a chance to do this or that or the other”. Know what they all are? EXCUSES!
Ever hear from someone who didn’t make a team? Those with egos that don’t allow them to be responsible for their own failures usually say something along the lines of “you have to be friends with him or her to get on the team” or “you have to have played on this team to be on that team”. All wrong. Hell, there are people in our league who say the only way to get on the DeBary Little League All-Star team is to play on the DeBary Dynamite, our tournament team! Nonsense! You really think that the coaches of the all-star, high school, or college team care who or where you played before? They want the nine best players they can get! Period! End of story!
Now, you don’t have to agree with their choices. That is the great armchair debate, but don’t tell me you have to play somewhere to end up on a particular team. That is nonsense! All-star coaches aren’t even paid, so you are going to tell me that a paid high school or college coach cares about anything other than your skills? Their job is on the line! You think they are not going to teach you how to play the game the way they want the game played? One thing any good coach knows is give him an athlete and he will teach him how to play the game. So pick a coach you think will teach you the most where you enjoy playing and stick with that team!
If you want to play high school, play high school. If you want to play tournaments, play tournaments. If you want to play college, figure out how to get in front of the coaches. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do, do what you want! Nobody can be responsible for you but YOU! Why be miserable somewhere else when you can have fun playing where you want to and STILL get to where you want to go!
So from now on, don’t tell me you have to take a certain path to success. Figure out where you want to go, figure out how you will get there, then execute your plan flawlessly! Don’t let others intimidate or bully you, do it YOUR WAY. As Frank Sinatra said, “I did it mmmmmyyyyyyyy wayyyyyyyyy”.
The Wizardsof the field never cease to amaze me. The original Wizard, back flipp
ing Ozzie Smith, was amazing. Always where he was supposed to be, always finding a way to make a play, always being in the right place at the right time, earning him the moniker of “The Wizard”.
I see this every day in youth sports as well and it is something impossible to understand. Why do some kids just “get it” and react and know what they are supposed to do, while others take longer to develop the same skills? If there was a way to identify “The Wizards” in advance, it would be a great asset, but you never know, they just appear.
Some are just blessed with God given instincts I supposed, while others must work and work and work just to get to the same level as “The Wizards”. This is something we may never understand, but boy, how sweet is it to sit back and watch a Wizard perform?
Off-Season clinics are a great way for your league to help hone skills. When I used to coach back in freezing cold Virginia (Yeah I know it was 27 here in FL last night, but you get it) we would have our teams together year round by renting indoor facilities. They were very often inexpensive and rather than rent the cages w/ machines we would rent a basic empty net and hold our own practices inside. As a league, you can often work deals with the indoor facility because they are happy to have so many kids in there, they will probably come back.
Fortunately, in Florida, we have warm enough weather year round to keep training. We hold a clinic once a week on Thursdays alternating hitting one week and fielding the next. Tomorrow we do hitting, last week it was fielding. This not only hones the kids skills, it keeps their interest in the game and keeps us in communication with the parents.
Remember, as with any practice or clinic, the focus must be on FUNdamentals and FUN. Otherwise, the kids won’t come back. They always remember the last thing they did, so end it with a game! We had the largest relay race in history last week w/ each team having over 20 players. Took probably 5 minutes, but you should have seen how they pulled together, cheered, and enjoyed the evening. Kids, parents, and coaches all left with smiles on our faces.
Oh, by the way, any comments on Urban Meyer’s resignation today?
I will admit it! With my son making his first all-star team and my girls playing again on the Junior Softball All-Star team practices every night from 6PM to 10PM have completely exhausted me! I was ready for it to be over. I sat in my favorite watering hole last night and could barely hold my eyes open much less think of answers to the challenging trivia questions being posed!
Then came today. 100 degrees in the shade and I am in full umpire’s gear umping a Little League Division Softball All-Star game. The first of the international tournament that ends in late August with the crowning of the Champion of the World! You would think I was miserable wouldn’t you? Completely exhausted, nothing left, practice after grueling practice, but no! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
Time to get fired up! Reinvigorated! This is what we work so hard all year for! So to every Little League team out there, GOOD LUCK! All your hard work has paid off and it is time to show your stuff! And to every Little League volunteer out there who thanklessly give of themselves so our children can enjoy this experience, THANK YOU!
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
I have never really been the most popular guy on the planet. But, one thing I have always earned, is respect. This past year you may have noticed I have been missing in action here. I used to write every day about what was going on in my life on the field, but I stopped. Why? Because I didn’t want to hurt any feelings.
That’s right. Rick the Giant Ass tried to play nice-nice. And what did it get me? Nothing. The ones I tried to appease left angry anyway, and the ones that stood by and believed in me paid the price. Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing but good intentions.
Had I written all year about the daily activities of the league, my teams, and my players, I would have had to of called out a lot of people for behaving badly. Character would have been questioned, doubt raised, and conflict would have been inevitable. Funny thing is, those same people fought with me all year any way! And now, they have removed themselves from my life. All I did was compromise my principles in order to delay inevitable conflict!
My wife said it best, she said, “Why are you trying to make everyone happy all of a sudden? Go back to being an a**hole and at least then you are true to yourself and your core beliefs”. Wow! Sometimes we simply need a smack in the face don’t we? Don’t get me wrong, I feel that I am a fun loving great guy, but not everyone sees me that way. Go figure.
One of the coaches I respect a great deal told me like this. I asked him how he dealt with the irate, the disrespectful, and those with total disregard for authority. His reply? “I’m pretty much a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy”. He added, “I will tell them, ‘yeah that’s one way to do it, but it’s not how we are going to do it here’”. I love it!
Of course this doesn’t mean I am not open to new ideas, creative concepts, and individual motivational mechanisms. In fact, I am the kind of guy who likes to delegate authority and sit back and enjoy how inspiring the human spirit can be! There is nothing better than teaching a kid how to do something and then sitting back and enjoying watching them succeed. The same applies to coaches and parents. But from this point forward:
-I will NEVER compromise my integrity again.
-I will stand strong and believe in all my positions.
-I will be open to new ideas but decisive about whether to institute them.
-I will empower all those around me.
-I will praise extraordinary effort.
-I will not accept sub par effort.
-I will not permit disrespect of any kind.
-I will give those that earn it respect.
-I will not tolerate insubordination.
-I will have a plan and execute it.
-I will be honest and straight forward when delivering information someone may not want to hear.
-I will be true to my players, my league, my team, and myself.
Even with 20 years of experience, it is possible to fall into a self inflicted trap. At least I recognized the error of my ways and hope to never repeat it.
I received a letter today from Anthony Gonzalez, the Acting City Manager of the City of DeBary. The letter is welcoming me to the “DeBary Strategic Planning Steering Committee”. As a member of the committee we will help the city council and mayor determine their strategic planning for the city. The first meeting will be held Saturday the 20th, at 9AM. I guess I am about to get an education in local politics!
From the Little League’s perspective, the number one priority in my mind is making sure that the new parking lot gets built at Sullivan Park. Do you have any ideas for what direction the city should be steered into? I would love to hear about it.Next Page »