Tag Archives: high school sports

How Often Should You Have Private Lessons?

With youth sports being the key ticket to athletic stardom and riches, early specialization is one of the hottest topics of discussion these days.  You’ve seen plenty of articles about the negatives of specialization at young ages.  If you haven’t send me an email and I’ll provide you with some links.  However, as long as the carrot is still hanging on the end of the stick, there will be plenty of young players trying to reach that carrot, with or without specialization.

So in an attempt to be the best player you can be, you are bound to take your son or daughter to a private skills coach to improve their skills to the max so they can make their high school or travel ball teams, or reach that goal of an athletic scholarship.  Sometimes these lessons are a part of a travel or club organization.  Sometimes you will have a high school coach let you know that if you aren’t taking lessons you won’t make the team.  The variables to this equation are many.  So how often should you have these lessons?

In the softball world, there are lessons for hitting, fielding, and pitching.  You can also get lessons for catching… not just catching the ball but being a catcher.  Many players go to lessons each week.  Many go to multiple lessons, such as pitching and hitting.  Obviously the skills coach wants to see you each week as that means more money for them.  Please understand – I have no problem with coaches making money for private instruction.  A coach is spending his or her time with your son or daughter to help them improve their skills.  They deserve to be paid.  I give lessons myself.

So is it absolutely necessary to go to lessons each week?  That depends upon a few things.  1.  What are your child’s goals?  2.  How quickly do you want to reach those goals?  3.  What skill are you getting lessons for?

Some coaches will tell you that you need lessons each week so that bad habits won’t set in.  I would say that this is more true when a player is starting out but not necessarily when they are “first” starting.  In other words, give your child a chance to enjoy the sport before hauling you 8-year-old off to weekly lessons.

I tell the parents of the players I coach that if they really want to see me every week, I’m glad to help them.  However, I try to teach the player not just how to perform a given skill but how to be their own coach as well.  I teach them not just how to correct certain details but how to recognize what needs correcting.  I tell them that the more they can become their own coach, the less they’ll need me, and the better player they can become.  One of the key issues I see with a lot of player today is that they do not think, they do not learn the whole game.  They can replicate the skills the coaches have given them but they don’t always know why or when.  I don’t want robots.  I want players.

Parents will like it too if they don’t have to mortgage the farm to pay me.  There are plenty of players out there to fill up a schedule.  I try to always put the player first, not my need for the all elusive dollar.

Next post I will talk about how to pick your skills coaches.

How Has Elite Club and Travel Sports Affected the Family?

A few weeks ago, my friend Rich Trujillo asked me what has travel ball done to the family?  Rich just retired this last year as the head softball coach at La Mirada High School, where he had been at the helm for seventeen years.

I think back to when my daughter played travel ball.  I remember that there were times where I questioned our schedule as we were missing Sunday after Sunday from our church.  Part of me didn’t worry too much as my daughter still was active in the youth group. But I still wondered if there wasn’t a better way.  A few teams we were on tried to give the team off one weekend per month.

This week I’ve talked to two other travel coaches who said they give their teams one weekend off each month.  This is not just a religion thing either.  The coaches on my daughter’s first team were Catholic. Catholics usually have many more options as far as attending mass.  As Lutherans we were primarily a Sunday option.  But even if you do not attend church at all, there can still be time for your families.  For us it wasn’t a big deal there since we only have the one daughter.  But for families who have three or four children, especially if their ages are close together, this can be a challenge too.

I spoke with one coach this last week who said his one daughter had been invited to join a travel team.  They declined at this time because he has another younger daughter and a son who plays a different sport.  I’ve seen families where Mom is taking one of the kids to one tournament, Dad taking another kid to their sport, etc.

Lastly there is another reason to have some time off.  Our bodies need healing.  Any sport can take a toll on our bodies.  So much more so with our kids who’s joints may not be fully developed yet.  The body needs time to rest.  Studies have shown that not giving our athletes time to rest and recover leads to more overuse injuries.  And if you ignore those, you are going down the path to more severe injuries, even career ending injuries.

So let me issue a challenge to all travel and club coaches, regardless of sport.  I challenge you, if you are not already doing so, set your schedules so that your team can take a weekend off each month.  I know that, for example, with softball July-August can be tough to take that weekend off because you have all the national tournaments and showcases happening.  But even there, one weekend off might just keep your players healthy enough to make a difference when it really counts.

Parents, this also goes out to you.  It’s also up to you to let your child’s coaches know that your son or daughter needs a little r & r too.  The kids work hard.  Some travel teams practice or play long hours.  They need some rest.  Perhaps you’ve been one of those parents who are seeing your kids having a chance to play in college.  It’s easy to worry that if you aren’t there another player will take your spot on the team.  It’s your call.  I think, however, that more and more people are seeing how important this is.

Coaches:  If you are a team that gives your players a weekend per month off, or at least a Sunday each month, send me an email to coachmike@kidznsports.com.  If you haven’t been doing this and you’re willing to try to make that change, send me an email.  In a few weeks, I’ll write another post on this subject and I’ll list any team that tells me that they are putting their player’s health and families first by giving them that weekend off each month.  If you just do this at least 9 out of 12 months out of the year, I bet it will make a difference.

Tell me your team name, you city that you hail from, and the head coach’s name, and your sport of course.  We all love our sports.  Our kids love to play.  Let’s help them play longer and stronger.

Please share this post with other parents and coaches that you know.

Calling all coaches! I want to hear from you.

I’m currently writing a book about what it takes to become a successful coach.  One of the chapters will be about having a purpose or motivation to coach.  I would like to get your feedback about what your purpose, your motivation was that led you to be a coach.  Whether it is because you started coaching your own children, or because you loved sports so much, or whatever.  What is your purpose to be a coach?  What keeps you going?

Please click this link to take the survey.  When you’re finished, you will be returned to the Kidz “n” Sports HOME Page.  Thank you for your contribution.



Rob Wigod, Commissioner of Athletics for CIF Southern Section

This week’s guest on Kidz “n” Sports is
Rob Wigod, Commissioner of Rob Wigod - Commissioner of Athletics, CIF Southern SectionAthletics for the CIF-Southern Section.  Rob has 23 areas of responsibility under his umbrella as Commissioner.  You can view these areas by clicking here.

While the CIF is looked upon as the governing body of high school athletics in California, there are a number of things they have a say in and there are other things that the individual schools and school districts control.  We will help separate which is which and how the CIF-Southern Section benefits your teen’s sports experience.

Schedule Change

Thom Simmons, Director of Communications for CIF-Southern Section
Thom Simmons

This next Wednesday. my guest will be Thom Simmons from the CIF Southern Section.  Thom has just completed 18 years serving as the Director of Communications for CIF-SS.  It turns out that Thom is also a LaCrosse coach.  LaCrosse is a sport we haven’t covered too much on CIF so I am looking forward to the opportunity.

Rob Wigod, Commissioner of Athletic for CIF-SS will join Kidz “n” Sports on October 19th.

The Path to an Athletic Scholarship: Do we need travel and club sports?

Travel softball, travel baseball, club volleyball and basketball, aquatic sports and others:  how important are these programs for student athletes who want to play in college?  If you have had any serious conversation with youth sports or high school parents, the subjects of private lessons, specializations, and travel ball are usually a part of the discussion.  Some claims are valid, some are questionable, but any discussion about travel or club ball is likely to draw comments, both good and bad.  So today I’m going to take a look at some of the arguments pro and con and then you can take a look at both sides.  Either way, if you are planning on having your son or daughter take the next step in youth sports, make sure you consider all the possibilities.  And please, discuss them with your child too.  After all, they are the one who will pay the price good or bad.  At the end, I will tell you a lesson I learned, thankfully before it was too late.

Comment:  You have to play travel or club ball if you want to play in college.

This is mostly true in sports like softball, volleyball, basketball, and probably the aquatic sports.  It’s true to some degree in baseball but football and baseball are two sports where a player can get to the college game without travel ball.

Comment:  High school sports is not important.  College coaches don’t care about that.

Don’t count on this.  Make sure you check with the coach at the college you’d like to play for.  More and more these days, college coaches are looking not just for good players but for good people.  They like to know that you did something more in your life than just softball or volleyball, or whatever.  Some coaches may not care if you were a model citizen.  Again, check first.

Comment:  Travel and club teams are too expensive. 

Yes, travel ball can be expensive.  Private lessons can be expensive.  There are the team dues, the hotel and travel expenses, equipment, etc.  There have been many cases where parents have paid more for travel ball and lessons than they would have paid just writing a check for the tuition at a four-year college.  Even with travel ball, there is no guarantee that your student-athlete will get a scholarship.  Different travel teams charge different fees.  Some teams travel more than others.  Does your child want to be on the “elite” teams or do they just want to play and get better?  These are all considerations to take into account.  I think the first thing you need to know is does your child (and do you) understand the commitment expected to play travel or club ball?  It isn’t like your local rec league where you can show up when you want to.

Comment:  The coach looks like he’s in it for the money.

Yes, there are travel and club teams where the coaches, or at least some of the coaches, may make a significant amount of money.  I’d say that’s not true for most teams.  But even those that do, some of them earn that money.  Remember, the coach is spending his or her time working with your son or daughter to help them reach a certain goal.  The coaches are often taking time away from their families, and they are spending their money a lot of the time, to put this team together.  Just like anything else you might spend money on:  Ask the coach about their experience, their plans for the team, what you can expect from the team, how much time do you have to commit (such as fundraising, working snack bar, etc.).  It’s not just about the coach’s knowledge or skills.  Even a mediocre coach might be a great coach for your child.  And that so-called “great coach” might not click with your child.  But it’s also about the coach’s relationships.  Have they build a connection with college coaches?  How much time and effort do they put in to connect your child to the college coaches?

Comment:  I’ve heard this coach (or team) plays favorites.  Lots of drama.

Teams are made up of people.  I know of one player who expected to be on an organization’s top team and expected also to play a lot right away.  That is often times not the case.  Many times you must pay your dues.  Your son or daughter will spend some time on the bench.  You cannot expect the coach to cater to you.  This is an opportunity to learn, to practice a lot and get better, and to learn how to earn your place on a team.  All players should get the opportunity to play but there is no such thing as “Equal playing time.”

There are many more issues to discuss.  I will continue this discussion in the next week.  But I want to leave you with one important point.  Make sure that your son or daughter understands that there are going to be successes and there are going to be letdowns.  At the end of the day it’s the coach’s team and he or she will do what they want.  You are not going to tell them how to run their team.  Some of these coaches have been coaching for twenty years or more.  Make sure your child is ready to possibly deal with some adversity and some rejection.  I learned this lesson the hard way….  Sort of.  But it could have been a lot harder.

When my daughter was 12 and had just finished her first year of rec ball at the 12 u level, we decided to try out for travel ball.  My daughter was a left-handed pitcher.  She was considered slow for her age.  We tried out for five teams.  Jessica did very well at each team’s tryout but none of them invited her to join the team.  “Come back when she’s five mph faster.”

We changed pitching coaches.  Jessica picked up some more speed.  She added that 5 mph.  One of the teams that we had already tried out for had lost some players and had posted that they were looking for some players.  I called the manager.  She said she’d love to see Jessica again.

The day of the practice, Jessica had just gotten off school for the summer.  She told me that she thought she would like to take a break from softball.  I told her that she could but there would be one rule.  She could not just sit around and play on the computer.  She had to do “something, be active.”  I promised I was not going to be “that parent” and swore I would not say “The S word.” (Softball) I went out to my office in the garage.

About fifteen minutes went by when Jessica came out and said that she was bored.  “What do you want to do?” I asked.  “I don’t know,” she said.  About ten minutes later she came out again.  Same story.  I still did not say the S word.  A little later I went into the house and Jessica again complained about being bored.  Each time I asked her “What would you like to do?”  Each time the answer was “I don’t know.”  Finally, I suggested that Jessica goes to the practice.  She said we were going to be late and that the manager wouldn’t like that.  I said in this case it probably didn’t matter because it wasn’t a regular tryout.  Finally, Jessica said the words that I will never forget…..

“Dad, what if they don’t want me again?”

I had no clue that about the rejection that was building up inside of her.  She never complained.  She never cried about a team not taking her.  But it was there.  It gave me an opportunity to tell her that her only responsibility was to do the best she could at all times.  “God knows what team you’re supposed to be on.”  We ended up going to the practice that day.  The team accepted her and Jessica because a Santa Fe Rebel.  She was playing travel ball.

Are you thinking about travel or club sports?  Think twice.  Talk with your son or daughter, not just at them.  I recommend against travel ball for kids under 12.  Oh, it’s ok to travel with an all-star team from your rec league.  That’s different.  It really is.  But for a regular club or travel team, there’s a big jump in everything – prices, time, talent, commitment, …. Everything.  Make sure you are already for the journey.  It can be a fun one.  But it can defeat you if you let it.

Have a great week.

Coach Mike