Tag Archives: youth sports

Have You Tried It Lately?

Did you see that Alabama-Minnesota softball game?

If you didn’t here’s a link.


Was that a strike or what?  How did that umpire miss that call?

I’ve seen a number of posts about bad calls throughout the playoffs so far.  The comments range from benign to extreme.  But guess what?  The comments you hear are the same comments you hear every year in various sports.  On every close call (or even many not-so-close calls) there is going to be someone who agrees and someone who disagrees.  It’s part of the game.

Have you ever tried being an umpire?  I used to umpire slow pitch softball.  That has to be easy.   If the ball hits the mat it’s a strike. How much easier can it be?  I can tell you there were times where the ball came down right by the edge of that mat and it is not always so easy.  But you have to make a call.  I especially laugh at fans at a major-league baseball game who complain about a close call on balls and strikes.  The fans are a minimum of 40 feet away and at various angles.  The umpire is right behind the catcher.  As a softball coach I often can tell with fairly good accuracy, on balls and strikes from the dugout or coach’s box.  But sometimes I can be off.  But here’s the bigger issue.

Why do we let our players, or ourselves, blame the umpires, or anyone else for that matter, for our shortcomings?  I learned two things a long time ago:  First, one call never wins or loses a game, and second, without respect for authority we might not have a game.

I’ve never had much of a problem with the second issue.  I’ve never been tossed from any game I’ve coached or played in in any sport.  I did get tossed once as a scorekeeper but I was falsely blamed for something another parents said.  (The other parent apologized to me after the game.  It wasn’t a big deal.  The ump was a real old guy having a tough time with both teams).  The first lesson was well spoken at a coach’s clinic I attended.  I forget the first coach that said this (there have been many over the years), but the lesson is the same.  Why did you allow yourself to be in the position where one call could change the course of the game?

Let’s look at the Alabama-Minnesota game.

  1.  Why were the bases loaded?  If the bases weren’t loaded that walk wouldn’t have mattered.  Get the next batter out.
  2. Why didn’t your team score more runs?  If you are ahead that run would not beat you.  Worse case is it could only tie you.

Nobody likes mistakes, especially in the bottom of the last inning of a close game.  But if you think that umpire has it easy, check out this episode of Sports Science:

Still want to ump?

I’m sure a lot of people feel bad for Minnesota.  They had a great season and I’ll bet they’ll be back next year.  It’s easy to root against the big dog but let’s face it, Alabama is a great program.  In all the hype and commotion, let’s try to remember what we teach our players and our children:

  1.  Don’t blame someone else (i.e. umpires) for your failures.

Teach first, win later.

Coach Mike


What Lessons Have We Taught Our Children?

Its Deeper Than We Think…..

Integrity over Glory

Righteousness over Recognition

As I look back on my life, I recognize that the lessons I was taught from a young age focused on personal value, not their inventory.  It was better to be honest than to be rich.  Your word was your bond.  Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country….

Sound familiar?

But as we look around almost anywhere today, over and over again we see “ME, ME, ME, ME!”

“I deserve this…”

“I have a right to do this…”

Even in a fine public service and educational arena like Toastmasters, we are told that our audience wants to know about WIIFM, “What’s in it for me?”

I see a battle of words on social media about naming a facility.  Should it be named for one person, or should it carry the city name instead and offer another way of recognizing the individuals?  One person asked if there weren’t other individuals past, present, or future who also deserve recognition.

Have we forgotten to ask, “What can I do for you?”

“How can I make your day better?”

“How can I bless you today?”

As I look over the CIF and NCAA softball brackets that came out today, I am reminded that while there are a limited number of teams that get to taste glory in their various playoffs, how many other teams also worked hard trying to compete.  How many other players deserve recognition for their efforts and achievements?”

But I thought it was about the journey, not the destination.

Do we still try to teach our children true values or do we let them fall into the trap of STUFF?  Perhaps we have already fallen into the trap of STUFF and are reflecting that on our children, despite what our words say.

So, while we are still demanding our participation trophies, (and even if we talk against those, if our child doesn’t get some trophy do we complain about something not being fair?”) while we still cry “ME, ME, ME… or “MY KID, MY KID, MY KID…”  maybe we should take a lesson from one of the most storied, most successful franchises in all of sports, the New York Yankees.

Last night I watched the ceremonies honoring Derek Jeter, another of many great Yankee players.  His number was retired.  He received a plaque honoring him in monument valley among other great players like Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio.  Yet despite all the glory, notice that they didn’t rename the stadium, Jeter Stadium.

It is still Yankee Stadium.  Jeter is a part of the Yankee family, the Yankee team.  The plaque in monument valley is one of many other TEAM players.  The retired number on the wall is one of many other TEAM players.  To this day, the Yankees continue their long-time tradition that no player has their name on the back of their uniforms.  This is to remind them that they are part of a team, they are Yankees.  The team is great because they are a team.

Derek Jeter is honored not because he has had the most hits, home runs, stolen bases, or any other single statistic over other players, because he doesn’t.  He wasn’t the best in any one category.  What Derek Jeter was truly honored for, what made Derek Jeter the star that he is, was not pointing the finger at himself for all these years.  It was putting his arms around his teammates.  It was the way he played the game, always giving 100%, always putting his team first.  He received the highest honor, being labeled “The Captain” not because how well he played but because of how well he led his teammates.  In over 100 years, there have only been 15 players who have been given the honor of being called Captain of the Yankees.  The position is vacant now since Jeter retired.  Unlike our youth and high school teams, the coach doesn’t just appoint a captain every year.  The players don’t get to vote a captain every year.

What lessons are you teaching your son or daughter?  Did you teach them to earn their way to the top?  Did you teach them to be a teammate, or did you demand that the world give them glory?  Sometimes our actions are not always so apparent, so “in your face.”  Sometimes we try to do the right thing verbally, vocally, and out front, but our body language, our motivations, the things other people see, even when we don’t, speak a different message.

I read an article the other day, and in it, someone who knew the Jeter family said that all you had to do was look at Derek Jeter’s parents, and you knew why he is the way he is.  Why he shows class on and off the field.  Were his parents able to buy him more private lessons than anyone else?  Were they able to put him on the elite teams all the time?  I don’t know.  But what I do know is what Derek Jeter has said about his journey…

Since he was a kid, there was only one thing he wanted to do – play shortstop for the New York Yankees.  While he obviously enjoys many riches and glory for the destination he reached, I’d be willing to wager that the little boy that wanted to play shortstop for the Yankees didn’t think about how much money he would make some day.  He just wanted to play for the Yankees.

Do you know what your child’s dream is?  Instead of trying to make sure they succeed, why not show them the path that they might take to reach their dream…..

Then sit back and let them succeed.  

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.

One Weekend Off

I had posted a challenge for travel/club coaches.  I’ve invited coaches to let me know if their team gives their players one weekend off per month.  So far I’ve heard from two teams.  Another I’m waiting for some details.  So as I hear from more coaches, I will add them to the list.


Lakewood Hustlers Coffman 16U – Mario Coffman

USSSA Pride – Indian   10u-16u teams – Steve Indian
Encinitas, CA.

I do more than give them one weekend off a month. We also right after nationals take the rest of August (approx 3 weeks) off. We will also be shutting down in another week until Dec 30th so the players and parents can enjoy their holiday season. I do believe in down time for the players and for the coaching staff, so they can regenerate not only their bodies but their minds too.

Steve Indian


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.

Age and Politics: Two Subjects That Highlight Youth Sports

Last week Greg Pappas and I discussed How Young is Too Young for youth sports.  While that may sound like a simple question it actually covers three different levels of youth sports.  First, at what age should you start your child in sports.  Second is about what age to get involved with competitive team sports.  And third we discussed what is the right age to get into travel or club sports.  If you missed that show, I encourage you to listen to the podcast.  While we could do two or three shows to cover all of that material, I do think we hit the basics so that any parent can know what questions to ask for their situation.

Due to a schedule change, my friend Richard Trujillo had to reschedule to next week, this week we will be discussing politics in youth sports.  How appropriate since today is election day and we will be choosing a new President.  People leave rec ball to go to travel ball thinking they are leaving the politics, only to find out that travel and club sports have their own political issues.  The same is true of high school sports.  Hmmm.  I wonder if college athletes have to deal with politics….  what do you think?  You can respond to this article, you can send me an email, or you can call the show tomorrow at (800)405-6425.  What political battle did you or your children face in youth sports?  Did you walk away from the drama, get caught up in the drama, or were you actually the one creating the drama?