Helping Parents Coach, Coaches Coach and Players Play
It’s the crazy time of year in the world of travel softball. As a coach I receive numerous emails, texts and phone calls daily concerning tryouts for the coming year. Every year that begins earlier and earlier. “How many spots do you have open?” “Are you looking for a shortstop?” “What’s your tourney schedule looking like?” “My daughter is an all-conference superstar in high school; just wanted to let you know that before tryouts.” “Can my daughter get a private tryout?”
That last question is probably the most popular. I get it. Most travel clubs conduct their tryouts during the same dates and often times, so it’s difficult or impossible to make them all. I had a relatively easy time as a parent with my youngest daughter with tryouts. But for my middle daughter, it was more stressful. We want what’s best for our baby girls, so I remind myself each year of the anxiety parents and players are experiencing.
Last weekend the high school season ended with the semi-finals and finals taking place, while the official beginning of summer travel softball began for Michigan teams. It can be very chaotic for coaches, parents and players, since in Michigan players are not allowed to play travel softball until their high school seasons have officially ended. I had players taking exams and attending their school banquets Thursday and Friday, missing our pool games and two players playing in championship games for their varsity teams.
Well, this new required training was concerning sexual abuse, mandatory reporting of harassment and abuse and bullying.
I had to borrow players from our 14u team or my 16u team would not have been able to play. Next year, our A teams in 14u, 16u and 18u will not be playing in a tournament that first weekend. It’s just too stressful. Instead, we’ll get our teams together, divvy them up, scrimmage and have a big cookout. That is something we have been doing in the fall and it’s a great experience.
While that will help relieve much of the stress of ensuring we have enough players between the three teams to be able to play, there are other concerns that continue to come up each year. My team competes in ASA (USA), PGF and USA Elite Select. Each has their requirements in order for your team to be eligible to play in their tourneys. It takes an incredible amount of time registering your team and rosters each year. Birth certificates, parents have to login and approve their players, Captain U, ACE Certifications for ASA coaching and team insurance, concussion training, etc..
But, apparently that’s not enough. This year there’s an additional requirement from ASA (USA), which must be met in order to carry our team insurance. Last week our coaches received emails stating we must take the online Safe Sport training. And it had to be completed by June 22. “Hmm, I wonder what kind of training this is,” I thought. Well, this new required training was concerning sexual abuse, mandatory reporting of harassment and abuse and bullying.
Towards the end of bracket play in our first tourney of the summer I lost my *%$#! mind during a game. I pride myself on remaining calm and demonstrating excellent sportsmanship. I wasn't always like that.
As a player back in the horse & carriage days, I was a cocky little trash talking punk. Early on in coaching I was too excitable and often regretted or re-thought my behavior afterwards. It’s a process and fortunately for me, with age has come wisdom.
When asked about the success of his coaching career, John Wooden replied, “I won’t know for 20 years whether I did a good job or not.” He defined success not in the moment, the last win or another championship, but in the lives his former players would go on to lead. Should they be good fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, role models, coaches, businessmen, members of their community, etc., only then he would know he had been a successful coach.
I’m not a basketball guy, but really enjoyed his book, Wooden: A Lifetime of Reflections On and Off the Court. It’s a great source of inspiration and insight for coaches of any sport and level of experience. I read it somewhere in the middle of my (on and off) coaching career. While there are numerous quotes from the book, it is that one above that has impacted me the most. The goal of this post is to help coaches be the best that they can be.
Have you ever seen a player make an error, mental mistake or strike out? Well of course you have. And how often have you seen player’s entire body language change after doing so? You know….they hang their head and look as if they’re about to cry. I’m sure you’ve seen that too. They’re having a Pity Party.
I first heard this expression from one of my daughter’s travel coaches (John W.) and it has stuck with me since. As a parent I was fortunate not to suffer through any of my daughters behaving this way. But as a coach I’ve seen it repeatedly over the years. The million dollar question is how do you stop players from having one?
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