Friday, May 20, 2011

Scorecard for the Coach

Dear Coach,

Now that the season is well and truly over, I thought you might like a little feedback.

Training: I thought you and the other coaches provided good solid training, with kindness and humor, and I thank you for that. The boys could have used more batting practice. And less rain.

Communication: Well, sometimes the messages came late. (Yeah, we don't blame you for that one that never came. Everyone has a bad day.) Would have been helpful if specific times could have been mentioned. “Have your boy on the field at 3pm” doesn’t seem like too long a message to get the point across and avoid confusion.

Timeliness: When you say that you will hold players to being on time, it is good to be there to meet them at the appointed times, once these have been adequately communicated.

Strategy: Particularly when the season has gone so badly, why not shake things up and try kids in different positions? To keep with the same playbook, even and especially when it is not working, is why the government is failing our nation.

I know that you don’t have to care about this, your job is over for the season and you may never see my son again, but here’s the thing: my son never played baseball before last year. He started out in AA division with no experience. By the end of the season, he was one of the more valuable players on his team, which came in 4th. He was regularly playing the infield at third, shortstop and second. As a batter, he was pretty good, for a newbie; more importantly, he has a good eye. As you know, when he gets on first, he is quite a base thief. He went on to play Berkeley Summer League, and his team, which started out having to forfeit games, because they did not have enough players on the field, came from behind to play the championship game, and come in 2nd. Again, he played infield. Quite a result, for a boy who had never played any sport before. 

Because my son was given so little play time this season, and in a remote part of the outfield, he had little opportunity to hone any of the skills he had acquired last year.

My boy is no superstar, but he is a solid and consistent team player. Burying him in right field, when your infield was consistently so piss poor, was a crime. My son kept coming home saying “I wish I could help my team where I play well.”

We thought jumping to Majors was a stretch, and almost tried to hold him down to AAA. But we thought the older boys would help pull the younger ones along, and that he would get valuable experience. HA! What a joke! We’ll never make that mistake in judgment again (now that the situation will never recur). We should have said something, but were trying to follow the rules and not interfere. As it was, we don't know if it was a stretch or not, because he really wasn't tested.

Minimum Play Rule: B.S. ('Nuff said.)

Injured Players: What kind of tomfoolery is it to rush injured batters onto the field? I don’t care how valuable that player is, you invite aggravation to the injury, even further injury, and compromise the competence of your defense. Why can't they warm the bench and rest for an inning, to come back fresh later?

Sportsmanship: I never saw a group of boys with such a bad attitude. The older ones, who bragged about their ability especially when they did not deliver the goods, blamed the younger kids for their own errors. Sad commentary. My son was blamed for the loss of many games, even when he had been sitting on the bench while all the mistakes were being made on the field. Cute. Meanwhile, when he tried to be encouraging to teammates from the bench, he was rewarded with derision. I had to give him pep talks after every practice and every game. He was doing his part; where were the others in this thing called team effort

Responsibility. Sportsmanship. Courage. Character. Isn't that supposed to be part of the Little League experience?

The interesting and unique thing about the human species is that it takes 20 years to nurture an individual to full adulthood. The critical thinking function of the human brain is not capable of development until an individual is 20-22 years of age. There are a lot of bipedal animals roaming the streets of America because hundreds of thousands of adults turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the behavior of young people, and decided it is not my job to teach them what is right. But you and I know it takes hundreds and thousands of teachers, over an entire lifespan, to form a good, solid human being—one who has a good character, self-control, self-esteem and compassion.

In conclusion, I hope my son will shake off this disappointing experience (on so many levels) and want to continue playing. I hope he will decide to tryout again next Spring. And, just so you know, it does not matter to us that the team didn't win! Sure, they could have done better. My boy knows it is not about winning. He knows it is how you play the game when you show up at the field. That is what we have taught him about life. (Too many people have the mistaken notion that life is about winning. But life is really about living, isn't it?)

Maybe, next year, my son will have a real opportunity to play.

Best of luck in your future endeavors.

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