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Don't Let A Bad Team Ruin Your Son's Love of the Game

April 11, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 109

My son, Gehrig, likes baseball a lot. I know that's not exactly a profound statement to make about a nine-year old boy. But it's a statement that I probably wouldn't be able to make today, if we didn't make a move to get him off of a bad team. By "bad team" I'm not referring to wins and losses. I mean it was a bad team for Gehrig. A bad fit.

You see, a couple of years ago, I made the mistake of not returning to a team that he really liked. Instead we joined a "select" team. That move, which at the time seemed like a good thing for him, crushed his confidence and nearly ruined his love of the game. I hope that by reading our story, you'll be able to avoid similar situations with your son.

The Kid's Pretty Good

Since he started playing t-ball, Gehrig's always been one of the better players on his team. When he was seven, Gehrig had the chance to play for a "select" team. The team was moving to a kid pitch, 8-and-under league. I was really excited about this team, and so was Gehrig. A couple of his best friends were on the team, too. So all seemed well at first.

The Warning Signs

Like so many things in life, hindsight is 20/20. I should have known from my first phone conversation with his new coach that this team wasn't going to be a good fit. I told the coach that I'd love to help out and be an assistant coach. He basically told me that he didn't need me because he already had a good group of dads helping out. That was my first clue that this coach was going to have control issues. What little league coach of seven-year olds doesn't welcome any extra help he can get? Not to mention, I played baseball through college, so I know my way around the diamond a little.

Too Much, Too Soon, Two Jerks

This team began having hitting and fielding sessions in January at an indoor baseball training facility. I thought it was a bit much for seven-year olds, but went along with it anyway. It was at these indoor sessions that two little jerks on the team decided to make Gehrig feel unwelcome. They'd laugh if he'd miss a ball, jump in front of him in line and take his hat off his head. Different little bullying crap like that, which I can't stand. Gehrig's a pretty sensitive kid, so that stuff got to him. He didn't look forward to practices because of it.

Bad Habits Are Hard To Break

The indoor facility was good for batting practice. But it sucked for fielding and throwing. There weren't any open areas. It was nothing but batting cages. Every week we rented out two spots. The kids practiced throwing while lined up across from each other inside one of the cages. So, they were tossing the ball about 10-15 feet. The only thing this waste of time did was promote short-arming the ball. A terrible habit for a young kid.

Prior to these practices, Gehrig had a nice, fluid, left-handed motion. He had an above average arm. Tossing inside those cages ruined it for the entire season. I couldn't break him of it. The same kid that used to be able to throw a dart from third to first was now bouncing the ball from second to first. He had become Steve Sax.

Coach Them Before Yelling At Them

Once they started playing games I thought the season would get to be more fun for Gehrig. Instead, it brought on nothing but frustrations. The coaches yelled at the boys over things that they never practiced or reviewed in practice. Things like, who covers second base on a ball hit to right field. I remember screwing that one up when I was in seventh grade. These kids were seven years old. You can't expect kids to know fundamentals like that, if they've never practiced them. That was my breaking point. That's when I knew for certain that we would not be back with this team the following season.

You Cannot Be Serious

The fact that these boys were seven didn't stop the coach from creating a batting order based on who the best hitters were. Gehrig started the season near the top of the order. In the second game of the season he was drilled in the back by a pitch from a kid who looked to be 12-years old. (We were the youngest team in this 8 & Under league.) It was one of those plunkers that makes a big hollow "thump!" sound. You could hear it echo inside his ribcage. If you've been around the game for a while, you know the sound I'm talking about. From that point on, he was afraid of the ball when another kid was pitching. He ripped batting practice thrown by coaches, but as soon as another kid got on the mound, he was moonwalking out of that batter's box. As a result, coach buried him at the bottom of the order.

By this age, some kids understand the significance of a lineup. Of course, the two little jerks understood. And they'd make little jerky comments. Nothing like instilling confidence in a kid by telling him at the age of seven that he's not a good hitter. That's essentially what the coach did every time the he consistently placed the same kids at the bottom of the order.

The Best Kids Will Play The Most

That season couldn't end soon enough. I knew we weren't returning for a second season, but just in case I had a smidge of doubt, the good ol' coach cemented my decision. In an end of the season email he had an interesting way of motivating kids and parents. His idea of encouraging kids and parents to practice more was saying that next season, the best players would play the most. What? I'm telling you, this dude was delusional. I think he thought he was coaching 17-year olds. Not 7-year olds. I can remember laughing as I hit the delete button.

Should Have Never Left (Should have listened to my wife)

During the last few weeks of that summer and into the fall, I didn't practice baseball with Gehrig very much. Figured he needed to get away from the game for a while. I hoped that he'd be able to somehow wipe that season from his memory. Forget about all the crap that happened and return to loving the game of baseball again.

The following winter when it was time to sign up for baseball, I asked Gehrig if he wanted to play again. He said, "No. I don't like baseball anymore." When I asked, "Why." He said, "Because I'm not any good." Man did I hate hearing him say that.

My wife and I both talked to him about going back to his old team. After helping him remember how much fun he had on that team, he decided to give it another try. It was because of the coach. He was a laid back guy that let the kids be kids and have fun on the field. He "got it."

From the very first practice of that next season I saw a huge weight lifted off of Gehrig's shoulders. He was at ease on the ball field again. And amazingly enough, he remembered how to cut loose and throw the ball. He wasn't scared of the ball at the plate anymore. He wasn't worried about making a mistake. It's funny what a pressure-free environment will do for a kid's confidence.

As with most decisions that affect our family, I should have listened to my wife. She didn't think it was a good idea to leave our team to join the select team in the first place. She was right. We should have never left. I'm just glad Gehrig's love of the game came back.

If Your Son Is Happy, Leave Him Be

That long season taught me a very valuable lesson. If your young son is currently on a team and he's having fun, learning the fundamentals of the game, keep him there. There will be plenty of time for select teams and more competitive leagues as he gets older. The outfield grass isn't always greener on the other side of that fence.

Kevin Duy is a Sports Dad and creator of - A blog for Dads with a son who has a passion for sports. "It's about fueling his fire for sports, without burning him out."

Source: EzineArticles
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