Note To Parents
Who doesn't want to achieve higher levels of success in anything they are doing? I am not aware of many if any people who say they desire to stay the same or do worse than their current state. I would venture to say that most people would like to achieve higher success in what they are doing. I am going to talk a little bit about how to help young baseball players do just that.
1. Stop coaching from the stands
Far too many baseball players struggle because they hear 500 voices coming from the stands. Ok, not exactly 500, but at least 5. These kids are bombarded with what to do while they are on the field. Competing on a baseball field is hard enough. Having to hear 5 different opinions about what to do makes it that much harder. Imagine for a minute you are at your job. Lets say you are typing something up for your boss. While you are typing your report there are 5 people behind you telling you each key to press, how to press, how not to press, where not to put your elbows, where to put your elbows, where to look, how to move your eyes as you look, how to hold your back, how your feet should look, how your feet should not look, pointing out every typo you make, and expecting perfection the whole time. What would you do? My guess is that you would turn around after about 30 seconds and scream at everyone to get off your back. Is that accurate? I will venture to say that it is accurate. No sane adult wants to have a bunch of people standing behind them telling them how to perform every single part of their job. And in the same way kids do not want you telling them what to do the entire time they are playing baseball, nor does it help them at all. The best thing to do from the stands is to simply watch and cheer. Be a positive force in a negative game. This game is filled with failure. You have the opportunity to be the positive voice during games. Letting them know they are doing well even if they fail. Rather than focusing so much on their performance, focus more on their emotional and psychological well being.
2. Don't talk about how much money you are spending for baseball
I can't tell you how many times I have heard parents talk (mostly complain) about how much money they are spending to play baseball. I can't tell you how many times I have heard a parent say they are not going to keep spending money on bats or gloves because the kids are not trying hard enough or are not performing well enough. This in no way will help a child. All you are doing is telling them that their value is correlated to their success as a baseball player and the money you are spending. Don't ever talk about how much money it costs to play baseball. Kids do not have a concept of money yet. They do not pay bills. They don't have a mortgage, a car payment, electric bills, internet bill, phone bill, water bill, any bills. They have no idea what it takes for you to pay for their baseball. Rather than holding the money that you spend over their heads, sit them down and teach them about money. Rather than holding them emotionally captive under the power of your money, let them know the value of money and what it takes to be able to play the game that they are playing, to be able to have the bats and the gloves. Do this lovingly. Not in a way that is going to cause guilt or shame. I have seen it over and over again where parents shame or guilt their children over the money they are spending. This will not help your child be successful. This is only going to make it harder for them to be a successful athlete as they are having to play from negative rather than positive motivation.
3. Get out of the scorebook
This past weekend I went to a charity event in South Carolina. I have been very fortunate in my life to be surrounded by some great people and this event allowed me to connect with more great people. I was able to be around a few guys who have had some serious success at the big league level. One of the guys I had a chance to talk with answered a pressing question for me. "Does youth success in baseball give any indication as to whether or not a kid will make it?" His answer, no. He said when he was a kid he was one of the worst on the team. Couldn't hit the ball to save his life. He broke into the major leagues as a hitter. I see far too many parents and coaches alike being consumed with youth level stats. They mean absolutely nothing. When I was a kid I didn't swing and miss at a pitch until I was 12 which was 5 years after I started playing. I hit over .900 every year in little league. I never got to play in the big leagues. Obviously my childhood stats didn't mean much to the scouts who signed me out of UNC. I don't remember any of the scouts who interviewed me asking me what my middle school batting average was or how many guys I threw out when I was 12. If they went off those numbers I would have been sent straight to the big leagues. But they don't care. It is irrelevant. And for parents and coaches to place so much importance on statistics at the youth level is insane. Kids do not need to be focused on their batting average, their walk to strikeout ratio, their rbis, etc. It will in no way help them and all it does is serve to compare them to others. It is setting them up to compare themselves to others not only in baseball but off the field as well. Stop caring so much about stats. Numbers don't matter. Attitude and enjoyment are far more important that statistics. Last point on the stats. I played with a highly successful baseball player when I was in the minor leagues. You may have heard of him, his name is Jason Heyward. In the minor leagues he consistently hit over .300 and was one of the better hitters in the Braves organization. Jason never knew his batting average. Never paid attention to it. Because it didn't matter. Focusing on the numbers would not help him perform. I took a cue from Jason in 2010 in my first year of indy ball. I decided to stop looking at my numbers. I ended the season batting over .300 with 10 homers and an all-star. Focusing on stats does nothing good. Stop looking at them. They are not a true measure of success.