Putting the coach in coach pitch


After three years of coaching “kid pitch” Little League baseball, I’ve been sent down to the minors. For the first time in a while, I’m coaching a “coach pitch” team again this spring.

At the season’s start I wondered if the coach pitch coaches would be less wound up, no pun intended. Nope. Some of them might as well wear stirrups. To them, there’s a reason “coach” comes first in “coach pitch.”

“I’m just trying to teach these kids error-free baseball,” one of them told me last week. Wrong league, sir. Barring a birth certificate scam, you have all six and seven year olds just like the rest of us.

“We haven’t had one clean inning. I want a clean inning!” another coach told his crew before a final inning in the field. They subsequently made about five errors and gave up three runs and the lead.

Somewhere along the way, many coaches – and parents, for that matter – have forgotten that we learn the most when we succeed the least.

Certain coaches are too smart to say it, but their driven-ness clearly communicates that winning is everything. It’s as if their egos and their legacies are on the line.

So, they stretch base running rules beyond what’s reasonable; games look more like track than baseball. They banish ballplayers to the bench or the outfield, never letting them see the light of infield day.

They forget – or never learned – that the real objectives are fun and character formation. Baseball is still a game, though for some kids, it feels like a job.

That’s why some kids are bucking the trend. They’re hanging up the cleats and picking up the clubs…at age eleven. Like a corporate manager nearing retirement, these kids have had enough of the intensity. They’re hitting the links to relax.

Of course, not all coaches are over the top. Many keep things in perspective.

A retired Little League coach suggested this strategy: “I used to tell my parents at the start of the season, ‘Please remember that out of all the kids on our team, only one will play high school baseball.’”

“Did you mean only one will play professional baseball or in the Major League All-Star Game?” I asked, to help prove the point.

“No, I meant high school,” he reiterated.

And that’s what’s so spellbinding about the state of modern youth sports. It’s like we’ve shelved old-fashioned statistics beside the old wooden bats. Or maybe we know the odds. We just think our progeny can beat them. Hubris is hereditary, after all.

Ironically, upper level coaches like Jason Marshall at the University of Texas at San Antonio will tell you the cream rises to the top regardless of a coach’s zealotry or a parent’s pressure.

We can cure for the obnoxiousness that taints the nation’s pastime at the lowest levels. The Little League pledge, penned in 1954, is a good place to start:

“I trust in God / I love my country and will respect its laws / I will play fair and strive to win / But win or lose I will always do my best.”

1 Response to “Putting the coach in coach pitch”

  1. 1 Bennye Waskom May 3, 2017 at 22:31

    I just loved this Kevin. Thanks.

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