Do We Play Too Many Games?

The folks at TeamSnap posted an article I wrote for them on the TeamSnap blog: 

045 Baseball-Pitcher.web_My son’s baseball team, which I coach, just wrapped up a summer travel season in which they played 19 games over eight weeks—really seven if you consider the five-day moratorium over the Fourth of July holiday. 

During that same span, we only managed eight practices. Do the math. It’s too many games and far too few practices.  Sure, games are important. They’re important because kids have fun playing, because practice has to be building towards something and because kids learn a lot from executing under pressure.

But young athletes do not get better by playing games. They get better by practicing. 

Click here to continue reading on the TeamSnap blog.

Back to 8U Travel

044 Back to 8U BaseballThis is my first blog in quite some time, though that is not the reason for the title.  Upon the conclusion of an enjoyable baseball season coaching my son’s team (seasons if you count rec ball and the ensuing travel season), my daughter declared she wanted to try out for the travel softball team.

With her having only played t-ball where fielding is done as a scrum and no one makes an out, she and I did what I imagine everyone would do in the same situation.  We practiced when we got up and we practiced when I got home from work.  We threw, we caught, and we hit and then we did it all again.

She got a-whole-lot better over the two weeks though in the end there were enough girls to form two teams.  Two teams means two coaches.  I’m the newly minted head coach of a girls fall travel softball team.  I’m headed back to 8U ball and thus the title of this post.  I do so with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.

On the plus side, I get to coach my daughter (yes, I coached her t-ball team, but really that’s not as much coaching as it is herding cats.)  If it’s anything like coaching my son, it will be an amazing experience for me.  Hopefully for her too.  And this is coaching actual games, with outs and defense albeit coach-pitch but still . . . And it’s coaching girls who want to play, who asked to play and tryout.  The teaching is always easier when the pupils want to be there.

But there’s a catch with going back to the 8U level.  One that has me worried.  One of the more enjoyable aspects of coaching the 9U baseball team was not having to teach the rudiments of the game.  With a year of travel baseball and a second rec season under their belts, the boys had a foundation upon which I could introduce more concepts and plays.

As an example, I installed a bunt defense this season.  It was a simple one, designed with as few moving parts as a bunt defense can have while keeping the bases loaded.  We used it once until the final game of the season, it happened to be the championship game, in which the opposing coach bunted against four times (including leading off the last inning) trying to take advantage. (I’ve always been clear on my disdain of bunting at this age level).  My boys nailed it three times of the four, only an error at first kept them from a perfect record.  It was one of those moments I will never forget as “the coach”, as much for the statement it made to the other coach (at least in my mind) as for how proud I was of my kids.

Now, with the 8U girls, it’s back to the basics, especially with a group who has mostly played only t-ball before this.  There won’t be any bunt defenses to install.  And that worries me.  Having advanced beyond the simple stuff once, will I have the patience to start all over again?  Will I have still the ability to break down the game into understandable, bite-size chunks?  Will I be able to hold the attention of eight year old and seven year old girls to not make it boring?  Will it be boring for me?

Frankly, I found coaching t-ball this past rec season tedious, almost as tedious as my daughter found playing it.  And I think that’s what scares me the most.  In some ways, the pressure is no different than pressures I feel coaching any team; am I doing enough to help the players improve, help them have fun and put them in a position to win some ballgames?  Yet the real difference is me and starting from scratch and whether I have the patience to truly teach the game, every aspect of the game.

Can you ever go back?  I don’t know, but I am about to find out.