Thursday, April 15, 2010

Youth Baseball: The Pressure to be Great can be too Great

Game 13

My son is playing his fourth season with his current select baseball team. During that period, he has the highest batting average on the team. As such, he is expected to hit and hit and hit. He is expected to be great by his coaches and his teammates. It's not unreasonable for them to have these expectations because they have become accustom to my son delivering time and time again. I have become used to watching him succeed, so I go to the games expecting him to be great. He expects himself to be great too. With all these expectations comes great pressure.

My son did not have a hit during the 3 game Tennessee tournament two weeks ago. That was the first time he had gone hitless over a 3 game period. He was bummed about it and had a two week period without games to think about it. During the past two weeks of practice, however, he worked very hard and was mashing the ball. He couldn't wait for the game tonight.

He looked forward to the game all day. He expected to be the starting catcher and get his first hit of the year. When he got to the game, he found out he was not the starting catcher. He was the designated hitter for this game. The coach expected the first game to be an easy win and therefore decided to hold back his ace pitcher for the second game (tonight). My son always catches the ace. This was not communicated to my son. My son just assumed he lost his starting role. He was dejected. He took this defeated attitude to the plate and went 0-5. He has started off the season 0-9.

After the game he was so upset. I of course gave him the speech that every dad gives. You know the speech. It's the Even the great players have tough games - Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports - Keep your chin up - Get'em next time - Speech. And of course it had the same effect that it had on me when I was a kid.

After the canned speech. I told him that I understand completely the pressure he is under to be great. I felt it as a kid too and still do. I told him if we think about it rationally, we are going to be loved no matter what. I know it and he knows it yet we still feel the pressure. Why? Because that pressure is coming from inside and it's probably the energy that drives us. This inner energy will most likely drive his success in sports, in school and in business throughout his life.

I did, however, tell my son that I was upset that he didn't play like a captain. I told him that I don't expect hits every game, but I do expect him to play every game like a captain. I expect him to hustle on every ground ball. I expect him to not throw his equipment. I expect him to cheer for his teammates. I expect him to respect the coaches, the umpires and the game. Last night, he sat on the end of the bench sulking. These are not unreasonable expectations.

The Main Point(s)

Don't set the expectation that your kid should get a hit or a goal every game, but set the expectation that they should play like a captain, play with passion, play with respect and be sportsmanlike.

Note to coaches.  Know your players. Know what drives them. Some players are happy that they made the team, others are not happy unless they are starting and batting up in the order. Obviously everyone can not play the position that they want or hit at the top of the line up. My advice is to talk to your players let them know why you have made the decisions you have made and let them know what they need to do to change the situation for themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Good job, Stats Dad! Young kids often sulk when they don't do well, especially when they are so accustomed to success. You might have used the canned Dad's speech but I disagree with you; I'll bet he heard you and it is part of him now. I think that it did help him and that he will use it on his kids, and they will use it on their kids, and it will help your family for generations.

    I do agree that the old Dad's speech was not as important as your telling you son that he is loved no matter how he hits but that you expect him to conduct himself like a captain. I assume that he is the captain of the team, so his coaches and his teammates expect no less. I like your telling him that he may not always be able to hit but he can always hustle and set a good example for his team. Also reminding him to cheer for his teammates is important. When you think about it cheering for your teammates when you are not doing well, probably has a more powerful impact of them and the results which they achieve.

    Thanks for reminding your son of these things as it reminds other fathers to do the same!




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