Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Youth Baseball: Are you on the same page with your kid's coach

In very competitive select youth sports, many kids have a coach / coaching staff and they have a private trainer. What do you do when the two fundamentally disagree? There are two ways to handle this: The right way and the wrong way.

The Wrong Way

Last year, my son experienced the first slump of his life. Over 3 seasons of select baseball, he earned a lifetime .468 batting average by hitting the ball the opposite way to left field (he bats lefty). He got on base with regularity and he caused havoc on the base paths stealing 150 or so bases in 160 or so tries. This style of play earned him a spot on the All Tournament Team at the CABA World Series. Why mess with success right?

My son is not big, but has tremendous bat speed and a lot of pop in his bat. The coach of the team recognized this and wanted my son to change his approach and pull the ball more often. He was hoping that my son would hit for more power.

Admittedly, I was not opposed to this as I believe that to be a great hitter you need to hit to all fields. This approach was counter to my son's private hitting instructor who preached looking at a pitch as long as possible and hit it the other way. He believed that as my son faced faster pitchers who also had offspeed pitches, Nic would be able to drive the fastballs to the opposite field and not be fooled by the off speed pitches.

Well, my son liked the idea of hitting more home runs so followed the plan of the team's coach. He worked on pulling the ball all winter long. When last season started, he got off to a terrible start. He was pulling off the ball and making contact with less frequency. Yes, when he made contact, the ball went farther, but his average dropped significantly. As his average dropped, so did my son's confidence and this deepened the slump. The coach tinkered some more until my son was so screwed up he could not even foul the ball off.

Age 7 Hitting to the Opposite Field
We went back to Nic's private hitting coach, Coach K. Coach K is the same coach that made my son into an opposite field hitting machine from the age of 7. I spent $60 per hour over several sessions to rebuild his swing and his confidence.

What I didn't do was tell the coach what the game plan was. He was simply not the type of coach who wanted to hear a parent's point of view. I simply told my son to follow Coach K's advice. He struggled at first, but he started to come around.
Age 12  Hit...

or Miss.
The team had an indoor batting session one mid-season rainy day. The team coach was working with Nic and undoing everything that his private hitting coach had worked on just the day before. He wanted my son to try a big leg kick as he loaded.

I yelled, somewhat rudely, for the coach and told him that we're not going to do that. I was actually surprised that I spoke up. I had to look around to see if I was the one who actually yell it. But it must have been me, because the coach glared directly at me. I collected my thoughts and I told him what we were doing and what the plan was. The could tell that the coach took umbrage with my interference.

We did not get on the same page and sadly our relationship suffered. He was a great coach for three years, but the final year with the coach was a struggle for my son and for me because I was working against him instead of with him.

The Main Point

If you are going to be involved with the development of your young athlete, get on the same page as your coach. Work with your coach not against him or her.

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