My Daughters Coach Got Thrown Out And Why I Have His Back, Written By Renee Ferguson
Today for the first time since my daughter began playing select softball in 2007; her coach was ejected from the game. Some may say there is never a reason for this to happen because the coach is the ultimate model for the players. How the coach reacts and what he or she allows dictates the overall culture of the team. Normally I agree with this but after witnessing today’s situation, I have a slightly different take on this. As a coach, I try my very best to live by the standard above but today I could not be prouder of my daughters coach for being ejected from the game and here is why…
Let me give you some back story first; we were the home team, 1st inning 2nd batter when the head coach of the other team questions the legality of our pitcher. The base umpire calls the play dead in the middle of the pitch because the coach just walked out of the dugout onto the field and began to question the ump without first calling time or waiting for an appropriate time to call time and approach the umpire. As taught, our pitcher who was in mid windup at the time pitched through the abrupt NO PITCH that was called from the base umpire. The result of this action was a no pitch for us and absolutely no warning or punishment for the opposing teams head coach. The base ump confirms our pitcher is legal…all’s well.
We come in to hit and go up by 2 or 3 runs. Next inning begins, the coach of the opposing team is still arguing the pitching issue and after 3 outs are made again comes out of the dugout and questions the umpire about the legality of the pitch due to the amount of drop on the ball. The plate umpire again tells him it’s legal. Throughout the game there were bad calls for both sides and our coach questioned one play at 2nd base where he walked out calmly (or as calmly as he can….he kind of has an angry walk if you know what I mean), and asked the base ump if he was willing to appeal to the home plate umpire, he said no, again all’s well.
As the game wears on I begin to notice the plate ump is spending a lot of time on the other side of the field chatting with the coaching staff of the other team, giving high five, fist bumps and sharing sunflower seeds, etc. At the same time I begin to notice his strike zone becoming smaller and smaller for our pitcher and those drops that were originally strikes are now called balls. Please note I am in no way of accusing anyone of throwing a game or showing preference for another team. I am just giving you my perspective on what happened during the game.
Finally here comes the play in question, our girl is attempting to make it from 2nd to 3rd by sliding into third base. The base umpire calls her out, no big deal so far right? At this point in time our coach tells her to hold her position because he plans on appealing the call. To be specific her position was sitting back in the sliding position. The player was smiling and waiting to get up when the plate umpire, yells at her to get up and get off his field. He addresses the player a 14 year old girl in a very loud and unprofessional manner and continued to do so as our coach called time to walk up to him to discuss the situation. The umpire continued to yell and berate the player for following her coach’s instructions.
Obviously our coach was upset and told him not to speak to his player in that manner and to address the issue with him as the coach. He said he would address it with the girls because he was not going to have her holding her positon to “show up the umpire”. Until this point I have purposely not quoted anyone because I can’t really remember who said what exactly. What I can tell you is that both were angry and upset. One took it out on a 14 year old girl and one took it out on the umpire because he felt it was inappropriate for him to speak to “his girl” that way (in case you are wondering the child in question was NOT our coach’s daughter). At this point in time the umpire yelled at our coach to go back to third, it was very clear that the next step the umpire was going to make was eject our coach if he didn’t be quiet and go back to the coaches box. Our coach complied to keep himself out of trouble and to get the game moving. At the end of the inning our coach approached the plate umpire again to express his displeasure for how the situation was handled and after some back and forth he was ejected from the game.
Some parents on our team thought that he handled the situation incorrectly and let his emotions get the best of him. I on the other hand am in total agreement with how he handled it and if I am being honest here, I am pretty sure I would not have made it to the end of the inning as our coach did. Our coach stood up for his TEAM, his actions showed that his girls deserved a much higher level of respect than they were given and he was willing to sacrifice himself to ensure that they got it. In my opinion, he was the ultimate team player because he made the ultimate sacrifice for to defend his team.
In my lifetime, I have seen parents and coaches get thrown out of games for arguing balls and strikes and safe and outs, so ejections per say were not something I am unfamiliar with and perhaps that is why I feel the way I do. In any case there is one thing I am sure of and it’s that I am proud of her coach for sticking to his guns in hopes of redirecting the umpire’s anger from our player to him. As parents of young women or girls what more could you ask for from a coach? These men and women who volunteer to coach this sport teach our girls so much more than the physical aspect of the sport, and as a mom of a 16 year old kid on the team, I can honestly say I hope my daughter can look back one day and remember this event as the day she learned what chivalry is all about and how she should never settle for anything less than her coach gave her teammate today.
July Softball – The Burnout Factor Written By John Michael Kelly
This time of year after months of playing endless games I start to see the wear and tear on both body and mind begin to take its toll on my athletes. It’s an important time of the season, but a perilous time if you aren’t careful to read the signs your athlete or team is about the crumble!
As I often talk about here the emotional strain we as parents and coaches put our kids under often borders on child abuse. We ramp up the expectations during Nationals season and as our expenses or traveling go up…magically so do our expectations for our athlete and team.
At the older ages elevated expectations (including self-expectations) coupled with the pressures of performing in front of college coaches who can decide the course of their future.
The mental strain becomes ever evident. Weather gets hotter, competition gets better and every failure or miscue on the diamond gets magnified under the microscopic eyes all around.
Additionally after playing 100 games since January (for you warm weather folk) the body begins to break down as aches and pains become more frequent and nagging tendinitis and those scrapped knees and elbows that never seem to heal become nearly intolerable.
So what can you do as parent or coach to help your athlete or team finish the season strong in spite of these five signs:
1. Give them a break. If your athlete plays every inning of every game suggest to her coach to give her a breather during pool play. Burnout can happen from too much playing and too little rest. If her swing is slower, her feet are slower in the field, she becomes more quiet in the dugout and seems more frustrated than normal after making an out or an error, she needs a break.
2. Watch diet, sleep and mood swings. Monitor if your athlete stops eating as much, begins to lose weight, or isn’t getting enough sleep. Hot showers for achy muscles or ice baths (as one of my former pitchers uses for sore muscles) can reinvigorate the body. Vitamin supplements and more fruit and veggies can help to maintain energy levels. Proper sleep is paramount. Give her the best bed in the hotel; make napping comfortable in the car; bring her pillow from home.
3. Hydration. This may seem obvious, but a dehydrated body will cause lots of unpleasant physical side-effects like headaches, nausea, lack of focus and muscle cramping. Start hydrating DAYS before the big tournament, and keep hydrating before, during and after the games. Lack of hydration can also accelerate mental fatigue, which leads to physical errors on the field.
4. Mental relief. As parent or coach this time of year emotions can run high in national tournaments. Yet for many players they are at the emotional breaking point. Help to relieve that pressure by maintaining “big picture” thinking. Don’t kill her joy for the game. Keep it fun for her; plan team activities off the field to make it more than just about the game. (see #5 for incentives)
5. Playing any sport year around can cause burnout for any athlete. As the end of this season approaches, and as a motivator to get her through the next few weeks, create an incentive; maybe a “spa day” or a mini trip to an amusement park or to the beach/shore. Seriously…take the month of August off. Let her mind, body and spirit rest and recuperate. When the game stops being fun for her she will want to quit, or will care less about it. For any teen making the sacrifices we ask of them for the game is demanding enough. Give her a break!
When an athlete is emotionally “done” the best remedy is always rest. However, in the middle of the busiest month of the softball season try these five tips to gently nudge her to the finish line!
Thanks for reading! –John Michael Kelly
Coaching the Parents: How Mom & Dad Can Help You
Get Recruited or Keep You From It… Written By Robby Wilson
“Don’t just sit there and watch the third strike, at least go down swinging! If you do that again, we’re leaving you won’t even play the rest of the weekend!” We’ve all heard it, seen it, maybe even experienced it – the travel mom or dad standing behind home plate, arms crossed, looking for the first thing to yell about, whether good or bad. But we’ve all heard it a million times that the parents are an integral part of the recruiting process for more than just finances, family support, and location.
Think about it…put yourself in a college coach’s shoes and imagine you’re recruiting a kid. Imagine the athlete you’re looking to recruit has parents that are yelling such as the situation above, sitting behind home plate tearing their own kid down. Then whether or not you see the dad/mom say something to the coach as well, the demeanor that is permitted with this team tells you that these parents are the type that likely will attack the coach about playing time, playing certain positions, making a good/bad call, etc. What does this mean to a college coach? It means that if he recruits this kid, the parents are going to be more trouble for the next 4-5 years than the athlete may be worth. If the parents have been able to act this way for years in travel ball, attempting to set a standard/expectations once beginning in college ball, not likely to be successful because they’ve built a habit of being able to do and say whatever, whenever.
Recently in June 2014, I attended one of the year’s biggest showcases annually in Colorado. In scouting various games alongside several of the college coaches, I had a couple of situations that were exactly this. Sitting watching game 1 with several of the coaches, they made the comment how well-behaved the parents were, how helpful they were, and how the girls seemed to be enjoying themselves while working hard because there was no “background noise.” BUT, then game 2 rolled around. Two different teams and two totally different sets of parents. The negative things observed in the first two innings:
Pitcher’s dad behind home plate shaking his head and throwing his hands up in disappointment. Mom even told the umpire a few times how blind he was and so forth.
Another dad watches his daughter strike out and as she’s walking back to the dugout, he grabs his keys and tells her “I can’t watch this stuff, just ride with Janey” and leaves.
Another set of parents even GO OVER to the dugout after a kid grounded out, and begins verbalizing their irritation beginning with words that would’ve gotten soap put in a kid’s mouth.
And believe me, I could go on and on about what I saw throughout the week in Colorado. It was very disheartening. The point I wanted to make with this particular time was that as soon as these parents began doing those things, each of those college coaches got up and left. One even crumbled up the team’s roster sheet and tossed it as he walked away. In talking to several of them later that day at another field, they all seemed very disheartened as well. One coach even said
“with so many people not wanting softball to continue to grow, why would the people in the world of softball continue to keep the sport down themselves? If we know these are negatives about our sport, why do we continue to allow it? I simply will not recruit a kid, nor will I recruit from a team where that type of stuff is permitted. I prefer the teams to have the parental agreement some of them have, where they sign agreeing that they will be silent unless it’s in support, they will stay away from home plate and away from the dugout, and enforce a 24 hour rule on discussing things with the players as well as the coaches.”
This really sunk in when I thought about it. And when I talked to several more coaches about it they kept mentioning the similar statement of “coaching the parents”, meaning that the travel organization and/or team coaches should have a set standard and explain the expectations from the beginning and possible even sign an agreement and enforce it.
This is not to say that any parents have bad intentions, that’s 99.9% of the time not the case. The parents love their kids, want them to do well, spend a lot of money and time helping support the kid’s dream of being the best they can be and eventually playing college ball. But sometimes our support, time and passion of the kid’s dream allows us to get frustrated when things don’t always go perfect, and often times it is displayed at the showcase or taken out on the kid. It’s never intentional, but always detrimental. This doesn’t mean the parents have to tell the kids everything is all sunshine and lollipops either. It means we don’t have to say anything at all!
You see, the girls have been playing this sport for 4-12 years. They’ve been trained and taught for moments like this and showcases like this. Normally if they make a mistake, make an error, bad throw, strikeout, these girls are so trained and experienced in the sport that THEY ALREADY know what they did wrong, so why do we need to remind them publicly? We don’t!
From a college scouting perspective I will tell you this…the perfect situation of which I’ve had numerous times and later on, ended up working with that athlete is this:
The kid normally is flawless defensively and is a threat at the plate offensively…the kid makes an error or strikes out. At the end of the play the kid either (1) Doesn’t even look over at the parents, or (2) The kid looks over at mom/dad with a frown on her face but without saying a word, mom or dad gives a thumbs up or a look meaning “dust your shoulders off, you’re ok”. Then the kid smirks a little grin. And for the rest of the game the kid is back in action and never misses a step.
You see what happened there? The parents might have been frustrated that their kid made a mistake, but they kept it inside and instead of scolding her, they gave her some positive motivation and changed the kids attitude and demeanor in one split second. “The coach’s job is to coach. The player’s job is to play. The parent’s job is to be a supportive spectator without interfering.”
Even with my own daughter and keep in mind as a scout, it’s part of my job to be critical…I don’t say a word during her games. I sit back, support, give the thumbs up on good things and give a clap during bad things essentially telling her it’s okay, and I don’t get involved. She can tell me after the game the mistakes she made and what she should’ve done, etc. I simply nod my head and agree. After each game she “grades herself” in the form of A-F and then explains to me why she graded that way. After she tells me those things, she tells me what she wants to focus more on during her training this week. And we leave it at that. No griping, no belittling, no more actual talk about it that night aside from where we’re getting ice cream from. All that being said, my daughter is 8 years old. If she is knowledgeable enough about the game of softball and her abilities to tell me what she did wrong, etc…don’t you think a teenager who has played for 4-12 years can do the same?
A Coach’s Perspective
Imagine being the college coach and scouting the kid mentioned above with the dad behind home plate questioning every call the ump or coach makes, while mom is in the stands gossiping about the team, coaches, and other players not being able to hold a candle to her baby girl. Now if you’re the college coach, do you want to deal with this family for 4-5 years? Nope! Because the minute she arrives on campus if she’s not starting or playing where dad thinks she should play, coach is going to hear about it. Not only that, but the college coach LOVES for the kid’s parents to attend their games because it builds support for the teams and puts rears in the seats! It’s a traveling fan club! But on the contrary, he/she would have to intervene if the parent(s) tried those same antics and possibly consider cutting the kid after year one. There is no kid, no athlete, anywhere, that isn’t replaceable. Some will argue differently, but the good can never outweigh the bad with situations like that. Just because this 2016 pitcher is throwing 60’s, is 6 ft tall, and has stellar academics and a big bat to boot…I have a few of those that are my prospects alone! So how many of those do you think there are out there for the college coach to find? He/She is going to move on, find another, and this one will have supportive parents who understand letting their kid fight their own battles and discover who they are.
On the other side of things, an ideal family as described earlier, is an ideal situation for the coach and can help drive the kid’s recruiting with that coach/school. How? Imagine two different girls, both 2016 pitchers, both great academics, both good bats, but one is hitting 58-60 while the other is hitting 63. But the pitcher hitting 63 has the yelling dad and gossiping mom, while the girls hitting 58 has the quietly supportive parents with the child who understands handling her own business. More stress or less stress? More friction and trouble? Or less friction and trouble? The kid throwing 58-60 is going to win out, every single time, every day of the week. Why? It’s much easier to have your pitching coach work with her and bring her speeds up and/or utilize her movement much more, than to deal with the dad calling you because his daughter isn’t pitching a game or standing behind home plate yelling at her because her drop ball isn’t dropping.
This goes beyond just what you see at the fields during game time. It’s what’s known around town. What the other parents say. What the parent is posting on facebook, twitter, blogs, instagram, and so forth. Everyone has seen the posts about questioning the coach, we would have won if my daughter pitched, the coach lost the game(s) for us, my super stud kid better get some playing time or I’m switching teams, and so forth. Whether you do it in person, in public later, or on social media, the negativity with a sense of “entitlement”, it is going to lose your kiddo many opportunities now and the cycle will continue into his/her adulthood in employment, as well as what they teach their kids.
What I Like To See
Whether the parents shows up in support but stays quiet, or simply cheers for everyone and even compliments the other team on various players and plays, those are the parents whose kids are probably smiling and having a blast while taking care of business on the ball field. I like to see that pitcher that has a homer hit off her and looks over and smirks at dad as if to say “she nailed that one”, and then strikes out the next at bat. I like to see that dad who has pirched up over on the left field fence out of the way because he knows he’s tempted to talk to her during the game and so he removes himself so he can be there in support, but not in mouthing and degrading. I like to see parents who keep it light. You may get tense in nerves because of the game, all parents do, but don’t let it show. Keep it light. Smile, have fun, dance even, but trust me – the fun loving good time will rub off on the girls and believe me, the girls have to be happy to play well.
We could go on for days on end about what to do and what not to do, but it’s actually not that complicated. The athlete playing softball (or any sport for that matter) must also have their “family support” considered by a college coach because it’s not just the kid who will be involved with the university and their program, it’s the family. And if the family is not the family you want around the program or that you want wearing your school colors at the game, there’s no kid too talented to move on.Travel coach should keep this in mind and possibly implement a structure and agreement with the parents, setting the standard on what is and is not acceptable, if you haven’t already. Parents should take a long, hard look at how they are during the games/tournaments. Talk it over with your softball player and get her perspective. Either way, the “family support” is just another piece analyzed in the recruiting puzzle that is widely known, but often overlooked. Hopefully this article goes a long way in confirming some of the things you’ve considered or wondered, but never knew for sure.
Drawing the Lines of a Leader Written By Shannon Murray
Almost every softball team votes or has designated team captains. Normally these are the girls that are seen as the best players on the team or have the most outgoing personality. But did you know that team leaders don’t have to be captains? If you didn’t, then you may not even know that you are seen as a leader on your team. Captains are meant to be the leaders of the team, but they are not the only ones. Is there one criteria to be met in order to be seen as a captain? These are some of the questions that come to mind when we are determining how to draw the lines of our team leaders.
Personally, I prefer to refer to team captains as team leaders. In my opinion, the word leader presents a stronger emphasis on the definition of the word, and in my personal experience has given a little more push to those girls trying to fulfill those roles. Diversity comes in handy when it comes to selecting the leaders of your softball team. Every girl has different strengths and weaknesses that should be utilized and accommodated for. Some girls on the team will be more vocal leaders and others will lead by action. Either of which can make a great team leader. I believe in having more than one team leader on the team to balance out strengths and weaknesses. Not only is there diversity in leadership skills, but also in the way the rest of the girls will respond to each captain’s leadership style. It would be rare to say that every girl on the team could one hundred percent agree with one team captain’s leadership ways. That is why it’s good to have some mix in the leaders. No matter what girls are selected as the team leaders, they should all understand that being a leader means you are there to serve the girls on your team and not yourself.
However, there are plenty of leaders on the team that are not official. They are the girls you see encouraging their teammates after striking out. These are the young ladies that stay after practice to take more swings or grounders and the rest of the team follows. The unofficial team leaders are the girls that will pick up equipment, share their gear and lend a helping hand all without being asked just because they know it’s what’s best for the team. They don’t see these tasks as beneath them or for anyone else but every girl on the team. Just as much as the official leaders on your teams, they too deserve to be recognized for their hard work and selfless dedication to making the team better. We must not forget these girls and their good service to the team that sometimes goes by right in front of us.
So what are the qualities to look for in team leaders? For this answer, there is no one answer. There are many and the right one will vary for each team. Every softball team has a different team dynamic and therefore requires a little bit of research to determine who will make the best team leader on it. Overall, there are some qualities that I look for in team leaders that could be taken into consideration on any team. I seek girls that are motivational. They want to win, reach goals, be a team play and a positive influence without even trying. This is their personality and it speaks to the team with or without words. Good team leaders have a vision. Their vision is realistic, inspirational, contagious and is one for the whole team (not just themselves). A good leader to me is a young woman that can exhibit good sportsmanship and get everyone on board with her vision.
Now that we’ve thought about what a good leader for a softball team is, what do we do as coaches? As any coach knows, we are not just building exceptional softball players, but also exceptional young women. By doing so, when we pick our team captains we are building future leaders. As the coach it is our responsibility to guide our team leaders and encourage them to embrace their leadership skills. You never know, you could be coaching a future college coach, the future president or CEO of a major corporation. But as we give them support and encouragement in these leadership roles, we can develop confident young women.
Let us remember that leaders aren’t born, but rather made. They are created by a large amount of factors, but how they built in softball is something we can help with. Educator and author Peter Drucker said, “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” Let us draw the lines of our leaders beyond their thinking of what is their limits, and show them they can lead teams to success farther than they could imagine.