Parents of passionate (and talented) players who struggle for playing time due to false perceptions

The passionate and talented player who struggles for playing time; especially on travel teams.

Yesterday I got a phone call from a father looking for guidance and help and direction for his thirteen year old son.  It seems as if the family has been participating in the whole “pay to play” deal (… if you’re a parent  looking to have your child play travel ball in this area, you’re going to spend a minimum of $2 – 3,000 for a season; more in the fall and of course all this does NOT include (extra) lessons, travel expenses; gas, food, lodging, etc.).

Ouch!!!  Ouch!!! Ouch!!! Ouch!!!

PS.  (I’m whispering now … like I’m about to tell you all a big secret; but I don’t think it really is … a secret that is.  I think we all know what’s up, don’t we? )  I have a better place for that money … it’s called “college fund”.  Don’t believe me?  Stay tuned.  I have a panel/forum coming up of pro scouts.  See what THEY have to say about it.

Worse; the youngster keeps getting cut or (worst of the worst): he has made teams and not played.

Worse yet?  He is a VERY good player.  VEEEERRRRRY good; especially his swing which is better than some college players I work with.  Not kidding.

Ready?!!?  Here’s the TRUE story.  Last year this player was on a winter/early spring travel team sponsored by a MLB team.  I don’t want to mention any names but the initials are the New York Yankees.  The team went down to Florida for a tournament in January.  This father DROVE 30 hours EACH WAY with his son in order to play in this tournament.  Great idea. Great “bonding” experience; the “father/son” thing.   Well worth the investment … for the trip that is because … ready for this? … the youngster DID NOT PLAY in the tournament.  60 hours in the car for nothing.  NOTHING!!!

The father called me from Florida during the tournament while this was going on and asked me what he should do …

(Of course I am being metaphorical here so don’t accuse me of giving you ideas but …) I suggested that he take the coach behind the barn and … well, I’m sure you get the picture.

BTW:  Let me give you a little more “perspective” on this story.  That same fall in September; only three months earlier, this organization (yes the team sponsored by the Yankees) staged a game between their 14U team and their 17U team.  This was all the brain child of the “administrator” of the program … NOT the coaches. (I was supposed to be one of the coaches; working with a friend of mine who is a current minor league player.  NOT!!!  This “administator won’t LET you coach.  HE runs the show; which led both of us ultimately to quit)  I went berserk protesting this.  This is beyond STUPID!!!  Way too much change in growth, strength, speed, coordination, etc. to match these age groups up against each other.  It is NOT going to be a ballgame.  It is going to be a HUMILIATION.  I guess the administrator felt that humiliation is a great character building device.

Sure enough, through four innings the older team (17 year old kid on the mound throwing 83) is working a perfect game.  (What a shock!!!)  Our “hero”; the (so-called “smaller” player) is finally put in the game.  in the bottom of the fourth.  In the stands  another mom sitting in front of the boy’s parents (ah, some people have absolutely NO class or brains) comments, “Oh who’s this coming to the plate?  Tattoo?”  In case you’ve forgotten she was referring to the dimunitive character on the hit TV series FANTASY ISLAND played by Herve Villechaize,  famous for the line, “The plane … the plane” spoken to  lead cast member Ricardo Montalban.  The boy’s mother strained to get up (I think her intention was … as I had advised the father with the administrator … to take this woman behind the barn…  but the father held his wife back and for good reason because …

… about thirty seconds later: BANG!!!  Their son hits a  double.  First hit of the game.

Two innings later (still no hits on this team except for our (perceived) “little” buddy), he comes up again and BANG!!!  Another double.

He got the only two hits in the game for his team.  The story gets better.  After the game the Yankee scout gets all the youngsters from both teams together on the field and the FIRST THING he does is pull the “small” player out in front of everybody and exclaim to everyone there that, “You guys see this player?  “El tiene b__ del tamaño de pomelo.”  For those of you who do not speak Spanish that translates to “he has b__ the size of grapefruit.”  He went on to explain to the group (about 60 players/parents/coaches, etc.) how THIS player possessed the most important character trait necessary for success; grit, determination, fearlessness.

This SAME youngster four months later drives from Connecticut to Florida … to ride the pine.  For the same team.

Wow!!!  What a GREAT “family” investment.  Put money into a baseball program, get up, pack up the car, and drive somewhere, eat restaurant food (possibly) stay overnight, forfeit all OTHER family activities (including those for OTHER kids in the family … ?) and then sit for a couple of hours while your child collects splinters!!!

What a great teaching tactic!!!  What a great athletic coaching concept!!!  Pure genius.  What is he being trained to do?  Sit?  So when he is older; out of college and entering the job market he can go to interviews and tell them how good he is at … siting?

Obviously this “administrator” is being groomed for academic research positions and a professorship at one of the Ivy League schools.  Obviously!!!

Worst yet?  As I am explaining (in detail) his young man is actually  very very good.  I’m not kidding or throwing out “nice” words of encouragement.  Again: this youngster REALLY has a beautiful swing (better than several college players I work with); and great defensive skills to boot.

This youngster simply has  a severe “perception” problem.  He  is a bit under developed physically; a bit short and a little heavy.  Hasn’t gotten the growth spurt yet.  Hasn’t shed his “little boy” body.

Not his fault.  Outside of hanging his son by his ankles from the second story window with a hundred pound barbell in his teeth and hoping to streeeeeeettttchhhh his spinal column, what is this father and son supposed to do?

“I ‘m at my wit’s end”, the dad complained.  “My son loves baseball but he is at the point where he doesn’t even want to go to practice or play.  If I put him in the local rec leagues we just end up with some “dad coach” who has his son pitch and play shortstop and bat third and none of the other kids gets a fair shake and, if he goes out for one of these travel teams all they care about is winning because that’s what sells the expensive enrollments in their programs and even though he’s a good player they think that the other parents won’t buy into a program with my son participating because he’s small.”

As a mental toughness and peak performance trainer and coach I said I would meet with them and speak to the boy.  I will tell him the truth … that his “late” development is not his fault.  Moreover, his dad is six feet tall and as likely as not that’s where the boy will end up.  Unfortunately the “process” is just is taking a bit longer than the other kids.  (The dad confided that he went through the exact same thing when he was growing up).

Most importantly I will tell him … truthfully … that NONE of this MATTERS.   It literally DOES NOT MATTER where he is at.  I will tell him about the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve who is 5′ 5″.  Way too short, no?  No!!!  Altuve has been in two all star games and in 2014 had 225 hits, hit .341 and won the National League batting title.

Jose Altuve; last year’s American League MVP.

I will tell him about Dustin Pedroia who …  Well, hell’s bells … is there anybody on the planet any more who thinks that Pedroia is too short?  2008 American League MVP; Dustin Pedroia?

Not likely.

Finally, and most impotantly I will tell him that there is a great “life lesson” herein; that “it is not about what other people think about you.  It’s what you know about yourself.”

Great stuff, right?

Okay, but in the meantime, where the hell is this nice young man … with a passion for baseball and supportive parents … going to play?

I’ll tell you what is most likely WOULD happen here unless someone intervenes and I’m sure you know it as well as I do … that this young man is going to want  to just quit unless he  fixes this.  The pain and aggravation of all this crap and crud is finally very simply going to be too much and he’s going to say, “the hell with this” and go do something else.

No no no no no!!!  What I stress in sessions like this is for the athlete and the parents to realize that in the first place what motivest him to play is his LOVE OF THE SPORT.  He needs to fous on that love; that emotion rather than all this peripheral nonsense (I believe they call it BS).  Secondarily both he and his parents need to realize that commitment to a sport or any high level endeavour is a “marathon”; especially a sport as difficult as baseball.  It is NOT a “sprint” but a marathon and that, with his commitment and passion he WILL SUCCEED.  As likely as not he’s going to grow up and fill out and probably end up being about his dad’s height and look back and say, “Gees, I really loved baseball.  I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity to play as long as I did.”

Put your focus on your passion and love; not on the people and environment surrounding you … at the moment.

You are who you are.  You are NOT what someone ELSE thinks you are.  You are who YOU KNOW YOU ARE!!!

Most importantly these are “life skills” that equip our children for the challenges they will all face long after they leave the playing field and become dads and moms; brother and sisters, husbands and wives; productive and contributing members of our society.

The process works when we work the process so here is the process …

 KAIZEN:  Constant Improvement.  LEARN and GROW.  Break it down!!!  Slow it down!!!  Do it Correctly!!!  HABITUATE:  Correct habits. Do it correctly over and over and over again.

 I work to address a broad range of issues in the articles and give you the best information possible.  If you have a question or feel you need advice or counseling, give me a call.

 I realize that sometimes it is difficult to ask for help; especially with mental skills.  However, all of us can improve something with our game. 

 Sometimes we need help but don’t know who to ask … or how.  Contact me and I can explain all our programs including  sports mental toughness programs which can easily improve your own mental game or that of your son/daughter or the players you coach.

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