Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ego Driven Madness

We at RT cringe a bit when we here about a player that lists himself as a Pitcher/SS. OK, we get it, he's a great athlete. But, because of our exposure to travel ball teams good and bad, we can only imagine a ego driven coach or overzealous parent not exercising good judgement when it comes to the health and safety of that star athlete. Now, not every two way player is a victim of overuse...but we have all seen top athletes overused at a young age resulting in a subsequent injury to the player.

In our small world here in California, we can list at least 25 kids..all great athletes...all P/SS type of players...going down to an arm injury. Of those 25, twelve had to have major surgery... The rest are sitting out due to tendinitis or other types of strains. These are players within a 100 mile radius of our hometown. Yesterdays article from the Houston Chronicle is typical of what is happening all across the country....and it's all due to an ego driven madness that starts right at home.

The Water Cooler Braggadocio
Here's a typical conversation in the Monday morning office break-room from a over zealous parent...

Dad: "My son pitched a complete game and then made three diving catches at shortstop and got the Tournament MVP award, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH."

Co-Worker: "What High School does he play for?"

Dad: "Oh, he is only 13...but we are looking into enrolling him into a private high school in a few years. They have the best baseball program. I'm sure a ton of colleges will be after him and we want the best exposure for him BLAH, BLAH, BLAH"

Co-Worker: Does he play any other sports? I mean, if he is that good of an athlete, how do you know he'll play college baseball?"

Dad: "Oh, it's different today. He plays year round baseball...up to 100 games a year. That's the only way he'll get better, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH"

Co-Worker: "Oh, he must play on the XYZ Travel team. I heard that they are the best".

Dad: Well, no we tried them, but they wouldn't give Junior enough playing time. My son's good. After he pitches, he's ready to play shortstop...When the games on the line, I want him making that last out or on the mound shutting the other team down. He's no bench sitter, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH."

Ever talk to THAT GUY??? Do you wonder where his son is today? Part, but not all of the problem in youth sports today, are ego maniacal parents, that live vicariously through their sons. They are the main reason why there are so many sports injuries today.

The Tortoise and The Hare Approach Works
When will we ever learn? The Hare's of the world have been responsible for the Dot-Com crash, the Enron debacle, the Mortgage melt-down and so much more. Don't be them...especially with your son's and daughter for goodness sakes. If your son isn't the tournament MVP at age 11, it won't matter. If he isn't on the Junior National team at age 14, it won't matter. If he isn't a starter on his freshman team in HS, it won't matter.

The key is, to just keep playing at a pace that is right for him and his health...learn the game, get stronger, and with a good solid work ethic, it will all come together.

Here's a real life scenario of a friend of ours. He did it the right way. Names have been changed, but the situation is real...

Timmy started playing travel ball at the age of 10. Timmy was a shortstop and pitcher and was a star on his Little League team in his community. However, his parents wanted Timmy to develop with players that were as good or better than him. A local coach had the idea to start a team with over 15 players...all of who were pitchers and shortstops in Little League.

Not everyone bought into this team, but Timmy's parents thought it was a great idea. Timmy pitched once every other week and played just about every position. He would have pitched more, but there were other parents putting pressure on this coach to let their kid pitch and be the star.

In the meantime, Timmy got the opportunity to learn other positions and make himself more valuable to the team as a player. Because of the ego's of other parents, Timmy rarely got to play SS, bat in the top 5 of the line-up, or pitch, but to his parents, that was a blessing in disguise. Timmy's parents told him that if he really wanted to crack the top of the order, he would have to earn it by working harder. And, that's exactly what Timmy did.

This went on for the next several years of Timmy's travel ball life. Players came and went, and the travel ball coach was always out there recruiting the next big Phenom...the next big closer...or power hitter...and Timmy just kept on working hard, improving his game, batting sixth or seventh in the line-up, while bigger, more high profile guys...ringers for a big tournament...kept him out of the top half of the order. He eventually gave up pitching to concentrate on being a position player.

By the time Timmy hit high school however, it was clear to the coaches that he had some skills and like the travel team, he got to play several positions and ended up winning a minor post season award in his Freshman season. His Sophomore year he improved even more. As a Junior, he really broke out and by his Senior year, he was awarded the Metro Areas top MVP honor and is now playing at a top rated D-I university, hitting 3rd and leading the team in BA.

And all along, the parents never panicked, never fought the coaches over playing time, and kept telling their son that he had to earn his way in baseball and in life, by working hard, practicing, listening and always learning. Oh, by the way, their son also has a 3.7 GPA as well. So, if baseball doesn't work out, we are positive that he'll take what his parents taught him and earn his way into a very successful career too.

The other kids that played with him the past 9 years in travel ball....where are they now? There were about twenty-four players in all throughout the years...Five are still playing in college and having some success of their own...They were the phenom, tournament pick-ups...the same players that kept Timmy out of the top of the order, but influenced him to become a better player.

Eleven are out of baseball or quit and just got burnt out from all of the pressure their parents put on them. Five of his team mates had career ending injuries and three are in physical therapy nursing an injury....but good enough to be still in baseball.

Timmy's parents had the Tortoise approach to their child's development. In the earlier years of Travel ball, when he was a two-way player, Timmy never pitched and then played a position immediately...The parents were OK with him being a DH after being on the mound or just resting the arm altogether on the bench. For them, there was no rush to need for adolescent accolades. The recognition would eventually come they rationalized...or not...the main thing was to seize the moment at hand. Work hard and play hard with the opportunities that were given to him.

As a result, he played injury free. And more importantly, although a key contributor to his team, Timmy only earned one tournament MVP award...but it was at a tournament that meant something...the summer after his junior year in high school, coming right out of a 1st team All Metro high school season, in front of a bunch of college scouts at a high profile tourney. As a result of that tournament, he received invitations to other showcases and camps and by the end of the summer, had 8 college offers. He picked the one that was right for him and things are going well. In a recent interview with Timmy's head coach in college, a reporter asked why this young freshman is having so much success. The coaches answer? "He just works harder than everyone else on the team".

You see parents...sometimes, you just have to let your kids work it out on their own. Getting in front of the coaches face and complaining about playing time will not make them a better player...Starting or finding a team to give Junior more playing time will not earn him a college scholarship...earning it the hard way will...or at the very least, the effort to earn it will make him a better person in life in the long run. That's what real coaches want...That's what the real world needs more of.

RT Staff


Anonymous said...

I have been scrolling down your sit and just read this article. You guys really, really know what you are talking about. WHo are you guys? You are number one inmy book.

Anonymous said...

After reading al of your articles, this one really hit home. I tried to rush my oldest boy and was so obsessed with his success before he even got into high school that he just kind of burned out. We slowed things down for my middle boy, let him owrk it out on his own, let other coaches coach him and by HS he was ready to break out... and he signed last November with Florida. I can tell you that pacing your kid is not only great for the player, it also was a relief for my wallet. Good article and great web site.