by Frustrated Coach

I am currently coaching a Little League Minor team comprised of 8, 9, & 10 year old baseball players. The guardian of one of the players is already questioning why her little “Johnny” isn’t pitching (We’ve only had one 4-inning scrimmage and one game so far…).

She’s right in the fact that her little Johnny just ISN’T going to be pitching or playing 1st base any time in the near future due to safety reasons, but I’m just not quite sure how she arrived at this conclusion so soon. She seems to think ALL kids should get a chance to play ALL positions. She’s called me at home a few times already to tell me how I should be “coaching” the team, blah, blah, blah…

I disagree, for safety reasons alone. Not every player is able to play every position. For one thing, her precious Johnny, who is 9 years old, is the weakest player on the team: he throws likes he’s throwing a shot put, can’t even throw the ball to his partner at a distance of 10 feet, couldn’t catch a cold in flu season, and doesn’t know how to take a “good cut” at a pitch while batting.

This kid has been on my son’s team for the past 3 years starting with t-ball, and then two years of coach-pitch. He’s never been that good, perhaps some day he’ll get better and develop in to a ball player, but for right now, it just isn’t happening.

I’m not sure why some parents/guardians think they can sign their child up for baseball, only let the coaches have their child for a couple one-hour practices, and then think we will turn them in to an all-star. Most of the parents/guardians haven’t so much as tossed a ball around the yard, done fielding practice or pitched batting practice to their kid EVER.

I have a good group of kids, who are having a good time so far this year. I could care less about “W’s” and “L’s” this season. I only want the kids to continue to develop a love for the game and have fun while doing so.

Your thoughts on this very frustrating situation?

COACH HENZE’S ANSWER

Thanks for the question!

I have a few thoughts running through my head on this question.

The first thing I want to say is that I truly believe kids, at this age, should have a chance to play all positions. At ages 8, 9 & 10, kids are still at the very beginning of their development and most of them love the game of baseball. If you are truly not worried about Wins and Losses (which, in my opinion is good), then all of your players should have the opportunity to play all positions unless they choose not to. Let them experience every aspect of the game.

 I am pretty firm on that belief in most situations…

With that said, I really have no first-hand knowledge of this exact situation. If you, seriously, have safety concerns for this child as a pitcher or 1st baseman, then you definitely need to be up-front and honest with the parents. Stay calm and state your opinions in a caring way. Never lose your cool!

If, after you have expressed your thoughts, the parent still wants their son to pitch and play 1st base, then you have a decision to make. I would recommend one of two things:

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  1. Simply allow the kid play the positions… Sometimes, parents just need to see that their child obviously is not ready for a certain position. Be sure to not set the child up for failure, because many parents will look for ANY excuse to blame a coach. More importantly, we don’t want to ruin the baseball experience for a kid because the adults are mad at one another. So, put him out there against a “weaker” team. If possible, let him face a few weaker hitters also. If he is as “bad” as you say he is, he will still not do well.
  2. Get direction from your Little League Director. Let him make the decision as to whether you play this child at those positions. That way, you can wipe your conscience clean if the child were to get injured. The league director can also help you communicate with the parent.

Dealing with parents is, in my opinion, the most difficult aspect of coaching in today’s world. It seems as if many parents, of any age child, think their child is an All-Star. We forget that most of us are simply AVERAGE (that is what the word average means). We also forget that our kids play sports because they want to have fun with their friends.

One last thing I want to recommend is that ALL coaches, parents, and youth sports organizations read the book, “A Perfect Season” by Dan Clemens. It is an awesome read and deals with these topics much more in depth. “Click here to learn more about that book and Coach Clemens.

NOTE TO ALL ADULTS: Please remember that you are a spectator in your kids’ athletic life. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of your kids ability to have fun in any sport. It is just a game!

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