“This discord means kids, parents, and coaches are often trying to achieve different things and speaking different languages,” says Dan Clemens, author of a new book for coaches and parents titled, A Perfect Season: A Coach’s Journey to Learning, Competing, and Having Fun.

Do you play to win or do you play to have fun? What is your perfect season?

How you answer, often, depends on your age. According to a growing body of evidence, there’s a huge rift between kids who play their sport to have fun, learn, and be with friends, and the priorities of coaches and parents bent on winning.

As a result, by the age of 15, nearly 80 percent of kids have quit their sport, according to a report by the Center For Kids FIRST in Sports. Why? The report indicates the top seven reasons kids quit organized youth sports are:

There’s a better way, as Clemens shows in A Perfect Season. Instead of espousing theory in a “how-to” guide, Clemens uses 65 personal journal entries as coach of his 12-year-old son’s team to describe a perfect season. It is chocked-full of humor, passion, lessons learned, and editorial perspective on the many issues facing youth baseball these days (metal bats, pitch counts, playing multiple sports, etc.).

“Readers see that our season was perfect, but not from a win-loss perspective,” explains Clemens. “It was perfect because we accomplished all of our goals for the season: kids should learn the game; kids should be competitive (as individuals and team); and most importantly, kids should have fun.”

His story emphasizes that staying focused on what’s most important to kids isn’t easy. “If we do those three things, though, we produce healthy, happy kids, ready to enter high school with experiences and fond memories to last a lifetime.”

The anecdotes in A Perfect Season are universal and highlight several of Clemens’s lessons-learned that make it an appealing and valuable read for youth coaches:

  1. The mantra of fun, learn, compete guides decisions on and off the field.
  2. The difference between Responding and Reacting as a way of dealing with lackluster play, frustrating umpires, and angry parents.
  3. Why yelling at kids doesn’t improve performance.
  4. Why communication is a coach’s most important off-the-field responsibility.
  5. Why kids should participate in multiple sports and learn to play several positions.
  6. Why coaches must define success before selecting players for the team.