Being a Part of the Team
After just a few tournaments this year, I am reminded again of just how far baseball IQ has fallen and how kids in this generation don’t understand the value of simply being a part of the team. They just don’t do the “team” things like protecting runners and hitting the ball to the right side to drive in a run and saying down a sacrifice bunt that help make a baseball team successful. My former athletic director saw it coming, and he wasn’t even a baseball guy. He inspired this conversation in Coach Dave Season Two: All-Stars. Read this snippet before I offer some suggestions:
Coach Dave drew a deep breath. “I know that when I read the name of the final alternate, disappointment will set in for many of you. When I was a youth baseball player, my ability always put me around this spot on the all-stars list. Sometimes I made the team, sometimes I was an alternate, and sometimes I didn’t make it at all. At least from a player’s standpoint, I can empathize with you. That’s why I took this choice so seriously.
“My high school baseball coach and athletic director was a 30-year veteran by the time I played for him. He had coached at several different schools, and I guess he had seen it all. I heard my dad ask him once about the biggest change he had seen in athletics in all his years of coaching. He said, ‘That’s easy. People no longer see the value in simply being a part of the team. That goes for players and parents.’
“That’s why I reserved this spot for a player who sees the value in being a good teammate, one who cheers on his teammates whether or not he is playing well, whether or not he is starting, whether or not he is even getting any playing time. This year’s final alternate spot goes to Rob Baker from the Scarlet Knights!”
I should have felt some emotion from Rob’s inclusion on the team, even as an alternate. Happiness. Gratitude. Relief, even. But if there were to be any expressions of emotions or discussions in the Pasquali’s party room about who made the team and who didn’t, Coach Dave’s next announcement dissolved those conversations.
3 Suggestions for Teaching the Value of Being a Part of the Team
Players, parents, and coaches should enjoy being a part of the team. We all tend to get too caught up in the wins and losses and forget what the focus on youth sports should be–kids and fun. I’m guilty.
Parents and coaches, I am going to offer three suggestions for teaching the value of being a part of the team. I could offer many more, but I just want to get your mind stirring in this direction. You can come up with more on your own to help your child enjoy being a part of the team this spring and summer.
- Challenge your child to say thank you to a different coach or teammate every practice and game. Look for reasons and help get him started. Chances are, while helping your youngster become more grateful for those who make his participation on the team possible, you will find yourself being a little more grateful for everyone who makes it happen, too.
- Maximize achievements that involve sacrifice: a sacrifice bunt, a groundout that drives home a run, a sacrifice fly, a hitter who leans into a pitch to give his team a base runner. What is celebrated is repeated. I valued defense as a middle school basketball coach. I taught my players to take a charge and encouraged it in them, but only after it happened and I celebrated it (perhaps with a little extra gusto) did it become a regular occurrence on the court.
- Play ball! No, not the kind you play on the field. Play wiffle ball or kickball or something similar just for fun and away from the field. No coaching or umpiring–just free play. Even better if the adults join in…but only if they can resist coaching and umpiring!
Use your imagination to add to the list. But keep in mind the great value–the transferable value–of simply being a part of the team. You’ve probably heard the overused but still true team slogan:
What ideas do you have for teaching young athletes to appreciate simply being a part of the team?
Al Ainsworth is the author of six books:
Coach Dave Season Four: Travel Ball[/bluebox]