6 Reasons To Look For Another Team
Travel baseball is highly competitive and this competitiveness is great to ensure your kid develops to the best version of himself. Below are six reasons to indicate it might be time explore other teams.
1. Winning Motive
Coaches that are only concerned with winning should be a red flag. Absolutely winning is fun, however, winning should be the validation from doing things the right way. If you are on a team that is only concerned with winning, this should be a red flag. No college or pro team will be looking back on how your 9u team performed. These are great memories for you, your kid, the families, and team, but do not matter one bit to high school, college, or professional coaches. They will be looking to see if players know how to make proper cutoffs, baserunning, individual metrics, personality traits, and much more.
Does your coach shy away from competition? See red flag #1. This directly pertains to the need to win. If you are winning every tournament, or winning games by a large margin this should be an indicator. A good coach will make sure his kids are playing the appropriate competition level (Which is sometimes difficult to determine). It is no fun to enter tournaments and beat up on other teams or get beat up on. It is possible for your coach to gauge your team’s competitiveness and then play in the tournaments that most closely match your team's level.
3. Closed Lineup
Does your coach bat a closed lineup at the ages of 12 and under? I will preface this by saying I was a coach, and I batted a closed lineup at 9u. I obviously like winning. Did we win some championships, sure? Was it right, nope? It was my responsibility as a coach to pick the right number of players to win as a team and I failed to do this. At younger ages, 10-11 committed players are the optimal number. Coaches/organizations will give the excuse of injury, but it isn’t that, because many capable kids can be picked up at any time throughout the year. The good coaches thrive on developing the less talented players. Two years ago, my son’s team had 9 players, with fill-ins that everyone on the team was perfectly fine with. With that being said let’s talk about pick-up players.
4. Pick-Up Players(Ringers)
There are two types of pick-up players. Pick-up players as discussed above and then there are pick-up players to try to win (Ringers). Does a team only pick up players because they cannot win with what they have? Let’s say your son/daughter is picked up at the end of the year to play in a tournament as a ringer. The kids that have played all year sit the bench because of your son (Something I also wrongly did as a coach). The writing should be on the wall for the players sitting the bench, they either will not be asked back next year OR will not want to come back. In regards to the player that took the spot, it should also demonstrate the loyalty the coach has to his players as well as lack of development from the team/organization.
5. Good Brand or Development
How does your organization win? Do they just have a good brand and only pick up some of the best players without much development or do they pick up good players and develop at the same time? A team can win both ways, however the first type of team will have constant turnover. As parents, we want to see our kids develop. We spend a lot of time driving them around, a lot of money on fees and equipment, so naturally we want to see improvement from the process. Travel baseball is a service. Unfortunately, services rendered are not always adequate and a player and team must separate.
6. Watch Practices
You can watch practices without being overbearing. Observe the practices very closely. Is there a lot of standing around? Are the practices slow-paced or do they have different stations working on a variety of drills? Do they teach them proper techniques such as cut-offs, pick-offs, catching fly balls, defensive positioning, and other proper fundamentals? To me these things are MUCH more important at a young age than winning.
Realize this, no one is perfect, and most coaches acknowledge this. Players need constant development and coaches and organizations are constantly learning too. Coaching youth sports is generally done by volunteers who truly love the game and it can often be a thankless job. Coaches lose sleep over setting lineups, positions, parent drama, practice plans, and more. As a parent, it is vital that you do what you feel is best for kid, even if some relationships and feelings are strained along the way. Find a coach/organization that most closely aligns with your values/philosophy and stick with them for as long as your kid is developing, learning, improving, and having fun.