This time of year I am constantly aggravated. I shouldn’t be because I love the start of pre-season baseball in anticipation for opening day. But this is also the time of year when high school baseball starts in New Jersey.
I love baseball and enjoy coaching my travel baseball team. In my mind that makes me a coach but we all know that’s not really true. That doesn’t stop me from thinking most high school baseball coaches are the Forrest Gump of the coaching world.
I have never witnessed a bigger compilation of idiots who believe themselves to be real this side of congress. Most baseball coaches are frustrated college players or washed out minor league players who could have been somebody if it weren’t for their ceiling being lower than they believe.
They think that makes them a baseball authority. It makes them more adept at the game than most wanna be coaches like me, but it does not make them coaches. In fact, I’ve witnessed baseball coaches do more damage to young players than help. This leads to a lot of players quitting the sport and it seems most high school coaches and Athletic Directors are OK with that outcome.
In their feeble minds, “sub-standard players” quitting makes their teams stronger. Most freshman coaches think by winning they will become the varsity coach. And most varsity coaches think wins will equal that plumb college job. Most coaches are focused on the win and forget the essence of coaching teenagers in any sport is to teach them how to play the sport better.
Half of my players play for the local high school team while the other half play for parochial schools in the surrounding area. The horror stories are the same. Coaches yell. They scream. They use jargon. They threaten. They used tire platitudes.
The one thing coaches do not do is explain the jargon, teach the technique, or allow players to enjoy the sport. In short, they do not coach. I once heard a freshman coach scream at his team “I’m not here to teach you how to play this game. I’m not your travel team coach.”
Really? Than what is he there for?
I heard another high school varsity coach tell a player to “swing for the trees and that will fix your swing.” I cannot even begin to comment on the stupidity of that comment so I’ll let it stand for itself.
The coach’s chase for the next opportunity drives the most destructive behavior towards adolescents imaginable. It leads a coach to select a team comprised of players he believes will maximize wins. Usually that means players who throw the ball hardest and hitters who hit the ball farthest. They euphemistically call them pitchers and hitters.
Nothing can be farther from the truth.
This creates an atmosphere where players are selected to a team based on physical attributes and not refined skills to play baseball. So, players who know how to the play the game but are not endowed with a standout of any of the five tools will be cut. I tell those players that a coach selects a team based on his or her pre-determined criteria. It does not mean those cut “are not good players.” No. They are simply not players that fit the coach’s mold. All it takes is for a coach to explain his decision to a teenager.
But these cowards have one-on-one “meetings” with players and simply say they are cut. No explanation, no reason. In some cases, Coaches tell the teenager “you were not good enough.” That may be true for some but the majority of players are cut because the coach has a myopic view of the game.
It is not a bad lesson of life. Sometimes you have to deal with idiots that are your boss.
Youth sports have devolved into a scholarship chase littered with delusions of grandeur and broken dreams blamed on others. The fun is gone. And the joy of playing joined fun on the way out the door.
There is plenty of blame to go around but it mostly resides with the number one culprit: money. Parents spend all kinds of money on lessons in hopes their children get a scholarship. If they saved the money, they would have enough to pay for a semester of college.
Are high school coaches a product of this environment? Maybe. It still does not excuse destructive behavior towards teenagers. Players who are destined to go pro play in elite programs. The high schools ride their coattails for bragging rights when they do turn pro. It helps when fundraising for their programs.
Most of the players on a high school team will not advance past their varsity team. I think a little perspective is in order.