Worst Coach Stories

BJBossman

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Dec 6, 2016
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The absolute worst outcome from youth sports is kids walking away from an activity that is, at its core, supposed to be fun as a result of bad adult behavior. As such, I feel for some of you in this thread.

Instead of sharing some horror stories from my dozen years coaching farm up through U19 travel baseball - though I am happy to do that - I will relate what I have learned.

1. As many others have stated - the main goal is for kids to have fun and learn to love the sport. Objective 1A is for the kids to improve their skills.

2. Regarding winning, being competitive is very important and misunderstood. Most kids tend to be naturally competitive so even when we weren't keeping score, such as at farm or in scrimmages, the kids were.

In my experience, being competitive (not winning per se but being in games), even if you don't win, is inextricably intertwined with the kids having a good time. Programs that emphasize skills development and ignore being competitive tend to turn the kids off. Teams that aren't up to competing will often be beaten in a demoralizing fashion - even if you aren't about winning in youth sports, its the main goal of the vast majority of your competition. Love of a sport cannot blossom if you are a proverbial doormat.

As a side note, even though kids value the ability to compete, they tend to forget tough losses or even amazing wins much faster than parents and coaches. I marvel at that - its pretty remarkable.

3. The best youth baseball coaches I've seen balance all the above while allowing their players to fail. They will never chastise a kid for striking out or making an error, especially a physical one. They also reward/incentivize hustle and a good attitude. At the high school level, it makes all the difference for a kid if they don't feel like one bad AB will bury them for the balance of the season. Also, good coaches don't really "coach" in games as the message is more often than not lost.

4. As others have noted upthread, in LL I will only draft kids that receive high attitude marks from their previous coaches. If the choice is between a toolsy kid with a poor attitude or a middling one with a great attitude, the latter gets my pick every time. One of the biggest fallacies of coaching is that you can "coach up" athletes. There is never enough time to do everything you want to do and if you have to work with a kid/family that is a problem that creates an even bigger time suck. More importantly, all the kids tend to have a good time when everyone is pulling in the same direction whereas one bad apple can ruin an entire team.

5. Parents are, on balance, very unrealistic about evaluating their kids skills. Any league or program that wants to focus on the kids does all it can to minimize parental involvement in how teams are run, line-ups are made etc. For-profit travel teams are a nightmare because they can and do fall victim to pay-to-play situations where mom/dad writes extra checks to get their kid more reps at a position. Obviously, parent-coaches are a problem in this regard, more so in rec leagues where families are stuck with these people.

6. Lastly, in most little leagues where they have playoffs, every team makes it to the post-season. This means that there is no excuse not to give kids multiple chances to pitch or play whatever position they want to try provided there are no safety or health issues. We will even check back with kids who have stated they don't want to pitch to, at least, get them an inning or two. If coaches don't do this, especially early in the season, they are failing at their main job which is point number one above.

Sorry for the TL/DR but I care about making sure kids love baseball & sports so they continue to play until the sport tells them they can no longer continue. And even then, hopefully they pass on their love of the game to the next generation.
Please write a coaching book.

Seriously.

Not joking.

The nut bags I see when I'm reffing all need to read it.
 

LoweTek

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The thing amazing to me year after year is the extent coaches will go to stack teams. We're just getting underway with the Fall season (10U rec league). The guys who have been controlling the Board the past few years are taking more and more liberties with rosters at the beginning of the season. Last week in a draft which was supposed to be fair, I was scammed out of not one but two first round picks because one of the more 'influential' coaches wanted one of my star players who I had by league rule, the right to protect in the draft. He is the best player in the age group and had no reason to want to play on another team unless his parents were fed a bunch of bullshit.

It's a TL;DR story but some of the crap these guys pull is beyond the pale. They don't understand the concept of 'bad optics,' regardless of the truth.

Much like DBMH's story, I'd rather have have 11 mediocre players who want to play for me and have fun than eight with 2-3 troublemakers (parents or players) unhappy because they did not get on the team with the 'good' players.

I want to accomplish exactly what DBMH said: help kids make baseball a part of their lives for the rest of their lives and teach them to play the game right.

I've coached almost all age levels over more than 15 years of active coaching, never my own kid on my team. Every year the scheming and scamming gets worse and more blatant.

I have half a mind to report them to the District but it would result in me being unable to continue to coach in this league.

So it goes.
 

riboflav

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Jan 20, 2006
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Please write a coaching book.

Seriously.

Not joking.

The nut bags I see when I'm reffing all need to read it.
I love DjBMH. We agree on almost everything... basketball, anyway. That said, what you're seeking already exists. Start with Brian McCormick. He has books, Youtube videos, podcasts, thousands of tweets about how to do youth sports properly in America. And while there aren't many like him, he's not alone. But, seriously, start with him.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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The thing amazing to me year after year is the extent coaches will go to stack teams. We're just getting underway with the Fall season (10U rec league). The guys who have been controlling the Board the past few years are taking more and more liberties with rosters at the beginning of the season. Last week in a draft which was supposed to be fair, I was scammed out of not one but two first round picks because one of the more 'influential' coaches wanted one of my star players who I had by league rule, the right to protect in the draft. He is the best player in the age group and had no reason to want to play on another team unless his parents were fed a bunch of bullshit.

It's a TL;DR story but some of the crap these guys pull is beyond the pale. They don't understand the concept of 'bad optics,' regardless of the truth.

Much like DBMH's story, I'd rather have have 11 mediocre players who want to play for me and have fun than eight with 2-3 troublemakers (parents or players) unhappy because they did not get on the team with the 'good' players.

I want to accomplish exactly what DBMH said: help kids make baseball a part of their lives for the rest of their lives and teach them to play the game right.

I've coached almost all age levels over more than 15 years of active coaching, never my own kid on my team. Every year the scheming and scamming gets worse and more blatant.

I have half a mind to report them to the District but it would result in me being unable to continue to coach in this league.

So it goes.
This stuff is unfortunate but I see it all too often and from people who ostensibly support our efforts to have a level playing field (as I mentioned in earlier posts, our local LL makes parity a primary goal - the downside is that San Francisco Little League will have an extremely difficult time ever sending a team to Williamsport). I believe they rationalize it as part of the competitive aspect of coaching and I will be the first to admit that one of the reasons I enjoy coaching is that it scratches the competitive itch. However I play the hand I have been dealt and though I sometimes need to remind myself, the main goals are (1) and (1A) above - get them to love the sport and improve their skills.

It is bullshit when coaches stack teams though because everybody knows including the kids. It creates an interesting dynamic as everyone wants to not just beat that team but humiliate them in the process (I am as guilty of this as anyone else - I love handily defeating teams where the coaches are bad actors more than just about any other kind of victory -and that probably isn't healthy tbh).

Furthermore, when those teams succeed, their success is waved away by everyone as the byproduct of rule-bending or cheating. And if they fall short, people revel in their demise. Ultimately, it hurts the kids including those on the stacked team and if their parents are the coaches, their sins unfortunately flow down to the kids in the eyes of some people.

I agree with your approach btw - better to stay quiet and try to beat them. And please beat them.

Finally, thank you for the compliments BJ and riboflav but I just typed out what I consider to be common sense ideas. In my experience, there are a lot of great, caring, thoughtful coaches out there to offset all the bad ones. A book wouldn't help the latter group imho - you either get it or you don't.
 

BJBossman

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Dec 6, 2016
220
I love DjBMH. We agree on almost everything... basketball, anyway. That said, what you're seeking already exists. Start with Brian McCormick. He has books, Youtube videos, podcasts, thousands of tweets about how to do youth sports properly in America. And while there aren't many like him, he's not alone. But, seriously, start with him.
Yeah, there are a few.

I personally like Reed Maltbie.
 

BJBossman

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Dec 6, 2016
220
This stuff is unfortunate but I see it all too often and from people who ostensibly support our efforts to have a level playing field (as I mentioned in earlier posts, our local LL makes parity a primary goal - the downside is that San Francisco Little League will have an extremely difficult time ever sending a team to Williamsport). I believe they rationalize it as part of the competitive aspect of coaching and I will be the first to admit that one of the reasons I enjoy coaching is that it scratches the competitive itch. However I play the hand I have been dealt and though I sometimes need to remind myself, the main goals are (1) and (1A) above - get them to love the sport and improve their skills.

It is bullshit when coaches stack teams though because everybody knows including the kids. It creates an interesting dynamic as everyone wants to not just beat that team but humiliate them in the process (I am as guilty of this as anyone else - I love handily defeating teams where the coaches are bad actors more than just about any other kind of victory -and that probably isn't healthy tbh).

Furthermore, when those teams succeed, their success is waved away by everyone as the byproduct of rule-bending or cheating. And if they fall short, people revel in their demise. Ultimately, it hurts the kids including those on the stacked team and if their parents are the coaches, their sins unfortunately flow down to the kids in the eyes of some people.

I agree with your approach btw - better to stay quiet and try to beat them. And please beat them.

Finally, thank you for the compliments BJ and riboflav but I just typed out what I consider to be common sense ideas. In my experience, there are a lot of great, caring, thoughtful coaches out there to offset all the bad ones. A book wouldn't help the latter group imho - you either get it or you don't.
It should be common sense. But it's not.

I see coaches berating 10 year old kids (and the refs) like it's the final four.

Like dude....relax. This is 5th grade basketball. Let the kids learn and actually enjoy the game.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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It should be common sense. But it's not.

I see coaches berating 10 year old kids (and the refs) like it's the final four.

Like dude....relax. This is 5th grade basketball. Let the kids learn and actually enjoy the game.
This is the conundrum with youth sports.

Most coaching roles are volunteer in nature or, if there is any sort of compensation, its tiny. As a result, leagues are generally always looking for bodies to coach and the net result is that they tend to get some people who may have the basic qualifications but are flawed in other ways. This includes the inability to balance their competitiveness with making sure the kids have fun/learn as well as people who have little control in other areas of their lives and use their coaching position to compensate.

As you note - its just kids playing sports and even I occasionally need to remind myself of that. However there are a bunch of people who take it way beyond that to extreme levels of competitiveness or "tribal identity" and end up doing far more harm than good.

Nobody should be berating 10 year olds and I am not a big fan of yelling at youth athletes in general, especially given kids these days don't tend to respond to that approach anyhow (high school players are a bit different in that many of the guys can be straight numbskulls but yelling at them is also rarely effective). Unfortunately, as I noted upthread, these people generally aren't inclined to listen to outside advice and will rail against parents/kids being soft instead of even considering that some of the criticism might be constructive.

I don't know an easy fix but if people want to change this culture in their local leagues, they need to step up and coach themselves. Again, part of the bad dynamic stems from the lack of quality volunteers. Unfortunately, many people are either intimidated by the commitment, worried about their qualifications or simply don't have the time. As I noted upthread, if you can get the kids to have fun and improve their basic skills, especially at the younger age groups, you've done a good job. Bill Belichick or Greg Popovich's approach/methods aren't needed at this level. Just someone with enthusiasm, perspective and the ability to learn.
 

BJBossman

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Dec 6, 2016
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This is the conundrum with youth sports.

Most coaching roles are volunteer in nature or, if there is any sort of compensation, its tiny. As a result, leagues are generally always looking for bodies to coach and the net result is that they tend to get some people who may have the basic qualifications but are flawed in other ways. This includes the inability to balance their competitiveness with making sure the kids have fun/learn as well as people who have little control in other areas of their lives and use their coaching position to compensate.

As you note - its just kids playing sports and even I occasionally need to remind myself of that. However there are a bunch of people who take it way beyond that to extreme levels of competitiveness or "tribal identity" and end up doing far more harm than good.

Nobody should be berating 10 year olds and I am not a big fan of yelling at youth athletes in general, especially given kids these days don't tend to respond to that approach anyhow (high school players are a bit different in that many of the guys can be straight numbskulls but yelling at them is also rarely effective). Unfortunately, as I noted upthread, these people generally aren't inclined to listen to outside advice and will rail against parents/kids being soft instead of even considering that some of the criticism might be constructive.

I don't know an easy fix but if people want to change this culture in their local leagues, they need to step up and coach themselves. Again, part of the bad dynamic stems from the lack of quality volunteers. Unfortunately, many people are either intimidated by the commitment, worried about their qualifications or simply don't have the time. As I noted upthread, if you can get the kids to have fun and improve their basic skills, especially at the younger age groups, you've done a good job. Bill Belichick or Greg Popovich's approach/methods aren't needed at this level. Just someone with enthusiasm, perspective and the ability to learn.
Absolutely.

The problem is their coaching training is 95% seeing college and NBA coaches "work the refs" and they grew up with their amateur level coaches yelling at the players...so they do the same.

I'm not going to disagree that players are softer than before, but i don't think middle school is where you treat them like paid players either. They're still trying to find out what sports they like. And that age should be a feeder for the HS program. Kids who like basketball and develop their skills so they can meaningfully contribute to the team.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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Absolutely.

The problem is their coaching training is 95% seeing college and NBA coaches "work the refs" and they grew up with their amateur level coaches yelling at the players...so they do the same.

I'm not going to disagree that players are softer than before, but i don't think middle school is where you treat them like paid players either. They're still trying to find out what sports they like. And that age should be a feeder for the HS program. Kids who like basketball and develop their skills so they can meaningfully contribute to the team.
I agree with everything you are saying though I am not sure about the "soft" label for young players.

I know my fellow coaches tend to think that they are - especially the "pro-style" coaches you reference - but I think its roughly as its always been. In my experience, there are still plenty of kids who work hard, don't complain and don't run to their parents every time adversity hits. And then there the opposites who don't feel the need to show up to or give max effort at practice, will complain at any perceived slight and can often make what is supposed to be a team sport about them. I don't know if this phenomena is more prevalent now but we certainly had those types growing up, including some of the better athletes who participated on my own youth teams.

Parents on the other hand...that is for another thread. As OWN notes upthread, if you ever have any experience with the administration of youth sports leagues or teams, things are definitely more challenging. Its remarkable how many highly educated, otherwise well meaning parents consider volunteer coaches and organizers the same as regular service providers. Parents deserve to be heard and active communication with them is essential imho. But a volunteer youth coach shouldn't be viewed as similar to someone whose compensation is directly tied to the level of service they provide. Unfortunately, more than a handful of parents don't see it that way...
 
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BJBossman

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Dec 6, 2016
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I agree with everything you are saying though I am not sure about the "soft" label for young players.

I know my fellow coaches tend to think that they are - especially the "pro-style" coaches you reference - but I think its roughly as its always been. In my experience, there are still plenty of kids who work hard, don't complain and don't run to their parents every time adversity hits. And then there the opposites who don't feel the need to show up to or give max effort at practice, will complain at any perceived slight and can often make what is supposed to be a team sport about them. I don't know if this phenomena is more prevalent now but we certainly had those types growing up, including some of the better athletes who participated on my own youth teams.

Parents on the other hand...that is for another thread. As OWN notes upthread, if you ever have any experience with the administration of youth sports leagues or teams, things are definitely more challenging. Its remarkable how many highly educated, otherwise well meaning parents consider volunteer coaches and organizers the same as regular service providers. Parents deserve to be heard and active communication with them is essential imho. But a volunteer youth coach shouldn't be viewed as similar to someone whose compensation is directly tied to the level of service they provide. Unfortunately, more than a handful of parents don't see it that way...
you are correct for the most part. Kids are still kids. They still know very little. I do think they're coddled more than ever before though. That is probably more of a parent issue, but still...the end result is the end result.

It's one thing to talk to your parents to get advice about a situation, it's another to expect them to solve the situation with the coach themselves.
 

Heinie Wagner

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I love DjBMH. We agree on almost everything... basketball, anyway. That said, what you're seeking already exists. Start with Brian McCormick. He has books, Youtube videos, podcasts, thousands of tweets about how to do youth sports properly in America. And while there aren't many like him, he's not alone. But, seriously, start with him.
I love Brian McCormick. He should be 1000% more popular. I hope he gets better at promoting himself and getting more credibility. He has such great ideas, if he were only a former high level player or coach.
 

SydneySox

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Sep 19, 2005
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This story is nothing more than a story, there's no help needed, just a 'really, asshole' moment with a new coach.

Cricket starts here in the next few weeks for summer. My boy is turning 7 mid-season and has been playing with a local large club for three years. Imagine with T-Ball that there was a step before it, where you just played the first year without picking up a bat and probably not wearing a glove until halfway through, for 5 year olds, to teach them the basics of fun team work and throwing, catching, listening to coaches etc. They do that in cricket, then eventually step it up towards games. Cricket's tough for kids because eventually when you're playing, you can get out for 1 run and that's your entire day. The skills stuff is fun and aimed at getting kids into the sport is the right thing, no worries there.

Anyway, he has handled the skills well and last year as a 5 turning 6 year old he was ready skill-wise to move into an adapted gameplay mode which would be something more similar to T-Ball, except it's usually only open to 8 year olds. He was too young, which was fair, and they said to leave it one year. So rather than another year of throwing and catching, we went off to play T-Ball which he adored (and I loved coaching, and they loved me coaching because unsurprisingly no parents down here know the rules of baseball let alone how to coach the game at all). But he's had his heart set on going back to cricket which all his friends play, plus the nearest t-ball club was an hour away so we're back. He signed up, the club approved it noting they'd said 'come back in a year, no worries' and the club captain remembered him. The only rules for this mode are relatively simple mechanics ones (not that it matters, but that you can bowl with a straight arm and keep it on the pitch) that would be somewhat similar to, say, suggesting you could graduate to the next level of T-Ball if you could handle catching a ball in the glove mostly. You don't actually have to be any good, it's still just kids fun cricket.

So yesterday I get an email - it's from the 'coach' parent of the team he's been allocated to. First contact. Copied with some amendments to take out some details -

"Hi Adam, I note your son's age and it's not appropriate he's playing this year. It's not fair on me as a coach or on his team-mates, who are all 7 turning 8, or like my son xxx 8 turning 9. I've asked the club to reallocate xxxx to the junior blaster program where he will learn the skills he needs to play at this level."

That's it.

Nice way to meet your new coach.

Everyone has warned me for years that the older they get the worse it gets. It's going to be a long summer.
 

Tokyo Sox

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What do most 6 year olds who don't play t-ball do between the basic skills course and the adapted gameplay? Is the boy too skilled to play with kids his own age, and either way, related question, are you sure you're not "that parent"?

If you're that parent, you should just own it with new parent/coach: "Look mate he's way better than your kid was at his age, he'll be your starting third slip by November." You know, or something.
 

SydneySox

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It's a legit question for sure. In the first year of catching and throwing, there was another kid who also quickly outpaced the lessons and the two of them eventually just played their own game down the end. We (myself and his dad) both asked the club captain for the next option in the following season and he advised us both to wait the extra year for age reasons. WE went to T-ball, obviously my baseball dream and desire to coach it gave me that chance to get him playing it. But my mate's kid stayed with it for another year, almost - they eventually stopped going around christmas, the halfway point, as it was more of the same and his kid lost all interest. So, the answer is that most kids try to stick with it, or quit. Which is why the club captain had no problem putting my guy and my friend's son into the next league this year. They're not the only ones; the basic rules are there - bowl straight and with the right action.

I didn't bother adding it, but my friend received the same email from the new 'coach' as our little guys wanted to play together again and were placed on the same team by the club.

IF I was 'that' parent, this guy never would have known at the time of sending his email. Basically, I'm not in any way concerned with him theoretically calling to ask about the age of my guy or my friend's little guy. But he didn't bother with any of that.

It was his immediate announcement and swift decision to invalidate the kids' elevation despite the fact it had been vetted by the club and he didn't have the authority to do it anyway - and the fact it was his very first contact with my friend and I - that made for the exciting reading.

This wasn't a problem last year in T-Ball or in three seasons of soccer, btw. His coach in those sports is a fucking legend.
 

SydneySox

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Also, if I was that parent, I would totally point out that in his email he indicated his own boy is 9 and has been at this level going into his third season and it's a level kids should be well and truly out of after one year, so ... you know...

But I'm not. They don't even keep score.
 

Tokyo Sox

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But my mate's kid stayed with it for another year, almost - they eventually stopped going around christmas, the halfway point, as it was more of the same and his kid lost all interest. So, the answer is that most kids try to stick with it, or quit.
Yeah I was wondering if it was a maintaining interest thing. Makes sense.

Coachguy is definitely a penis, was just curious about the rest of it. Hopefully S can foul one off Coachguy's face. And in stupid cricket that would count for six runs, so win-win!