Detailed Explanation of Pre-season guidelines

As the season is almost in full swing, I just wanted to send out a reminder about some of the expectations of the coaches, players and parents.  This is all referenced on the web-site but I want to highlight a few things.  Click here to read this summary Expectations - travel ball guidelines.  This information has not changed since last August during tryouts.  This message is not necessarily in response to any situations, its just that these are the things that typically need addressed at some point in the season. 

Scroll down to read detailed explanations of the following subjects.
Coaching from the stands
Food and family in the dugout
Missing games
Flexibility
Team politics
Coaches will make mistakes

 
Coaching from the stands - In my experience as a coach, there are always parents who want the best for their player so they often times will yell instructions to the players on the field or in the batters box.  I would ask that you please refrain from doing so because it can be confusing to the player.  For example, the coach may have given the player a "take" sign on a pitch that was right down the middle.  If the parents yells from the stands "why didn't you swing at that, it was right down the middle", the player instantly has negative feelings because it is now impossible for him to please both his coach and parent.  Another example might be to give advice like "keep your elbow up" when he is batting.  Again, the coach may have just told him to keep his elbow down.  But even more important, we try not to give players mechanical advice when they are performing.  We keep the instruction to a few keys for that player but too much information is impossible for a youth player to process and execute in the .8 seconds it takes for the pitch to arrive.  Please keep the comments from the stands to generic encouragement and cheering after an accomplishment.  Also, if you hear a coach say something like...."come on Billy, let's get this run in", you could repeat what you hear the coach say in your own words. 

Criticizing the coach or other players out loud (during a game or EVER) - This should be common courtesy among adults (but it isn't always).  Please, do not EVER criticize the coach or another player OR parent during a game.  Please do not float behind the player dugout making passive aggressive comments that the coach, parents and players can hear.  This is NOT good for team chemistry and will NOT make the season enjoyable for everyone and create the best learning experience for them.  This is one of those subjects that is grounds for parent suspension and/or being uninvited for next season.  It could lead to player suspension as well if it persists.  If I hear of one of these situations or if I witness one of these situations, you will most likely be getting an e-mail, text or call from me.  This kind of behavior is like a virus that can destroy a team, a season or an entire organization and I will not tolerate it.  This includes verbal comments like: "why is so and so playing such and such position (and not my son) - he made an error that cost us the game yesterday", "why is my son on the bench", "why did the coach take my son out from pitching", "Why didn't the coach take that pitcher out and put my son in, he would have done the job", "why isn't my son starting"?  Can you spot the pattern?  You can think it or grumble to your spouse about it later but please do not verbalize it at any time where someone else can hear it.  If you do hear some persistent comments like this, please make me aware of it and I'll address it.  We recognize that you are making a substantial investment in the A's program.  But when it comes to baseball, it's important that we keep the purity of the coach/player/parent relationship.  Please be respectful and mature.
 
Food and family in the dugout - The A's rule is that the only food/drink items allowed in the dugout are sunflower seeds, bubble gum, water and sports drink.  We do not want any kind of candy bars, twizzlers, soda, energy drinks or anything of that nature.  Also, please, no parents or siblings in the dugout unless invited as an assistant coach.  If you must get something to the player, please hand it to one of the coaches or you can call the player over to the fence between innings ONLY.
 
Missing games - Please give the coach plenty of notice if a player must miss a game.  We understand that things come up last minute so we will be understanding in those cases.  But if there is a commitment that the player has in June, please let the coach know about it as soon as you know.  Also, please remember that each player committed to "baseball first" during baseball season meaning that it is not acceptable to miss a game because of other sports, birthday parties, sleepovers or even last minute Indians tickets.  During tournament weekends, please keep the entire weekend flexible as we could play at any time on Saturday or Sunday.  The Sunday games are the most important because those are the elimination games/semi-finals or championship games. 
 
Flexibility -  One of the frustrating parts of baseball is scheduling.  Between scheduling games and practices, it is in a constant state of fluctuation.  We accept this as part of playing the sport.  Think about it, how often are football or soccer games cancelled because of weather?  How often does a basketball schedule change once it is put out?  Not very often.  But baseball is totally different.  The schedule can change from day to day because of the weather.  For instance, we may lose a practice field because of a rain makeup game (of a different team) that is scheduled on the same field.  So, we may need to change a practice day or time for reasons that are out of our control.  I could go on and on but in my experience with baseball, change is the norm.  I have recently asked my coaches to try and schedule practice as far in advance as possible but it's not realistic to schedule them more than a week in advance.  We will take into account the weather and games as we look ahead to schedule practices.  I want to re-iterate that the coaches will try of let you know as soon as possible about the practice schedule.
 
Team politics - This is a touchy subject but I will take it on anyhow.....because I am hoping to head this off at the pass for the most part......AND because I am an idiot sometimes.  Please read your individual team page regarding coaching philosophy for that age group by clicking here and then clicking on your age group.  I want to highlight a few things about what we are trying to accomplish.  First, we want the players to earn time on the field at their desired positions.  Everyone should play in every game (unless there are extenuating circumstances) but we do not promise that playing time will be distributed 100% evenly.  Players will be given a fair chance to play certain positions (age appropriate) and we want them to understand that they earn playing time through executing both mentally and physically.  Generally, the players who perform better, IN THE COACH'S OPINION, will probably play more.  There are hundreds of things that we are asking the boys to execute.  From the stands it may not be apparent when a player is NOT executing their role. A good example is hitting a cutoff, or being a cutoff.  Another example is picking up signs (bunting, steal, take, fake bunt etc.).  So, if you have a question about why your son may not be getting as much playing time as you think he deserves, please feel free to ask the coach.  Or even better, have the player ask in the following way "coach, what can I do to earn more playing time at xyz position"?  Just please do not do so when either of you is in the emotion of competition, like during a game or directly after a game.  I have instructed all of my coaches to NOT discuss playing time or positions, etc, directly after a game or in mixed company.  I think e-mail is a great way to do this because it allows for a thoughtful and unemotional question and response.  Please do not assume that there are "politics" involved before talking with the coach.  None of these coaches has any desire other than to help each player become as good as they can be in the context of winning games the right way.  That's what travel baseball is about in my opinion.  I have also instructed my coaches to be honest and straightforward with the parents.......remembering that the parents are going to be protective of the players, as they should be.  But sometimes parents don't see the big picture with regard to their player and I think it is wrong to hide the truth.  If the player needs to work on a particular skill....they should know about it, not be shielded from it.  If a player is constantly making mental mistakes, the parent should know about it because they may be able to help solve the problem.  All of this honesty must be accomplished while staying positive at the same time.......coaching is difficult. 
 
Coaches will make mistakes - Just like the player, coaches will make plenty of mistakes.  We will put the wrong pitcher in in a given situation.  We will leave a pitcher in too long sometimes.  We will make lineup mistakes, defensive mistakes, and strategic mistakes.  We may NOT do something that's obvious sometimes.  We may even forget to put a player in a game.  I will be the first to apologize to a player if I make a mistake along these lines.  Please understand that we do make mistakes and please refrain from verbal criticism from the stands or among other parents.  In return, we will not criticize players or parents publicly.   Just think about how inappropriate it would be for the coach to criticize a parent publicly.  I think the reverse is also inappropriate.  I have been successful in my coaching career of keeping the teams and parents positive because I am not afraid to deal with a problem directly if need be and I believe all of my coaches will be the same way.  I even suspended a parent from 2 games once because he allowed his son to leave a game early because of a bad umpiring call.  So please understand that we are all in this together and the best way to raise positive, respectful young men is to be good examples for them.......all of us together.
 
I am excited and ready for the season to start.  This will be a fun season with lots of ups and downs, wins and losses, but ultimately I am expecting that all of the boys will become better baseball players and hopefully more mature young men when the season is over.  Thanks for reading this short message.
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