Here’s an excerpt from a letter a little league baseball coach sent to his parents prior to the season starting:
“I always said that the only team that I would coach would be a team of orphans, and now here we are. The reason for me saying this is that I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents. I think that it is best to nip this in the bud right off the bat. I think the concept that I am asking all of you to grab is that this experience is ALL about the boys. If there is anything about it that includes you, we need to make a change of plans. My main goals are as follows:
(1) to teach these young men how to play the game of baseball the right way,
(2) to be a positive impact on them as young men, and
(3) do all of this with class.
We may not win every game, but we will be the classiest coaches, players, and parents in every game we play. The boys are going to play with a respect for their teammates, opposition, and the umpires no matter what.
Once again, this is ALL about the boys. I believe that a little league parent feels that they must participate with loud cheering and “Come on, let’s go, you can do it”, which just adds more pressure to the kids. I will be putting plenty of pressure on these boys to play the game the right way with class, and respect, and they will put too much pressure on themselves and each other already. You as parents need to be the silent, constant, source of support.
I am a firm believer that this game is more mental than physical, and the mental may be more difficult, but can be taught and can be learned by a 10 and 11 year old. If it sounds like I am going to be demanding of these boys, you are exactly right. I am definitely demanding their attention, and the other thing that I am going to require is effort. Their attitude, their concentration, and their effort are the things that they can control. If they give me these things every time they show up, they will have a great experience.
I need all of you to know that we are most likely going to lose many games this year. The main reason is that we need to find out how we measure up with the local talent pool. The only way to do this is to play against some of the best teams. I am convinced that if the boys put their work in at home, and give me their best effort, that we will be able to play with just about any team.”
The coach… Mike Matheny, a man who has made it to the upper echelons not only as a player but now as a coach with the St. Louis Cardinals (Of course, this letter was written prior to his appointment as Tony’s replacement).
2 Things we as parents, spectators, and coaches can learn from the letter above:
- It is about the kids, 100%.
Ask any coach (I have 5 in my family and they all agree 100%) what the worst thing about coaching is? Unequivocally, they will say the parents. 80% of the problems they face throughout the year aren’t player-related problems; they’re parent-related problems. Not only does this hurt the team as a whole, but it hurts each and every individual player’s development. If you aren’t playing or coaching, sit back and enjoy the game. Don’t interject your emotions and opinions into your child’s mind. Let her enjoy the game. Let her develop. Most importantly, let her have fun. Sports are one of the greatest gifts we can give children. They teach so many valuable life lessons without the kids even realizing it. Don’t ruin it for them. If you want to help, take your kid outside and play a game of catch or shoot some hoops. I guarantee that will do far more for her athletic “career” than a fifteen minute lecture after each game.
- Sports are organized systems of play. Keep it that way.
Daniel Pink, author of Drive, understands motivation. In fact, he’s written a best-selling book about it. To create it and maintain it, he’s narrowed his formula down to three critical factors: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. By paying attention to these three factors, business managers, teachers, coaches, and parents can create intrinsic motivation in their students/employees, the key to what I call “happy growth.”
And what’s one of the easiest ways to crush someone’s motivation? Turning play into work. Parents put so much pressure on their child to succeed, much like a hand crushing an orange, they squeeze any passion the child had for the sport right out of her. Trust me, the coach and athlete herself will put enough pressure on her. Someone needs to be there to remind her it’s just a game, and to truly succeed in the sport is to love the sport.
As soon as the parents turn play into work, the child automatically becomes extrinsically motivated. In other words, she plays not for the love of the game, but for reasons outside of her own will. And in turn, she’ll never reach her true potential because she now has a fixed mindset. She avoids failure because of the repercussions not only from the coach, but also at home. Failure begins to define her. Honestly, who wants to feel like a failure? When that, happens, growth ceases because she never challenges herself. She takes the easy road, and stays in her comfort zone.
Don’t agree? Look at the best people, not just in sports, but in business, teaching, etc. They truly love what they do. They’re intrinsically motivated because of that love. They do it not for the accolades or money, but because of passion. And because of that, failure doesn’t define them, but becomes part of the growth process. That is why they succeed!