Here's an interesting article posted by a coach on Travel Ball Select (www.travelballselect.com)
The Challenge of the Travelball Teenager
I sent an email out a few weeks ago after my 14U Meteors team had a couple of lackluster tournaments back to back. It really seemed to strike a chord with the parents and players and I've never seen the boys play harder or play with a better attitude and hustle than last weekend. Maybe some of this can help you with your players and/or parents if you find yourself in a similar situation.
"It is nice to have a week away from tournaments to give us a chance to do other things with our families. It also gives me a chance to send out an email as I do from time to time explaining what I am doing and why I am doing it.
I have some unique experience in this business, in that few people have coached previously a different 14U team and been so involved in assisting and watching my former players including my own son get recruited by college baseball programs and pro scouts.
With my last team I noticed a change in several players during the 14U year. When a lot of kids get to 14, they start to develop that teenage "I know everything and you don't know anything" mentality. It is also a time when they develop more interests outside baseball. Some of these are healthy and some unhealthy. 14-24 is commonly a time in a young man's life where he feels that the entire world revolves around him and the adults in their lives are there to support them and ensure their happiness.
This mentality can really hurt kids this age with their future endeavors. I think that it hurt me when I was that age, as my own arrogance led me to tune out the coaches and I gradually stopped working hard and was distracted by other activities. My coaches were on me about it, but I thought they were idiots and full of crap and were riding me all the time because they didn't like me. I realized later, when it was too late, that they were trying to keep me from blowing a promising future.
With several of our players, all of whom have a lot more talent than I had, I see them going down the same road. This happened with my first team too. Most of them I got all over and was really tough on them and put them in their place when they got out of line. The parents we had on that team were really great because they always backed me up when I disciplined a kid. That is the only way corrective actions work - when they are reinforced by parents. If I do something to try and teach a kid a lesson on the field and the parents blame me and are critical of me on the car ride home, then the lesson I tried to teach is completely undone.
I have told the story of (Player X) a couple of times. He was an unbelievable pitcher who threw 93 mph last year as a Junior and got a full scholarship to a major Div I program. He played for me from 8U-14U. When he was 14, he started developing the attitude that several of our players are starting to show now. He loafed on plays, didn't slide, didn't hustle, didn't run out pop-ups, tossed his helmet. When I or another coach got on him he would mutter something disrespectful under his breath.
He wasn't the only one to do these things at 14, but he was the only one whose parents didn't back me up. They constantly made excuses for him and I was the "bad guy" who "didn't like Player X" and "favored" other kids. They eventually quit the team during Spring 14U. He went onto another team where the coach allowed him to do all of these things because he was talented. His attitude became even worse.
Player X ended up playing at 4 different high schools in 4 years. He got the scholarship because he went to a showcase and threw 93, but later lost that because of drugs and is now finished with baseball. A guy who could have made a million dollars this year is finished with baseball. I really believe that was because his parents did not back up the simple things I was trying to teach him.
I have talked to so many coaches of major college programs about what they look for. When they come out to evaluate a player you rarely even know they are there. You don't have advance notice because they don't want you to know. Character is how you behave when you think nobody is watching. Coaches know that you will play hard and have a good attitude if you know they are watching.
When you get to that level, schools like that have their pick of hundreds of immensely talented kids. What it comes down to almost every time is not their baseball ability but their attitudes and how they carry themselves. Whether they give 100% effort all the time. How they react to their coaches and teammates. How they behave after making an error, striking out, or losing. These are the things that decide which players get scholarships and which don't.
So many other things get looked at as well. I have seen kids lose scholarships because their hair was too long, their shirt was always untucked, they wore earrings or excessive jewelry, they walked up to the dugout with headphones on. Increasingly coaches are looking at social media sites such as facebook or myspace or twitter. A lot of the stuff that kids put on there to impress their friends or girls is costing them scholarships.
When I pull your son out of a game, or bench him because of a bad attitude or lack of effort, I am not doing it out of anger. I am doing it to try and teach him a lesson and keep him from doing it later when a college or pro scout is watching him. I am going to be really hard on these guys for the next 4 months. It has nothing to do with us winning and losing, and everything to do with me trying to help them as individuals.
- Ron Filipkowski
Author, TRAVELBALL - bit.ly/TravelballBook