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Have we lost the "Team" in Travel?

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OK, time to thaw out my Winter hiatus.  Here's a question for those travel softball and baseball coaches who are chomping at the bit to get back outside on the grass.  Let's think about this travel-ball culture which has evolved.   In the neighborhood leagues it's all fun and everyone plays, but we want our stars to compete against other stars, so we travel.  We pick the best of the best from the house leagues and hit the road weekend after weekend.  But what else did we leave behind, and what did we lose?

While we picked up the level of competition, but we lost the "league", the "season", and the playoffs.  We lost the grind, the long road which made the player next to you, playing your same position, so necessary.  While baseball and softball may be 9 player games (10 with your DH), a long season with injuries, illnesses, and other obstacles makes 20 more realistic.  By turning the competition into a weekly (weekend) event, each one separate and disti…

Sit them down... then LISTEN

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I'm going to admit to a lack of originality here.  The heart of this suggestion is stolen from one of my favored texts on working with human beings (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven Covey).  One of his habits is "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."  There are so many reasons and examples I've experienced in my personal life why I have found this to be such a powerful habit.  The reason it's so important in coaching is you are trying to get a group of young people to listen to you and soak in what you are saying and believe it in a way you might not even expect from your own children.  (Remember, you are likely doing this at a time when every instinct in their bodies is telling them to forge their own way and test their boundaries.)
Question: How do you form this trusting relationship in a short period of time?
Answer: Find a way to show that your objectives are aligned, you are willing to listen, and you are on THEIR team.
Hint:  Don&…

Philanthropy, Charity, and History

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OK, out of the box I know you are sitting there saying what do those 3 words have to do with me coaching my team in sport.  Here's the thing.  As coaches we harp A LOT on the little things.  Position, footwork, attack that grounder, don't open up too much.  We tell them over and over again.  We launch correction on top of correction trying to build the better athlete.  If you've moved into travel sports we've started to drive pretty intensive practice schedules that dominate these kids daily schedule outside of school.  Think of how much emphasis some of our athletes put on these sports.  It's very easy for them to begin to see the sport as something that defines them.   When it defines them, and when they are constantly corrected, we risk those corrections of mechanics starting to work their way into their view of self worth.
That's why you'll see in many travel organization some element of philanthropy in their mission statements (sometimes forgotten by t…

Excitement, Reflection, then Gratitude

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Before tonight's record setting night, Drew Brees was asked what it would be like for him on the field if/when he breaks the all-time passing record.  His response was the just that... "I think first excitement, then reflection, then gratitude."  And tonight he did it, seemingly simply in the first half.  First the arms to the sky in joy as it was not only a record breaker, but also a 60+ yard TD.   His whole team joined him in the excitement in hugs and some type of hopping, barking scrum.  Off came the helmet as he looked around the stadium and you saw the second two emotions pass through in rapid succession, finally pointing to the crowd to make sure they knew he was sharing it with them.  Then on the sideline in the arms of his adoring family he looked at his boys and reminded them, "you can achieve anything you're willing to work for!"  In the middle of his career moment, he knew it was another teaching moment for Dad.

So the question for us is similar…

It's your choice... to give them theirs

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I was talking with some friends recently and heard about a situation with their U10 athlete.  I use that term a bit tongue-in-cheek as we used to refer to these individuals as children.  But this "athlete" was no longer playing soccer in the Fall because her softball coach wanted committed athletes on his team.  They needed to work year round on the sport of their choice.  Now, let's be clear.  I've been around the U10 crowd quite a bit in my years of coaching and parenting.  One thing I know for sure is that their choices from one day to the next will vary greatly, and their experiences are certainly significantly limited at that point of the "athletes" career.  Again, the sarcasm, I'm sorry, but a 9-year old shouldn't have a career.
Now, I've always encouraged my children that once they make a commitment to a team, that commitment lasts the length of a season.  It's not fair to their teammates to leave before and it's not giving the ga…

Coaches are Family too!

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The whole concept of this blog is around the concept of a parent coach.   It's interesting, but most of the time in these conversations we draw a clear line between one or the other.  How to be a great coach in this tough situation, or how to be a respectful parent in this one while still supporting our child.  But for those of us in the coach role, there is no line.  We are both.  Whether we're a Mom or Dad or Aunt or Brother, we are both coach and family to someone on this team (and just as important, to family members beyond this team).  And we've made the choice to lead this team, but there are times when the choice, and the constant sacrifices it requires weigh heavy. 

I sat talking to a friend this weekend whom I know to be a very dedicated coach.  He was struggling with the challenge where he's joined his team into a tournament for a weekend he knew there might be conflicts, but you never know how the scheduling will play out.  Turns out that a week ahead the di…

Recognize greatness! (For AND against your team?)

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Yes, recognize greatness even against your squad.  And no, this is not a simple "be a good sport" encouragement.  This is an actual strategy.  Play out the scenario a couple of ways.  You're at the soccer pitch watching your team losing.  You're feeling your competitive frustration growing and they strike again.  An offensive player against you just weaves right past your midfielder, then left around one defender, then right again seemingly right through your sweeper and then simply chips it past  your goalie as they go to the ground.  Your options are:

Drop your clipboard, spin away from the field, raise your eyes to the sky and mutter a few choice words of frustration to yourself before turning back to the field and start yelling corrections out to your squad.Yell, WOW!  Did you see that!!??  Yes, be excited (for love of the game, not of falling another point behind).  Admire the ball handling skill of your opponent and turn to your bench immediately rehashing the e…