Fill in the blank. Every single week, several times most weeks, we get questions about high school coaches. Before we offend great coaches, let’s get this out of the way.
I coached on the high school level, we won some state championships, and our head coach was as good as it gets. Realize, as well, that high school coaches are no different from travel ball coaches. Some are good and some are not.
The difference is that you don’t have a choice in school ball. You can play for that coach, or not play at all. The rules usually prevent transfers.
Some high school coaches are on top of the game. They frequently go to college games, travel ball games, to coaching clinics, and they take notes. Others are chosen because nobody else volunteered. Some are even coerced into doing the job and, because they once played rec ball of some sort, they take it.
If you have one of those great coaches, or just a good coach, thank them over and over. It is a lot of work to practice every day, travel to games, get home late, and do their normal job all day. As with most coaches, they have to deal with the bureaucracy, parents’ complaints, and kids who just don’t want to be there. The pay, when broken down into an hourly rate, is usually very poor.
Give your coach room to make mistakes. Most want to do a fantastic job. The trouble comes when they do things that do not make sense to you. Oh, I get frustrated when I hear of a coach who won’t let one of our movement specialists throw anything but a fastball. I get upset when one coach tells a student that the only pitches that work are curve and drop, while the coach at the next school wants only riseball and screwball. It is infuriating when politics decide who starts, when a coach’s favorite is spotlighted to try to win awards, and when a team is so poorly prepared that even the simplest of defensive plays cannot be made. Still, I don’t let kids complain to me about these things. School ball is school ball. It is a chance to play with friends, show them what you do all summer, and represent your community. If you are lucky enough to be in a better situation, enjoy, but realize that school ball has its place and, trying to make more of it than it is will take the fun out of it.
So, is there a time when you have to stand up to a poor coach? Absolutely! When it comes to your health, be proactive. We see way too many high school players suddenly thrown into the weight room and a coach has her “maxing”, with no serious technique training, and her career ends suddenly due to injury.
When you are over-used, it is time to say something. The second leading cause of injury is pitching too much. How can this be when they pitch even more in summer? It is a combination of fatigue and form. In summer the kid gets to sleep late more often, plus someone is there to watch her form carefully to make sure that fatigue does not cause breakdowns. The parent who works with her, or her pitching coach, can keep her on track. Due to the schedule of high school season, many kids are separated from that influence.
Finally, the conditions may pose problems. Cold northern climates are a huge problem during season. If you missed it, we published an article last week with a lot of information on this topic. If conditions threaten your well-being, speak up.
Learning to work with your coach can be great training for you. If that person is excellent, emulate the traits you admire most. If that person is average, work with them and find ways to help them do a better job. If the coach is poor, realize that you will work with a lot of people like that during your lifetime, so how can you work together to achieve great things? Find ways to keep it fun, do not frustrate by yourself trying to make it more than it is, but also learn ways that your leadership might make a difference with the team.
Yeah, summer ball is fantastic, but this is a chance to come home and enjoy the game you love with friends. Don’t let anything take that away from you.