I want to tell you that I couldn’t be more pleased to join this site. I think it’s important to have a place dedicated to youth sports, which are important to me. Before I go any further, let me introduce myself. My name is Jonathan Rosen and I’ve been coaching youth sports for around twelve years now. I started when my oldest daughter was four and I’ve gone on to coach her, my son and now my youngest daughter.
I started with Rec softball and then went on to coach baseball, soccer and now finally travel softball. Today I’m one of the coaches with the Coral Springs Panthers, based in South Florida. Not to brag, but last season we finished number two in the state in the 10U B division. Okay, so that was totally bragging, but sue me. I’m proud of them!
Through my years of coaching, I have seen some of the best things about youth sports, like kids picking each other up. Heart, hustle and determination. And the very best thing to me, is that feeling of accomplishment. When you see the results of all the hard work and dedication, and when the players show improvement and get better.
It Can Get Ugly Out There
But, I have also seen many of the worst things about youth sports; such as abusive coaches, coaches who take the game over the top, by either trying to steal players, paying for kids to play for their teams, or even changing rosters and bringing in kids from other teams just to win a tournament.
To me, at that point, it no longer becomes about the kids on your team playing and working together towards a common goal. It becomes teaching kids that it’s okay to bring in mercenaries and it doesn’t matter how well you practice, there’s always a short-cut. Okay, don’t get me started on this, because I could write twenty books just on that topic alone!
In the Heat of the Moment
Anyway, what I wanted to write about today, is the importance of keeping your cool. This season, our team moved up from the 10U division, to the 12U one. Meaning, any kid who was twelve or under on January first of this year is eligible to play. Also, meaning, that some girls have already turned thirteen. That’s a tall order for our girls, who are still ten, turning eleven. There are some thirteen-year-olds we face, who look like they could drive themselves to the game. Besides that, our pitchers now have had to move back in distance from thirty-five feet to forty, as well as use a heavier ball. So, this has basically been an adjustment period for us.
When Umpires Decide Games
With that being said, this past weekend was a frustrating one. I’m not one to get into it with umpires, but sometimes it’s difficult. Yes, I get frustrated. Yes, I voice my displeasure with the call. But, I don’t get into it with them. More often than not, it won’t change anything. It can also antagonize an umpire for future calls. If I’m friendly with an ump, I will, after the game, tell them that I think they blew it, but not during. But, the main reason is, I don’t want the kids on my watch thinking that it’s okay to yell about calls or blame umpires when things go wrong. Unfortunately, this weekend the umpires were directly responsible for things that happened in our games, which made biting my tongue an almost impossible task.
Something Seemed Not Right
On Saturday, we played in a city we had never played in before. The other team was all friendly with the ump. During the game, we had a runner going from third to home in a rundown and the catcher blocked her path and knocked her down. The umpire called obstruction and sent our runner back to third, saying he didn’t think the runner would score, so he sent her to third. We were furious, and said that obstruction isn’t an opinion call of where to place the runner when she was on her way home. Bottom line, we lost the game by one run. That run. All our coaches were angry. Mostly for the girls, who we felt deserved better. Still, we didn’t go screaming about it with him, though we sure felt like it.
An Incredible Opportunity Lost
Sunday was even worse. We battled back to a tie after trailing by seven, last inning, we’re home team. Bases loaded, two outs and a squib hit down the first base line. Our runner slides across the plate. Ball is still in the air and lands in the catcher’s glove a moment later. Coaches, parents and players all jump up, excited that we had a hard-fought comeback-win and then suddenly…the out call. We were stunned. This just added to our aggravation after Saturday. Only difference is, this time we caught it on video. After watching the replay…a couple of hundred times, it just added to my aggravation.
So, yeah, it is frustrating at times, when an umpire blows a call that really affects the game. But, they’re human. And umpires even at the highest professional level make mistakes in situations much more important than a 12U travel softball game. (Don Denkinger, Jim Joyce, anyone?). But, the main thing with all this is, when we’re on the field with those kids, we’re role models.
Our Role As Coaches and Baseball Moms & Dads
I’m not saying that they have to look up to me, or even that they do, but I am there as a figure of authority and the kids see my behavior. If I were to go crazy, the kids would think it’s what they’re supposed to do in those situations. I don’t want to be the one responsible for teaching that sort of behavior to kids under my watch. I want them to be respectful and try hard to win and be gracious about losing. Not throw a tantrum on the field because things didn’t go our way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m competitive and passionate about the sport, but there is a certain behavior I want and expect. And if I don’t exhibit it, I can’t expect our players to either.
Could you have kept your cool in this situation?
Check out the apology and conversation with the umpire at the 2 minute mark.