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So in a recent email I talked about knowing what drives you… How sometimes having those doubters can be just the kick in the butt you need.

For me it was that high school football coach who gave a hard time about stepping back from football to focus on baseball my senior year.
[h4]”What’s the point? It’s not like you’re gonna get drafted.”[/h4]

It made me angry… it fueled my fire… and it felt pretty sweet when I proved him wrong later that year.

But that was me as a 17 year old. Like a lot of teenagers, the best way to get me to do something was tell me I couldn’t do it…

That said, the younger version of me probably wouldn’t have responded so well.

See, I was admittedly a very sensitive kid… It says something about the world of youth sports where I somehow grew up feeling that was a bad thing. If I’d been a cocky jerk, I’d probably have been considered “tough.” Anyway, I’ll resist getting off on a tangent.

But back in Little League, I was anything but a stud pitcher… I was the guy coaches were afraid to put out on the mound. Teammates would groan when I walked a batter… It was that old, “here we go again…”

And I hated it. I dreaded it. It got so bad I didn’t even play Little League when I was 11 and 12.

I’m sure it was hell for my parents. They didn’t want to see me quit, but they also didn’t like seeing me in so much pain after every game.

They did their best and I knew they loved me and supported me, but they couldn’t control what happened inside those lines where it was just me, my teammates and my coaches.

And unfortunately at the time, I didn’t have that encouraging coach to pull me aside and let me know it was okay.

I never heard anything from my coach like…

“Don’t listen to those guys. We can work on this. It’s going to get better.”

And I certainly never heard this from my Little League coach when I was 10….

“I BELIEVE in you. You can do this.”

If you’re a coach, you’ve got a tough job. A very tough job. You’re presented with young players with all sort of different makeups… different levels of athleticism, physical development and emotional maturity.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we need to “coddle” our young ballplayers and further cement a sense of entitlement that seems to grow stronger with each generation of kids (that’s a whole other topic).

Sometimes it can come in the form of pat on the back, a “you can do this” and showing that you have faith in them by letting them work out of a jam.

See, I think it’s easy to forget sometimes… Who you are at 10 or 11 (or 16!) can sometimes end up pretty different than who become just a few years later.

There’s a whole lot of development going on during that span… Don’t be that guy that gives up on a kid just because he’s not a stud at 10 years old…

For me, when I was 13 and gave pitching another shot, I really lucked out. I had that positive coach I needed… I knew he had faith in me and he showed it by giving me the ball and letting me work out of jams. Pitching became fun again… I dove in headfirst and the rest is history.

So we’re getting into off-season mode… When I was pitcher, this was the time to assess and take stock.

And if you’re a coach, I think it makes sense to approach it the same way.

It’s a time to look inside…

Ask yourself, WHY do I coach? Who are you doing this for?

What’s the point??

I’m lucky to be in a situation where I get to work with a lot of talented young pitchers. Guys who are going off to pitch at the D1 level in the near future…

And helping guys reach those kinds of goals matters to me (and it’s extremely rewarding). But it’s not the only reason I became a coach.

I get as much joy from working with the 10 or 11 year old pitcher as I do the hard-throwing college prospect.

The kid who might not be the off-the-charts gifted athlete, but he LOVES the game and wants to get better… He just need the guidance and encouragement to help him realize his true potential.

But what if he never even gets good enough to pitch beyond the high school level??

Is that fulfilling as a coach?

Maybe ask yourself this…

  • What if, in the process, he builds memories that he’ll have with him for the rest of his life…
  • What if he starts to make the connection between putting in the work and seeing real improvement in the results?
  • What if he develops habits he can go on to apply in EVERYTHING he sets out to accomplish (on and off the field)?

For me, that’s something worth being a part of…

Or maybe, just maybe… That shy, sensitive little kid with only a hint of ability will continue to grow and mature (physically and emotionally) and shock you and everyone else with his development…

You never know.