Forming Your Team: Think Beyond Talent

I recently signed my 6 year-old son up for Little League.  He played this past Fall (with me as his coach of course); so registering him for the Spring season was a formality.  The real question regarding the Spring is who I will draft for the team.

This past Fall, I was blessed with having 11 of the best kids I could have asked for.  And, even better, the parents that came along with the 11 kids were incredible.  The kids were not the most talented; and in fact, I had the youngest team in the league, by far.  We started our season with two 5-year-olds and six 6-year-olds (one just turned 6).  Most kids in the league were eight years old.  Our kids could not throw the ball across the diamond; most could not catch the ball when thrown to them; none of them could catch a pop-up (granted one did catch one in a game!); and we hardly hit a ball out of the infield.

What made them so great was their attitudes.  They worked incredibly hard; cheered for each other; gave the coaches everything they had; and never quit.  Practices were a blast.  I could throw any drill at them and they attacked it with a focus and an effort that would impress most college coaches.  Not one of them acted out during a practice, which allowed me to get through every drill I had planned for practice.  By the end of the season, each one of them had improved significantly.  Why?  Because they went into each practice with a sincere focus on getting better…something that amazes me today, two months after the season ended.  What is truly exciting is that these kids will be very good…just as long as they continue to put forth the effort they showed in the Fall.

Much of the credit has to be directed to their parents.  They bought into the way I like to teach and supported their kids at all times, good or bad.  They are remarkable people and the work they put into their kids for the past 5-8 years made my job as a coach incredibly easy…and fun!  The kids were incredibly disciplined and showed a great amount of respect for their parents and coaches.  We didn’t win a game but we sure did have a lot of fun.  And again, there is not one kid on the team that cannot say they didn’t get exponentially better in the 2+ months that we played.

We’ll likely need to pick up a few players for the Spring to round out our roster.  What’s on my wish list?  As much as our kids have improved (and will continue to improve), I would like to find a few players that can catch the ball and hit the ball hard.  Having fun and seeing the kids improve is great, but I want them all to experience some wins this year.  HOWEVER, I will NOT pick a player that doesn’t FIT with the current group we have.  During tryouts, you can be sure I will be watching kids as much for what they do outside the lines than what they do between the lines.  Are they being respectful to their parents and others?  Are they working hard?  Are they listening with their ears and their eyes?  Kids will be kids and you can’t expect them to be perfect.  But, I know that having “good kids” and “good parents” make my job much easier; and make playing more fun for the kids on the team.  And if the parents and kids allow me to do what I do, they will get better.

So, for all you coaches out there; do yourself a favor during try-outs and make sure you’re grading the kids as much for what they are doing off the field than what they are doing on the field.  It’s easy to pick the most talented.  BUT, what good is having a very talented player on your team if that player is a disruption to the other players.  That player may help you win a game or two; but that player may also hinder the growth and development of other players.

Happy New Year to Everyone!


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