This is a mis-perception that the Gamers programs forces players to focus only on baseball and that we do not allow multi-sport athletes. This is simply not true.
- To play baseball at an elite level requires year-round training (or at least 9 months). This is true for other sports too. If a player elects to play two sports, he is not going to have much free time. Slacking off on academics is not a choice. So, multi-sport student athletes must sacrifice other things — like hanging out with friends, playing video games, Facebook, part-time jobs, etc… That is just reality.
- Playing another sport cannot become an excuse for not practicing and training for baseball. We have dozens of players in our program that play multiple sports at a high level AND hold down a 3.0-4.0+ GPA. They find a way to still get their offseason baseball work in around winter sport commitments and school. It is possible to be a successful multi-sport student athlete. But, it takes a lot of self-discipline and sacrifice to make this happen.
- During the summer baseball season, we allow for one flex weekend for our high school age players that can be used to attend a sports camp (or a family commitment). However, other than the flex weekend, we expect that baseball will clearly be the number 1 sports priority from March-July. This becomes an issue when football showcase camps and AAU basketball tournaments are scheduled in the summer.
- During the Fall before and after a player’s Junior season, we strongly encourage him to play Fall Baseball. There are a lot of good exposure opportunities during the Fall for this age group. If a player plays 6 weekends during each Fall, that is 12 weekends of additional exposure opportunities that he will get during his”recruiting” year. This is very difficult for football and soccer players. But, it is a tradeoff if the player he wants to play college baseball.
- Finally, we strongly encourage Fall baseball as a way for all players to get more reps and more playing experience. The Spring Seasons in St. Louis are too cold and wet. Some of the best weather for baseball is in August-October. It is possible to get in an additional 30 games, 7 pitching starts and 80-100 at bats per year by playing Fall baseball. This helps St. Louis kids stay more competitive with kids from the mid-South (TN, NC, SC, OK, AR) where the Spring seasons start a lot earlier.
There is some miscommunication floating around regarding the Gamers program that needs clarified …
- Coach teams (for professional coaches at 15u and above)
- Provide instruction and training
- Provide administrative support (maintain rosters, register for tournaments, etc….)
A common criticism of club sports programs (baseball, hockey, soccer, volleyball, etc…) is that kids get “burned out”. This can be a legitimate concern for players, parents and coaches. It is sad to everyone when a player no longer enjoys a sport.
- The player simply had too many competing priorities on his plate. There is a limit to what a teenager can do. The combination of 1-2 sports plus high level academics is pretty close to the limit. When you start adding music, choir, boy scouts, church groups, college applications, ACT tests, school clubs, a 2nd or 3rd sport, girls, part-time jobs, etc.. , it gets out of control very fast. All of those things are good and worthy activities. But, there is only so much time available. It is impossible for a teenager to be successful in 10 different things. It may superficially look good on a college application. But, we all know that truly successful people set priorities and focus their attention on the things that are most important to them.
- Instead of being truly “burned out”, the player has decided that he no longer wants to advance to college level baseball, so the hard work is no longer worth it. Sometimes there is a disconnect between where a player can play college baseball and where he wants to go to college. Of course, you never know until you try — so I am always suspicious about this (there are hundreds of great colleges to choose from across the country). This may be a rational decision — but it is NOT burnout. This looks a lot more like quitting to me. Quitting when things get difficult can become a hard habit to break.
- The parents — not the player — were burned out from the schedule, travel and cost of club sports. This is 10x more likely than player burnout since the parents do not experience the joy of working hard, being part of a team and playing the game. So, we need to be very careful to separate player burnout from parent burnout. Parent burnout is a more common issue.
- The burnout was not truly the result of the sport — but was the result of a pressure packed player-parent relationship that surrounds the sport. Dads (and Moms) that push too hard for their son’s success can create a situation where he finally pushes back. Club sports tend to attract driven parents. This parental pressure, on top of the normal competitive pressure of club sports, can be too much for a teenager. Players can get burned out from the double decker pressure that surrounds his sport.
- Teach young athletes to prioritize their activities, to make sure they are selecting activities that are most important to them. If baseball drops off the list, then that is OK. But, that is not burnout — it is called setting priorities and is an important part of growing up. If baseball can help teach that lesson, then it has played a significant role in a young man’s development.
- Help young men through the decision process on college baseball, so they can make rational decisions and decide early on whether or not they want to push for that goal. A young man is better off making that determination at 15, instead of working hard to do everything right, but then quitting at 17.
- Deal with parent burnout. Find ways to make it easier for parents to be part of a club sports by relieving schedule and travel requirements. Program organization, communication and advanced scheduling help alleviate parent burnout.
- Teach parents to be supportive and active, but not to ADD to the pressure of club sports. The Positive Coaching Alliance offers a good online course on this called “Second Goal Parent” (it is worth the $30). This transition is very challenging to a lot of parents. But, it makes a big difference in a players’ perception of the game. And, makes it more likely for a young man to continue to love the game.
Everyone wants to win. It’s fun and it makes you feel good. But, if you win all the time, say >80% of your games, it that a good thing?
If your goal is to collect trophies, then winning tournaments every weekend is the way to do it. The easiest way to achieve this goal is to play in tournaments against weaker competition.
But, winning all the time can be a dangerous. Talented players learn that they do not need to give full effort and focus to win. Bad habits and ugly baseball emerge. If you have an especially talented group, you can win 80+% of your games, and your players could actually regress during the season.
You can learn a lot from winning. But, if winning is too easy, the lessons are negative.
If your primary goal is to develop players and help them reach their potential, then winning is a secondary priority. The way to achieve this goal is to play only against the top competition each weekend, or to “play up” against older players. Against better competition, every game matters and there are no easy games where you can consistently win despite bad habits or poor style of play.
But, you still need to be competitive against the top competition. If you win 30% of your games, but every game is competitive, players can get a lot better. If you get blown out, then the players get discouraged and lose their passion for the game. Losing is not fun. If you lose too much, that can also create the opportunity for bad habits to emerge.
So, do you learn more from winning or from losing? In my opinion, you learn the most when you do both — win 40-60% of your games. In you win 80% of your games, you need to play against better competition to develop your players. If you win 30% of your games, then your players will get discouraged.
In 2010, our high school teams won 67% of games. Our middle school teams won 68% of games. In 2011, we are looking to ratchet our schedules up a notch, especially at 15u and 16u (it would be hard for our 17u’s to play a more challenging schedule without flying South every weekend).