Monthly Archives: December, 2010

Gamers As Mutli-Sport Athletes

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.

At 12u-14u, >90% of our players play other sports.
At 15u and 16u, 67% of our players play other sports.
At 17u, 33% of our players play other sports.
At younger ages (pre-high school), we strongly encourage players to play other sports. It is important for them to have other sports experiences and to become better all-around athletes by playing other sports.
In high school, it becomes increasingly challenging for kids to be competitive in multiple sports, especially at larger high schools. But, we do not discourage our players from playing other sports. Whether or not to focus on baseball is a natural process that happens for each young man differently.
While we do not discourage players from playing other sports, we are, however, honest with our high school age players about the challenges of playing multiple sports:
  • 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.
We have lots of multi-sport athletes and have a great track record of success with them. But, we are honest and realistic with them about the challenges — we do not just tell them what they want to hear.

The Gamers program is non-profit

There is some miscommunication floating around regarding the Gamers program that needs clarified …

The Gamers program is a non-profit organization, which means:

We have been recognized by the IRS as a 501 c(3), have filed non-profit tax returns for four years, and can accept tax-deductible contributions to the program.
There are no shareholders.
Any profit at the end of the year is reinvested in the program. For the first 4 years, there has been little net profit.
We have raised money from corporate sponsors and individual donors to cover any losses and to provide grants to players from low income families. These donors are critical to our program’s mission. Note — If you are in a position to donate to a good cause, please contact me at mark.gallion@gmail.com.
The only people who earn money from Gamers program are independent contractors that we pay to:
  • Coach teams (for professional coaches at 15u and above)
  • Provide instruction and training
  • Provide administrative support (maintain rosters, register for tournaments, etc….)
All of our paid coaches/instructors work more hours than they are compensated for. We have a very dedicated staff. They are baseball professionals that love to coach.
No program director earns money from the program unless it is directly related to the hours that he puts in for coaching, instruction and working with players. Our directors spend A LOT more time working with and for players than they are compensated for.
As the Managing Director of the program, I do not take any compensation. I volunteer my time to administer the program and to coach. I am not an owner of All-Star Performance. The Gamers program is not my business, but it is a deep passion.
We have dozens of other unpaid volunteers — including 12u, 13u and 14u coaches, administrative support and fundraising support (examples, the Super Bowl Party, Apparel Sales and Media Guide). Without these volunteers, the program would not work. They are the backbone of our program.
We pay below market rates for facility rental from All-Star Performance. All-Star Performance is a separate “for profit” business owned by Matt Whiteside and Dave Pregon. Only about 6% of Gamers revenues are spent on facility rental from ASP.
We pay market rates for tournament fees, field rentals, uniforms, strength/speed training, etc… However, we do get volume price breaks from our vendors. We have some great vendors.
The player fees that we charge go directly to cover the cost required to run our program — to provide the practice time, coaching, instruction, training, uniforms, leagues, tournaments, etc… that are core to our program. These costs differ by age group — ranging from $2000 to $3000 per player. There is no money left over at the end of the year.
Since we do not need to make money for shareholders or owners, we can afford to keep smaller rosters and deliver more quality baseball per dollar.

"Burnout"

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.

But, the term “burnout” is being used way too frequently these days; making this topic is worth discussing.
Over the past decade, I have been around hundreds of young men that have played A LOT of baseball. And, I honestly cannot recall a single pure case of “burnout” — where a player had passion for baseball, but then lost that passion because he played TOO MUCH baseball.
Instead, all of the cases where a player/parent used the term “burnout” were one of four situations:
  • 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.
So, the four secrets to dealing with situations above are:
  • 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.
In addition to the situations above, there is more a natural form of frustration and personal anxiety that comes with high level sports. Everyone feels this way sometimes, and it feels like you are “burned out”. Face it, no one enjoys doing box jumps or 2 sets of 50 pick-ups. And, no one enjoys an 0-15 slump at the plate, or walking the winning run. Sometimes the combination of hard work and the frustration of failure feels overwhelming. The process of playing high level baseball is not easy.
When you reach this point of frustration, it is easy to quit and claim “burnout”. But, to truly excel at something requires that you get to this point of “burnout” and then push through it. Repeatedly.
Sometimes you do need a break to re-energize (the offseason).
But, 9 times out of 10, players love their sport, love to play it and love working hard to get better. Sometimes a player just needs a little support and mentoring to help push through to the next level.
But, “burnout” cannot be used as a cop out when things get hard or when conflicting priorities emerge. It is not an excuse for quitting. Players that can learn to push through this point have learned an important life lesson.

Do You Learn More from Winning, or Losing?

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?

It depends on your goals.

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).