The hardest thing I have ever done is coach my son in baseball.
Harder than playing football, harder than engineering school, harder than working in the oil fields, harder than Harvard Business School and harder than climbing the corporate ladder for 20 years.
It was a constant personal battle between emotion and logic. I was not good at it. In all my years of coaching, I have only met a couple of people who are.
So, I read every book and watched every DVD on coaching baseball, looking for the answer. I poured a lot of time and personal capital into the quest. The answer was not there.
I got a lot smarter about coaching and about baseball. And, my contribution and leadership in the Gamers program was a direct result from this failed quest to coach my own son.
This worked great at 12u, OK at 13u, not well at 14u and terribly at 15u and 16u. As a young man gets older, it is harder and harder for them to learn from their dads. It is also harder and harder for players to learn from their teammate’s dad. Just too much baggage. And, it is harder and harder for dads to be teachers. This is especially true from 15-17. We just care too much. Emotion versus logic, for both the dad and the son.
Objectively, there is no winner in this battle.
So, I brought in outside instructors to work with the teams and sent my son to private lessons. But, the games and team practices were still coached by me. I was a very good coach for 13 out of 14 players. As time went, I became a better and better coach for 13/14th’s of the team and a worse and worse coach for 1/14th of the team.
I like math. I like fractions. Those fractions suck.
This creates a lot of personal anguish for dads and sons. Being inherently stubborn, I refused to take the easy way out, and coddle my son, batting him third, playing him 95% of innings and sacrificing the pursuit of excellence for 13/14th’s of the team. Almost exclusively, this is how dad coaches cope with this situation. They come down on the side of emotion and take the easy way out, sacrificing the 13/14th’s.
I do not wish this fate on anyone. Dads and sons deserve more. Fortunately, there is a better answer.
99% of players should not be coached by their dads once they reach high school age. I know that dads always want to coach “one more year” and hold on to the triumphs of youth baseball. I was in the same boat. I also know that some baseball programs play on this emotion, using it to attract talent while avoiding the cost of paid coaches. 5 years ago, I received the same phone call and almost got sucked in.
But, this is a mistake for all involved. For the dad coaches, for the sons and for the other 13/14th’s of the team. Maybe there is someone out there that can pull this off. It is a super-human request to ask a coach to take care of his son, while effectively coaching a select-level high school age team.
This is especially true in summer baseball, where ultimately college recruiting becomes the focus. If you were a college coach, would you listen to the opinion of a dad? I know a lot of college coaches. They actively avoid conversations with dad coaches. This negatively impacts every player on the dad-coached team, even the coaches own son. This is a one-sided proposition, but does not make sense for dads, for sons and for the rest of the team.
Ultimately, there is a point where parenting and coaching do not go together. It is rarely past 15u. Once young men go to high school, start excercising independence, it becomes unsustainable and a lose-lose situation.
For the Gamers program, this means professional paid coaches at 15u and above. This raises the cost of our program, and creates separation anxiety for players moving from 14u to 15u. Dad coaches move to the stands, sons become just players and other teammates need to adjust to a new coach. Everyone gets nervous about this — but it is the right transition.
It is the right answer for all involved — dad, son and the 13/14ths.