Well, as we are full-blast into the summer baseball season on the local front, I have already received more than a few inquiries from dads-turned-coaches who want to know how much their own sons should play in comparison to the other kids on the team.
Similar to how it was when I coached, each player MUST play “X” number of innings per game or per week, thereby ensuring that perhaps better players will be on the bench for portions of the game, while some of the heretofore less than successful players get to play. After all, if they don’t play, they can’t improve!
When one adds to the equation that the parents paid the same entry fee and that many parents believe that their sons just might become the next Ty Cobb with a little practice and coaching, well, life can become interesting for a coach!
Way back in the dark ages when I was a child, my own dad was the coach of my team for 6 of my first 7 years in baseball. With his help on the fundamentals of baseball since I was old enough to walk, I was always one of the players who had been designated to play every inning of every game. There were several of us who fit this role and it was not an issue with the other parents that the coach’s son played all of the time, while others played more sparingly. Back then, the object of the game was to WIN!
Fast-forwarding several years, the object of the local game is to involve everybody on a mostly equal basis. However, since winning is still important, it is understood if certain players play more than others, as long as it is demonstrated that those players are clearly above the others in their levels of talent.
Some years ago, my older son was a fine baseball player. However, on that particular team (I was not the coach nor was I connected to the coaches), the two coaches played their sons for every inning for every game. One of the boys was a fine player, but the other was less than average. Nevertheless, both boys occupied important positions in the field and in the lineup for every inning of every game, while my son played about half of every game.
So, while I sat in the stands watching my son ride the pines while the coaches’ sons played all of the time with less ability, I silently seethed! I also observed what the coaches had to go through with other parents; I gained more respect for my dad’s previous coaching; and I always wondered how I would approach the same situation if I were to ever be a coach.
I had decided that, if I were to become a coach, I would play my son less than a full game, so that other parents would see me as fair. Yes, I had it all figured out: I would play my son for partial games; let others, including the less than talented, play more innings than other coaches would have allowed; and everybody would be happy ….. or so I thought!
(Please come back next week for Part 2)
Paul W. Reeves