Monday, January 11, 2010

Where is the sandlot?

Kids and sports are meant for each other.

Parents and kids and sports are a different matter altogether.

I've coached baseball, basketball, softball, and soccer from five year olds to high school ages.

Teaching a kid to do something new and seeing them have that breakthrough experience is the best feeling on earth.

Having a dad that wouldn't sign up to coach, but will call pitches from behind home plate when his son is on the mound (and you've called a totally different pitch) is enough to make you chew glass.

I saw the two sides of it this weekend.

Last year, I coached my then 7 year old's team in basketball.

Most of the girls had never played.

In four practices (which some parents bitched about as being excessive), they learned to bounce pass, box out, play zone defense, shoot layups, and get back on defense and stop the dribble.

We went 8-2. One idiot last year accused me of having taught the girls the triangle offense. Crap, the NBA still can't figure out the triangle offense.

The commissioner took notice. His was the only team we didn't play. He commented after the season that he regretted that because his team was pretty stout.

He's the commissioner again this year. And we played his team Saturday.

We won 20-4.

The girls are still learning positions, how to play defense, how to look for the open player, etc.

This year, I'm the assistant and my assistant from last year is the head coach.

The commissioner wasn't thrilled with the outcome.

So today, the commish sends out new rules that the assistant can't coach during the game.

What? We didn't mean to win so big. Sorry that our girls have a bit more instruction and understanding and therefore play better as a team. Our girls didn't even know who won or what the score was. They were much more interested in debating what our team name should be.

They are third graders. They still don't know what a double dribble, traveling, three second rule, a free throw or press is. We get at best one hour of practice a week to teach them. The game is part of the learning process.

His problem is he's a first timer. It's his oldest daughter on the team. He hasn't seen the movie before. He doesn't understand the objective is to teach them to play a complicated game. And have fun in the process.

On the other hand, I watched joy in action happen spontaneously yesterday.

I was in Los Angeles and the weather was amazing. 72 and sunny.

Four 10 year old boys were playing at a park where my daughter and some of her friends were on the monkey bars.

The boys found a football, and the game was on. Two on two. No over-involved dads or moms to screw it up. They laughed. They complimented the other side when a great catch was made. They imagined themselves Tom Brady and Chad Ochocinco. They had fun. Unhampered, spontaneous joy.

I remember the hundreds of times as a kid playing pickup basketball and sneaking into the gym whenever we could. Home run derby at Adams Park. Tackle football with no equipment on. Not a parent or coach in sight. That was fun.

Sadly, we can't let our kids out of our sights today. So we over-organize their lives including their play times.

So many stories from coaching kids.

The worst was t-ball. First time parents, standing behind the little fences screaming at little Bobby to hit it out. Little Bobby didn't know from sic 'em. Little Bobby wasn't sure which way to run. Little Bobby didn't know why people were hollering at him. Little Bobby thought this was supposed to be fun.

T-ball was so bad that my kids refused to umpire those games. They could make $80-$100 on a Saturday umping t-ball games when they were 14. After one season, they refused. They refused to deal with abuse of the coaches and parents. Of 4 and 5 year old little Bobbie's.

The best was coaching a 10 year old girls basketball team in a summer league.

On purpose, I told the girls no uniforms. It was just for fun. I took duct tape to the games and aggie-rigged numbers on their t-shirts. And just let them play.

The girls coached themselves. Made their own lineups, substitutions, etc. The parents had more fun than ever cause we just let the girls have at it.

We were undefeated thru the first nine games.

Last game of the season, a team rolls in the gym with matching warmups, gymbags, and very nice unis. The coach had himself a fine matching shirt with "Coach Tom" embroidered over his left man-boob.

He argued with the ref before the game that our uniforms were illegal cause they didn't match. Thankfully, the ref got it and told him to shut up.

Our girls ran his out of the place. Oh, what a night.

I've seen mothers bitch slap coaches over playing time for their kids.

I've seen fathers punch umpires over disputed calls.

I've had parents have their son play in two different baseball leagues in the same season so that he could pitch more. His arm was dead at 11 years old.

This over organized sports thing needs re-thinking.

And now, the legal system is poking its nose into it.

Take Me Out To The ... Courtroom
Tuesday, January 05 2010

A Queens, New York, softball player has sued the city and her high school coach, alleging that the coach was negligent in instructing her about proper sliding techniques.

Alina Cerda, 15, filed suit in Queens Supreme Court claiming she busted her ankle because Francis Lewis High School coach Bryan Brown never taught her how to slide. The suit says Cerda needed six screws and a metal plate to fuse the ankle she broke while sliding on a muddy path during a practice. Following the accident, Cerda missed her freshman year of softball.

Cerda’s lawyer, Clay Evall, faults Brown for not providing proper instruction. “He wasn’t instructing them whatsoever,” Evall said. “He told her to watch the older girls do it.”

City lawyers declined to comment.

Earlier this year, a Staten Island family settled a similar lawsuit for $125,000 filed against the New Springville Little League and its parent company, Little League Baseball Incorporated, after a 12-year-old boy suffered a knee injury following a slide into second base. In addition to the leagues, two coaches were named personally in the lawsuit.

—Sources: and

Where is the sandlot?

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