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Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Gap

Three years ago I was asked to coach my son's 13 year old baseball team.  I had been his coach every year since tee-ball.  When he was 11 he switched Little Leagues.  There was no room for me to coach.  All the coaches were well established in the League.  I helped where I could.  After all, it is a sport I know a little about, and have a lot of passion for.  I knew I just had to wait my turn.

When my turn finally came, I was asked to coach with someone I had never met before.  In fact I met him for the first time at the draft.  The first impression of this man will last a life time in my mind.  I know a lot about the game of baseball, and I have have coached many sports.  But the lessons I learned from Coach Steve was about developing kids and programs.  Neither of us knew much about any of the kids.  In fact I would call it a blind draft. Wow, what a year we had.

As the year came to a close, Coach Steve and I talked and talked about what to do next.  Coach Steve had been around for a long time.  His own boys were grown.  He just wanted to coach.  Give some of his own passion for the game to a new group of young boys.  The problem we faced was declining numbers in the program.  Declining so badly we were confident we would not have a league the following year.

What I see happening in baseball is the same thing I see happening in all sports.  And it is leaving a gap.

There are very expensive programs in all sports parents are able to get their kids into.  Programs that promise parents college scholarships to big schools. Kids who have the opportunity to join these programs get great instruction.  But what happens to the rest of the kids?  The kids who's parents can't afford private lessons?  The kids who want to play more than one sport?  The kid who just wants to play to play?  

Here's the gap.  Kids, or their parents, who decide to spend their time and money for expert private lessons and programs go on to play.  They leave the most basic programs, and in turn the basic programs don't have enough players to field a team.  These programs go away.  The kid who just wants to play has nothing.

I always told my son my job as his parent and his coach is to prepare him for whatever level he wants to play next.  When he was in Little League, my job was to prepare him for Babe Ruth if he wanted to play at that level.  When he was in Babe Ruth, my job was to prepare him for high school.  What I see is parents preparing 10 year olds for the pro draft.

Coach Steve does not own a warehouse for kids to work out in.  Coach Steve has much more.  He has a talent for the game of life.  A way about him kids and adults adore.  He wants to share his love for baseball.  The decline in inner city baseball is preventing kids from being touched by a man who just wants to share.

There are many factors leading to the decline of inner city sports programs.  This is just one.  But it's huge.  Not only are we creating a gap of who plays and who can't by promoting expensive programs, but we are side lining great men and women like Coach Steve who have so much to offer our young children.

The secret is this:  At age 10, we cannot allow ourselves to live vicariously through our children,.  We had our time to play.  Whether we chose to play or chose to sit, our time is gone.  Rather than preparing the 10 year old for the major league draft, prepare him for being 11.   

Thank you Coach Steve.

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