If you’ve been involved in baseball at all, you’ve heard the term thrown around quite a bit in- and outside the stands. And, not in a good way. A dad coaches a team, and his less-than-able son is a starter. Or, a parent isn’t happy about their son’s playing time, so a new team is started over the winter and dad takes the helm, assuring that his son will be on the field come tournament time.
I’m not talking about that kind of daddy-ball. What I want to see more of is dads who spend the time with their son one-on-one, in the back yard or at the field, throwing the baseball around, hitting some grounders and fly balls, and being part of the process. While you’re at it, talk to your son. Tell stories. Have fun, because it’s a game. Too many Dads abdicate their God-given responsibility to share a boy’s game with their son. It’s sad.
Why Dads Don’t Coach
In this age of elite baseball and showcases, the pressure is high to keep up. If a kid is going to be a successful pitcher, or hitter, or fielder, baseball has to be played almost year-round and lessons are involved. Competition is taking place at a furious pace, and your player isn’t keeping up, it’s because you haven’t shelled out the bucks to make him better. It’s a vicious cycle – to get better, you need more lessons.
Before I continue, let me be clear. Lessons are not a bad thing. At some point, your son will benefit from advanced teaching from someone who knows what they’re doing. A guy who spent 4 years in college baseball, or who played professional baseball, sees the game from a different perspective, and they know how to hit or pitch better than most of us. Time spent with guys like that can be valuable to a player’s game. But, don’t let that be the only time your son is learning the game. In the movie Bull Durham, the coach storms into the showers to, as Crash Davis advised him, scare the team out of their losing streak. He sums up his tirade by stating, “This is a simple game, You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball.” I agree. Playing catch is simple. Playing catch with your son, even more so.
Age (and Skill) Matters
If your player is a teenager with significant potential, sending him to hitting or pitching lessons can be the start of a great journey. Some players flourish with quality instruction. But, as a parent, you have to be objective about your son’s abilities and determine if lessons would be worth the cost.
What you don’t want to do, though, is take your 7 or 8 year-old to someone and pay him to play with your son. The occasional lesson is fine, but don’t think for one second that a weekly lesson is going to make your son the next Ted Williams. It just doesn’t work that way. There are too many variables in play – a lasting interest as well as physical ability can change from one year to the next, and these changes will affect your player significantly.
The Best Coach is You
Dads are the best coaches for their sons. There is absolutely no substitute for a Dad to spend this time with his son. Playing catch, t-work in the back yard, or sitting on a 5 gallon bucket catching fastball after fastball will reap more rewards for both you and your son than anything else you can do. Even more, going to games together, or just watching on TV, will teach your son as much about the game as doing it himself.
The rewards you reap aren’t limited to the game. The best part are the times shared with each other. As you work with your son on the skills of baseball, there will surely be times when the game isn’t easy. You need to teach your player how to deal with it, and then apply it to life, in general. And, there will times when the work you do together will pay off. The joy of success in the game will be a sweet thing to share between father and son. And, the stories you can tell of your playing days, or the greats who played the game, will be cherished by your boy.
Don’t abdicate the responsibility of coaching your son. Don’t back out of a back yard catch because you didn’t play, or you think you don’t know how to swing a bat or throw a baseball. If you do, you’re missing the point. Be part of the joy of something that means much to both of you, and teach your son the lessons of the game and of life.
One day, baseball will end. There will be a void. If you’ve been a Dad from the very beginning, spending time with your son through a game you both love, your lives will be richer for it, and your influence will be felt for generations.