A Note to Parents for a Successful Season

As we head into the season, our players’ experience hinges upon a team effort.  Our team extends beyond the dugout with their teammates, coaches, umpires, and competition.

We, as parents, play a major role in our kids’ and their team’s experience on the field.  Beyond wins and losses, individual successes and failures, and their experience with their teammates off the field, parents can greatly impact a player’s perspective on each season, positively or negatively.

My parents were my biggest cheerleaders, supporters, and motivators through my childhood all the way up to the major leagues.  They let me know when I played the game the right way, let me know when I did not, and pushed me in the right direction when I needed a push.  They lived the parent experience from the stands like all of us do now.  They were excited with wins and empathetic with losses.   They secretly questioned coaches, umpires, teammates, and my decisions on the field.  They were no different from any other parent as they watched their son try to figure this game out.

They played their role as parents and supporters of my experience on and off the field masterfully.  They were cheerleaders in the stands, and coaches on the way home from the game.  They were always helping me when I needed help away from the field, but let the coaches coach when they were in charge.   They never declined an opportunity to play catch with me or throw  batting practice (my dad’s shoulder is now paying the price for millions of batting practice throws to my brother and I),  and they never passed up an opportunity to help me understand what the game was trying to teach me.

They always talked me through my experiences in games.  They softened my disappointment after tough games by turning losses into learning opportunities.  They made me realize early in my career that every game is a successful game…win or loss, strikeouts, home runs, errors, and everything inbetween.

Our responsibility as parents is not to compete alongside our kids while they are competing, but to support them and help them navigate through the successes and failures of competitive sports.  Let them compete, fail, learn, and work toward success as a result of their experiences.  Guide them along the way so that they know the correlation of work and improvement.  Teach them the concept that playing time is not a right but a privilege, and playing time is not always there for us when we want it.  We have to earn it..every day.

Every team, and every role on each team is different.  Every player must learn how to add value to each team that they are on, and that value is not always from being the star, hitting 3rd and playing shortstop every inning.

We must teach them (from our own actions) that an umpire’s bad call is an opportunity to overcome adversity and that some aspects of a game are out of their control.  A bad call is not an opportunity to tell the umpires how bad they are from the dugout or the stands.  Umpires do not yell at players when they make an error, so we should give them the benefit of the doubt when they make a mistake.

A coach’s decision to not play your son in a game or two is not personal.  It is an opportunity for your son to communicate with the coach to learn how he needs to improve and compete for more playing time.  It is not an opportunity to openly bash the coach and his decisions, in the stands or on the way home from games.  Hearing a negative opinion of a coach only diminishes the player’s view of his coach and his overall experience with his team.  Openly criticizing a coaches decision teaches your son a reaction to adversity that you would never want him copying as a player, a student, or as a co-worker in a business environment.  Even though you do not agree with a coach’s decision, you will not change his/her mind by going negative, especially in front of other parents and your son.

Coaching or yelling instruction to our kids from the stands is at a minimum confusing for the players, and potentially embarrassing for the player and the team.  If we are able (against our instinct) to sit back and let the only voices of instruction come from the dugout, they will bond better with their coaches and teammates, and learn as a team on the field.

We want our players to communicate freely with their teammates and coaches on the field in a time-sensitive and pressure filled environment.  We want them to rely on their teammates and decisions in the moment.  We want our young players to take responsibility for their decisions and actions, and learn from their mistakes when they make them.  We want our kids to be independant thinkers, leaders, and great teammates by staying accountable to their team at all times.  Parents yelling instruction from the stands is often subtracting from these learning opportunities, and adding a distraction for a player in an already distraction-filled setting.

Playing sports is an incredible opportunity for young athletes to learn about teammwork, performing under pressure, and managing adversity.  It is also a great opportunity for parents to teach our kids the right way to react to this adversity, to learn from failures, and to take the “I” out of  team.

This game prepares us for life.  The successes, failures, disappointments, dealing with bosses (coaches) of all types and difficult teammates.  It is not all about the wins and losses, but the journey it takes us on that prepares us for the next phase of our lives.

Our responsibility as parents is to play the part of “perspective police”.  It is staying positive when our kids go negative.  It is to get our kids to understand that each practice, game, and experience is an opportunity to learn and improve.  It is to teach our kids the correlation between work ethic and success.  It is about reacting gracefully to coach and umpire decisions that do not go our way, or when opposing teams or coaches are not showing great sportsmanship.

Our role as a parent is about rising above our competitive impulses, to be the tour guide and mentor for our kids in a journey through competition so they can learn the most they can from their experiences on the field this season.

Let’s have a great 2018 season!!

–Brad Woodall

Owner- Woodall Baseball Academy and Silver Sluggers
Former Major League Player- Braves, Brewers, and Cubs
Professional Coach- Tampa Bay Rays Organization
Presenter and TV Broadcaster

Great Players Make No Excuses

Sometimes you do not have a coach to put you through drills, or a team to practice with, or a teammate to play catch with.  Sometimes you do not have a lot of room to work.  Average players can find excuses everywhere.  Great players make no excuses.

I recently saw one of our former players (2018 graduate)  show up to our facility to workout.  It was during a snowstorm.  He was alone.  And he had just finished an all day swim/dive meet.

I was so impressed with this player’s focus.  He walked in, waved to me from across the facility and began his warm up. After a brief warmup he started hitting off the tee.  He probably hit about 100 balls, performing various drills in different tee positions.  He took his time between reps, thinking between each rep to make the small adjustments for the next swing.  It was very clear that he had a vision for each swing…a plan and a specific destination for each ball he hit.  It was also very clear that this was not his first time going through a baseball workout alone.  After each bucket, he took his time picking up the balls in the cage.  He was not just picking up baseballs, but was planning and visualizing his next set of swings.

When he was done hitting, he picked up his glove and started his throwing progression in the cage.  Same type of vision and plan that he showed in his hitting session.  Within each rep there was focus on footwork, release point, and athletic movement….it seemed as if he had a game situation in his head for every throw.

Lastly, he stepped out of the batting cage and found a wall.  From about 10 feet away, he threw countless numbers of balls against the wall, working on every different type of short hop and ground ball simulation.  He paid attention to fielding and glove positioning, setting his feet to throw, and taking the ball out of his glove consistently and quickly.

After finishing his solo wall ball session, he walked over to his equipment bag, packed up, and walked slowly out of the facility.  On his way out, he looked over to me and said thank you.  Those were the only words he spoke during the entire workout.

I was not entirely sure why he was thanking me.  I should be thanking him for reminding me and everyone else who was at the facility that day what it takes to become a great player.

Great players love training and the process of improving.  Even during bad weather, by themselves, and with limited resources.  They especially enjoy putting in the work when there are countless excuses to skip the workout.  Great players win games months before any games are played, sometimes by themselves, with no coaches or teammates around.

Great players make no excuses.  They are getting better and learning how to win when others are not.

Thank you for reading,

— Brad Woodall