Today’s post comes to us from Captain Ryan, a DC coach and contributor that played high school, Div 1 college, MLB drafted, and has coached travel and high school baseball…
ATTENTION PARENTS: Heads up! These tips and reminders are meant to be discussed with your players at your own discretion. If your young player has been cut, the best path for success lies behind what they uniquely need. They may need to talk about it, or they may not. You may be the first person that needs to say something, or you may be the last. And the following season that may change
Just like in coaching baseball, it’s a healthy challenge to see how well you know your young player, and to see how well can you ride the tides and make adjustments. After an experience like getting cut, it’s up to you to listen and pay attention; especially if you wish your young player to get the most out of this trial/opportunity. With that in mind (as much as I struggle with my own faith and this outcome, let alone my love/hate relationship with inspirational quotes), here is one of my favorite quotes:
“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slower to become angry.”
ATTENTION PLAYERS: If you’ve been cut, or heading into tryout season… stop reading as soon as you want; bookmark this post and read at a later time. Before responding to your parents, please think about how you would respond if you were a parent and it was your kid that was just cut. And know that the outcome in sports, from game-to-game, season-to-season, tryout-to-retirement, has NOTHING to do with who you are as a person, how good of a human you are, or how successful you will be in life.
Super Agent Scott Boras once told me, “Life is 90% who you are, and 10% what you do.”There are too many stories, in American baseball alone, starring good people, bad people, success and failures, tied to favorable and unfavorable outcomes in baseball. WARNING: Cliche said in a different way: Your experiences PLUS your responses to those experiences, are what determine your quality of life. Baseball is just another beautiful experience. It will make AND break both people who get cut, and those who make the team. Why? Cause that’s how they choose to respond to it.
If you don’t know who John Wooden is…. google him, NOW. And if any coach/parent/teacher/adult doesn’t agree with his message, please contact me with their name and info and I will gladly and cordially schedule a healthy discussion/debate in front of the youth baseball world on the world wide web, or privately 😉
Since we’re right between last year’s cut and next year’s high school tryouts, this is a perfect time of calm to touch on a very important and emotional topic: GETTING CUT. This article is for any parent or young player who has put their heart on the line for high school tryouts. Every player and family handles getting cut from high school differently. Each player has different reasons for trying out (including, unfortunately, just to be good at something), and does so at a different point in their relationship with the game. Please share thoughts, criticism, and stories in the comments section below.
Here are 9 reminders and tips for kids who were just cut.
1) “Don’t get mad at the game. Get mad at the people running it.”
– Bob Zamora, Capo Valley (CA) HS Head Coach.
This may be easier said than done. Most kids don’t like hearing they’re not good enough at a sport. And they may hate the game any person having to do with it for the rest of their lives. You may find that some athletes that get cut didn’t actually like the game that much. They may just like the attention, bonding, or the shiny object that comes with playing baseball… nothing wrong with that. But it’s important that the right person tells them at the right time: “The things you truly love, never leave your heart. I’ve told many players, who were not my son, ‘don’t let the hard times fool you… whatever you love about the game, you will probably love even more, later.'”
This is a break up. A divorce from a dream… the effects of which may never go away. In some cases, it may be harder on a young player than their first real crush rejecting them. Dealing with the experience of being cut requires time and energy for grieving. How much? Like any real loss, there’s no real cap. Think of the last time you grieved real loss. How much time did you need? And avoid comparing. Pain is pain. Loss is loss. What’s important is how your child processes it. Does it mean it’s time for life to stop, get depressed and dwell in self pity? Maybe! This may sound strange but it really depends on the kid. There may be a kid so in denial and ego-centric, that they need a best friend their age to say to them, “When are you gonna accept that this sucks!?” And they need to get sad, feel bad for x number of days, and then move forward. Some kids may need to take a sick day from school and just do nothing. Other kids may need a kick in the pants, a “What are you gonna do now?” conversation, and a nudge to get focused on the next day, the next thing.
So parents, if you’re not already aware… be ready to be LISTEN. Be parents, LOVE and encourage through your actions – whether that be to back off or get more involved. Most of all, lead the way with kind honesty the way you would want a parent to lead you in the middle of real loss. And do your best not to let your parents mistakes rain on this new opportunity with your child. Any dad’s out there who think this is another world or too much to deal with… grieving is about feeling, not thinking. When it’s time, have some “balls”! 😉 And if you need a soundboard or some guidance, feel free to contact me.
3) Playing time rarely ends on anyone’s terms.
I have had one friend in 30 years of being around the game, who went 3 for 3 in the high school championship (which they won), and then quit on the same day. Turns out he knew he didn’t want to play in college, simple as that.
Besides those rare cases, ask anyone who played the game and loved it, if their playing days ended the way they wanted, there’s a good chance, you won’t hear: “absolutely”. In some cases, it can be like losing a dog/friend/family member. Nolan Ryan and his family have been quoted that it took them about 2 years to adjust to his playing days being over. Know this athletes, if it really is time to end the pursuit of playing at the next level, and it didn’t end your way, you’re not alone. Take your time. And, though this may sound strange, find your own way to enjoy the random dreams at night of what could have been, and the memories during the day, of what you got to be a part of.
4) You’re lucky.
If it’s your first time with real heartbreak/adversity, you’re lucky.
This isn’t a plug for Gatorade, or http://tbwachiatdayla.com/#/, but their latest commercial was awesome:
FAILURE: It’s true. Failure is probably the biggest, most common, foundation for success. I have friends who never experience “real” failure/adversity until much later in life. After two years of being unemployed, a 50-year old friend of mine told me: “I wish I had failed sooner. I had never really failed before. Things always kinda worked out. I want my kids to fail, now, as much as possible, get it out of the way, so they can learn sooner.”
5) ROI – Return on Investment.
For parents and players that are tense about the ROI (return on investment) with the game, please remember that the chance of your child getting a job and succeeding at it cause of baseball is exponentially greater than them getting a scholarship/drafted. The life lessons and experiences are priceless even/especially at the lower levels. I have interviewed hundreds of current and former baseball players, from Sunday leaguers to Hall of Fame MLB players, and they all say the same thing: what they miss the most is the banter and teammates in the dugout. So, if shutting up and not letting the circumstance or body language control you at this time is one of your biggest battles in life, here is your encouragement: a) you can do it, b) it doesn’t last forever; and, c) it’ll be beyond worth it.
And parents, if you’re concerned about your child’s love for the game, please note: once this game gets in your blood or heart, you will come back to it. So nurture and let live whatever your child is a fan of… and if it’s baseball, then be a student/fan with them when the stakes are low and there’s nothing on the line. Cause that’s the source. The love of baseball as a fan is where it starts, and it’s where we shall return. Don’t worry if your young player now hates, or wants nothing to do with, the game – even if that lasts for years.
6) HS baseball isn’t the only show in town.
A friend of mine who has played, coached and scouted in southern California, boldly predicts: “If funding doesn’t change, high school baseball may become obsolete, and purely a club sport.” Citing the almost zero revenue it brings in during season and the movement of scouts to attend more tournaments and travel ball. And as far as recruiting goes and opportunities to play beyond high school, there are articles dating back 5+ years ago about the decline of high school baseball. Here is a good one by the recruitingcode.com – http://therecruitingcode.com/college-coaches-are-not-coming-to-your-high-school-games/.
Bottom line: The game has evolved to the point where there is almost always somewhere to play. Somewhere young athletes and professional players alike can get playing time and a chance to compete and get better. And there is a TON of truth to the age old saying: “if you’re good, they’ll find you.” In my 20’s I was scouted at OLD MAN’S SUNDAY BASEBALL. And so was another former MLB reliever, Dale Thayer. Thayer and I played “Scout Ball” together during high school. This guy didn’t have a contract after college ball, wanted to get in shape, and then try out. He used ‘Sunday ball’ as a training ground. Went out, struck out the side – 3 up, 3 down, throwing low 90’s. It turned out a friend of one of the players was a scout with Tampa Bay, and was there. After the game, the scout literally asked him: “If I get you plane ticket to Tampa, would you go right now?” Thayer said yes, and the rest is history. He ended up as a reliever at the big league level!
You can’t make this stuff up! Some truth, like Disney’s “The Rookie,” is stranger than fiction. I was told as a young player, “College ball is the beauty pageant for pro ball, and if you’re not in it, you’re ugly.” In this case, that just wasn’t true – or it didn’t matter.
7) Get an honest 3rd opinion.
If you’re going to get feedback, ask at least three coaches who have: (1) worked with a wide range of players of different ages and skill levels, (2) helped at least one player get better, and (3) that you trust is not BS’ing you. Trust your gut about their reasons/motives for giving you feedback. I wish it was as simple as saying “if he’s not asking for money, it’s honest”, or “valuable feedback is worth the $ you pay for it.” Like in life and in the game, you never know. You just have to listen. Give it some time to marinate. And trust your gut when getting feedback.
8) Be honest with yourself.
This may be the hardest one to do and may not happen right away. A broken heart and/or dream, can cloud or blind the mind and very simple truths. From mechanics, to desire/motivation, to projections… make sure your player takes their first step forward in their new skin with an objective, clear-minded, and honest view of who they are, what they want, what they’re getting into, and why. In a perfect world, a young player will do this themselves and you get to enjoy the ride like never before, watching your player get up from a huge knockdown and growing. And there won’t be any over-analyzing or maybe no analyzing – just enjoying the game and competing in freer and more convicted way than before. If that happens, have fun. If the player decides they still want to try, but are clearly haunted by their failure, find a coach you trust that will be as committed as they are. ONE THAT HAS A CLUE WHAT BUTTONS TO PUSH, WHEN TO PUSH THEM, IN ADDITION TO “BELIEVING” IN THEM.
I know the cliche “I succeeded because they believed in me” sounds good in movies and on the Olympic Medal Stand (after competition), but this is a potentially damaging and wasteful approach to seeking a coach. Finding someone “to believe in you” is a very personal endeavor, let alone to find a coach who is also a good teacher. So to find a coach who is a good teacher that believes in your son, like Daniel found Miyagi, is worth making a movie about cause it rarely happens. And if it does happen, be cautious about boasting/promoting, cause who knows what’s gonna happen; and not even Miyagi put in extra work for just anybody. And in case you forget/don’t know, it is not Miyagi or any coach’s job to get any player to believe in themselves. That is a strictly, private and sacred process that every player must choose, develop and establish on their own. If they don’t figure out what qualities, talents and strengths they can rely on within themselves, whatever they put together on the field, won’t last. So consider having ready to share a personal story about facing adversity and being honest with yourself, at the right time. Your honesty and humility may be the spark they need to be honest with themselves.
9) Be their parent.
Life is bigger than the game, and all young players need a parent at home more than an extra coach, critical fan, or neutral observer. This IS more important than them finding a good coach or someone to believe in them. Start by acting the way YOU would want your parent to behave, were you the one that had just been cut. Then, think about your child and what your gut is telling you they need. Be THAT. Be yourself, and stick to it.
WARNING: if you have been through worse, and brush this over or treat this moment nonchalantly cause of your “knowledge/awareness” that life can be a lot harsher than this, or you know how bad it is and don’t want to feel or dwell in it yourself …. please reread #1. Remember this is one of life/learning moments you can never get back. 13-15 years old is heck of an age to go through your first divorce/breakup with a dream or something you believed/hoped wouldn’t reject you. And if you understand or not, remember with love, it’s not about you. Neither you, nor your child, is a failure because of this. If that were the case, Michael Jordan and his dad would be the biggest losers. You are chosen. Chosen for the adversity and challenge and one of the greatest gifts this game has to offer fans or players: breaking hearts. And no matter how much of a roller coaster the game is, it will teach your player, whether you do/say anything or not. Truth be told, you may have the easiest, funnest job in the game… being a parent; the person that loves them no matter what happens, and matters to them regardless of what happens.
This is obviously a topic I could spend a season on. And hopefully something in this sticks for someone out there. In my opinion, Tip #1 is the most important one. “Don’t get mad at the game.” This is not meant as an instruction, but a reminder of an important truth: Whenever the trials and playing days are over… (real) love for this game will remain. And if you are lucky enough to be the one to remind them of these things, before they run out on the field again… here’s a simple challenging question possibly (worth paraphrasing) for them: Is your love for the game worth the challenges and adversity you will face? And hopefully they learn sooner than I did/am… “love endures all things.”