The ability to have a consistent water supply is critical to field maintenance. All turf will need water, or irrigation, for establishment, growth and repair. If nature does not provide rain in sufficient amounts, water must be provided. Installing an automatic irrigation system should be one of the highest priorities in any field renovation or construction.
How to Select the Irrigation System That’s Right for your Field
Q&A with Jim Laiche from The Toro Company, a global leader in turf maintenance equipment and precision irrigation systems
Q: Please briefly explain the common types of irrigation systems used on youth baseball and softball fields.
Jim: Irrigation systems range from manual watering using water reels to quick-couplers to complete underground automated systems controlled by computers and sensors.
|Type||Description||Cost of materials (range)|
|Water Wheel||Water wheel units have either turbine driven or gas power engines that power the flow of water and drive mechanism to pull in the hose. These units generally dispense large amounts of water and are time consuming, requiring significant labor to set up hoses.||$5,000 – $15,000 (Estimate)|
|Quick Coupler||Quick couplers are “live” direct hook ups to a direct water source. These can be placed in various locations to supplement an irrigation system or as main source of water. A hose is connected to a key and is manually inserted to start the flow of water through a hose or hoses with a sprinkler attached. This type of system requires a pump to supply water.||Depends on size and scope of project. $5,000 – $20,000|
|Automatic System||An underground system that provides water through heads controlled through a central controller.||Depends on size and scope of project. $10,000 – $50,000|
Q: What should an organization consider when deciding which type of irrigation system to install?
Jim: It is important to understand the size of the complex and the type of surface that will be watered. If you have diamonds, do you want to have a zone that waters the infield as well as the grass areas? If you have infield skin areas being watered, they need to be controlled differently than the grass areas. The watering areas of the field need to be defined. Look at the micro-zones within your field areas. There may be a need to regulate water usage in these micro-zones. If so, you will need to design the system so that you can control the irrigation heads more precisely. This will require an understanding of the type of grass, the soil structure and the climate in which you are working.
Some fields are designed and installed using wall-to-wall irrigation. This means that all edges are covered with part-circle heads, and there is a very precise application of water to the playing fields. Another option is to design and install the system using primarily full-circle heads in the outfields and edges. This reduces the total number of sprinkler heads but causes some overthrow of irrigation water beyond the playing surface.
Manual systems will require time and labor to maneuver irrigation devices in strategic areas to provide water to the surface. Automated systems will cost more but will allow for more precise watering, preserving the resources used.
Maintenance on irrigation system is a must! Heads will need to be cleaned to make sure proper watering patterns are maintained to provide uniformity. Valves and filters will need to be checked for debris. Depending on water sources and equipment, maintenance may be required more frequently.
Q: What is the important information that an organization needs to know about the water source available at the field location before installing, replacing or repairing an irrigation system?
Jim: You must be concerned with a few things regarding the water source. What is the water source? Is it a well pulling from a retention pond, are you pulling from a potable water source or are you using reclaimed or “dirty” water? Each of these sources will bring different aspects to how a systems needs to de designed as well as regulations that may need to be followed. Water sources are becoming more of a commodity in some areas of the U.S. due to drought conditions. Those areas restrict water usage and require strict system controls to monitor the amount of usage.
Once a water source is determined, then you must also consider the water supply needed. This will be determined by the necessary watering windows. To simplify this, if you have three heads on a zone that require 10 gallons then you will need thirty gallons of water for that zone. If you have 10 zones that need to run in a cycle, then 300 gallons of water will be needed for each run.
Proper water pressure is also essential to the operation of the irrigation system. On a potable source, the static water pressure will be from the city water main. On a well or a pond using a pump, the pump horsepower creates the water pressure into the system. Athletic field sprinkler heads usually operate best at around 60 to 80 pounds per square inch at the sprinkler head.
Q: What type of maintenance is required for each type of irrigation system? What should be done in the spring and in the winter to properly maintain the irrigation system?
Jim: All underground irrigation systems need to be inspected periodically through-out the season to check for breaks, leaks or other damage to the system. During a spring start-up, all of the valves should be cycled through with a close inspection of all sprinkler heads. The sprinkler heads should all pop-up and down completely and rotate to the appropriate arc settings. Malfunctioning heads should be replaced and sprinklers out of adjustment should be reset to the desired pattern. In colder climates, the irrigation systems should be winterized using low to medium pressure air injection. Each irrigation valve is turned on and air is blown into the system until all the water ejects from the last sprinkler head on that irrigation zone. This is done through-out the system. In some climates, it is also necessary to remove the backflow device and store it over the winter. Irrigation controllers can be left on over the winter.
Q: How do you know when an irrigation system must be replaced rather than repaired?
Jim: If the repairs are needed to the infrastructure to the system, e.g. pipe, fittings, wires, valves, you should consider replacing the system. Sprinkler heads and certain valve parts are commonly repaired based on the level of use.
Q: What signs should you look for that there is a problem with the irrigation system?
Jim: Most irrigation systems will give managers a visual sign of troubles. If a head stops rotating you may have lush green grass in a certain area and brown in another. If you have a poorly designed system or low pressure problems where you do not get proper head to head coverage, you may be able to see circle patterns throughout your fields. Keep your eyes open!
Irrigation Tips to Remember:
Watering thoroughly to allow the water to soak deeply is required. Deep watering encourages deep root growth. Frequent shallow watering encourages shallow surface roots, compactions, crabgrass and other weeds.
It is possible to over water a field. Grassy weeds such as nut sedge may appear. Over watering also limits the oxygen supply to the turf and may cause yellowing which can create turf that is susceptible to disease.
A soil probe should be used to check the depth of moisture saturation. A soil probe can be purchased from local lawn and garden stores. It is a very valuable tool used to pull small cores of soil from your field to check root depth and moisture.
An irrigation system is an engineered system. It is made up of a variety of components that can be selected and engineered to work together with the environment for the best outcome for the field, it’s users and owners. Though systems can be purchased as “design build,” professional engineering should be considered to optimize return on investment.
Baseball season is back in action, and many of us begin to consider field renovation and construction projects. As you begin to plan a project, it is important to know the kind of questions that should be asked when selecting a sports turf professional and construction company.
How long have you been in business?
Look for a company that has an established reputation and can provide references. This will help you determine the reliability and qualifications of the company.
What services do you provide?
A company should be able to explain the services it provides. The discussion can lead to a clear description of the proposed project.
What past projects have you completed? What is your experience constructing and renovating youth baseball and softball fields?
The best way to ensure the quality of work is to review past field projects. A knowledgeable and experienced sports turf professional can provide you with a variety of field projects. Visit the fields and contact those who use and manage the fields. The discussion can include the budget, the scope-of-work completed, the proven benefits and downsides of materials used and on-going maintenance requirements. Learning what has proven successful in past projects will benefit your decision-making process.
Who will work on the project?
A consistent and trustworthy presence should be in place to handle the site supervision. It is important to understand and trust the people that will be working on the proposed project. Some companies have their own work crew; some companies work with sub-contractors, especially for specialized work.
How much work and time is required?
It is important to know how long it will take to complete the project because the amount of time, equipment and work required can have a significant effect on the budget. A professional will provide you a detailed schedule for the project.
What is your availability?
The availability of the company will also determine the amount of time needed to complete the project. Will it be available throughout the proposed schedule up to the completion of the project? If it is working on multiple projects during the same period, how much time does the company propose to spend on your project each week? If the project is delayed, does it have the flexibility to accommodate the change in schedule?
Do you provide a warranty or guarantee on work completed, equipment, materials?
Understand what is included in the company’s warranty or guarantee. What is included, excluded, how can the warranty be voided?
What is the budget I should prepare for?
Ask for cost estimates for all aspects of the project. How can the project be value-engineered? What are lower-cost options? How does developing the project into phases affect the budget? How much of a contingency should I plan?
How is the billing handled?
Payment schedule and type of payments can vary. The down payment for the services, the payment schedule and the type of payment accepted (cash, checks, credit cards, etc.) are all important factors during the discussion of billing on the project.
How should I maintain the field after the project is completed?
Even when the best materials and personnel are used, proper maintenance and protection is crucial to keeping the condition of the turf on the field in top shape. It is important to know the planned field use, amount and frequency of use and the related maintenance costs. This can become more complicated as the age of the field and time needed to maintain the field gradually increases. A knowledgeable sports turf professional will help you develop plans to properly maintain the field, and extend playability.
Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced sports turf professional and construction company can save you time and work, and help you develop a cost efficient plan that is tailored to the needs of your organization. Ask around your colleagues or organizations around the community that have fields similar to the ones you desire and ask for recommendations. Getting recommendations is a great way to start your planning process.
It might be cold and snowy where you are today, but it’s the perfect time to start planning your upcoming field maintenance work for the start of the season. Here’s a checklist to help get you started…
Field Maintenance Checklist
- Review field maintenance plan and budget
- Review upcoming field use schedule
- Clean, repair or replace field maintenance equipment
- Plan future renovations or reconstruction projects to be completed next fall
- Perform soil and tissue tests
- Aerate the field
- Top dress the field
- Fertilize the field
- Apply pre-emergent herbicides
- Clean, paint or repair dugouts, fencing, bleacher areas and field signs
- Reattach or replace lose or curled chain link fabric
Download Field Maintenance: A Basic Guide for Baseball & Softball Fields of All Levels here.
Grant writing may be a new and challenging endeavor for many youth baseball and softball organizations. Some may employ a professional grant writer, but others may have a Board member or volunteer with the ability to take on the challenge.
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund provides several grant writing aids to help. The newest is the Online Application Grant Writing Worksheet available here. This worksheet provides a framework and guide to develop a complete and relevant response to each question and section of the BTF application.
Additional grant writing aids can be found on our website.
The Internet also has a multitude of free grant writing advice. Google “grant writing help.”
Our advice before beginning to write a grant request:
- Carefully read each grant maker’s evaluation criteria to determine if your request fits.
- Do the planning leg work for the project before requesting a grant. Gather the necessary information about your organization, programs, project and beneficiaries.
- Don’t wait until the request deadline to start writing.
- Follow the application instructions and submit all information that is requested.
- Remember that foundation and corporate grants are not the primary source of annual funding for non-profits. Individual donations will comprise the majority of your annual funding. Be realistic in your expectations.
If you plan to apply for a BTF grant for field-related projects, please provide helpful photos. Photos are an effective way to show the condition of your fields and field maintenance capabilities.
The photos below demonstrate several helpful angles that you should use when taking photos of your fields. These photo angles are needed if you are requesting funds for renovation, construction, field lighting, replacement of fencing, dugouts, etc.
Remember these tips:
1. Photos of the playing surface and surrounding elements are needed no matter the purpose of the grant request.
2. Close-up photos are more helpful than those taken from a long distance;
3. Do not take photos of fields through chain link fencing. Your camera will focus on the fencing and not the field.
4. Photos should be taken of all items relevant to your request, such of bleachers, fencing, backstop, dugouts, etc.
5. Do not submit photos of snow-covered fields! Plan ahead and take photos before the snow falls.
6. Color photos are best.
7. Aerial photos are not helpful.
Good advice regarding the operation of concession stands for fundraising…
Originally posted on Sports Fundraising Ideas:
A snack shack can earn money but it requires organization and work.
It seems like an easy money maker – Just buy cases of water and snacks from Costco and sell them at four to five times the cost.
I like the kid with his hand out. That used to be me!
I went down this road a few years ago and want to offer some tips (some I learned the hard way) to running a good concession stand.
The golden rule is – Everything starts with organization. The first thing you need to do is create a team. You will need:
• A Leader (presumably you)
• A Volunteer Manager
• A Cash & Inventory Manager
• A Snack Shack Manager
LEADER – This person is in charge of organizing and managing all the activities. Responsibilities include:
• Location – Where is your concession stand going to…
View original 1,147 more words
It’s the off-season…a great time to send notes of thanks to your sponsors and donors and remind them of your organization’s on-going need for their help for next year. Here’s a template to get things started, but customize, be specific and sincere!
[Name of Organization]
[City, State, Zip]
[Name of Donor]
[City, State, Zip]
Each year [name of organization] continues to provide quality youth baseball and softball to the children of this community. Through our programs [name of programs] we have seen many lives changed for the better.
Let me share with you the story of [story of someone helped by your organization]
[Name of organization] continues to work to help make a difference in the lives of children like [name of person listed above].
However, continued outreach is essential to help the over [number] of children in our community in need of youth recreational programs.
Today, you can make an immediate difference in the life of a child. Each [$ amount] you send provides [specific goods/services] to [number of people].
I hope we can count on you to help. Please send the most generous gift you can, as soon as possible.
With grateful appreciation,
P.S. So that as many children can be helped this season, please send your gift in the envelope provided by [date] so that it can have maximum impact. Thank you in advance for you kind support!
|Umpire supervisor Rich Garcia looks on as Rich Rieker demonstrates the strike zone with Los Angeles RBI Seniors players. (Christie Cowles/MLB.com)|
One of the hardest jobs in baseball and softball is that of the umpire. This is especially true in youth leagues, where umpires, often volunteers, may not have access to specialized training. For this reason, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, with the help of MLB.com, spoke with one of our experts, Rich Rieker, to learn how he got his start in umpiring and get some tricks of the trade. Rieker became MLB’s Umpire Supervisor in 2002 after spending nine years umpiring in the Major Leagues. His many accomplishments include developing the MLB Umpire Camps in 2006. How did you get your start in the umpiring profession? I started working Little League games when I was 11 years old in St. Louis, MO. That’s how I met my wife actually. She was also a Little League umpire there. Did you ever think then that umpiring would turn into a career someday? No, but I really enjoyed it. I was still playing at the time, and it was a good way to make money. It helped put me through college. When I started to advance to the other levels, several of the senior umpires suggested that I go to umpire school. I did that when I was 21. Where did you go to umpire school? Harry Wendelstedt umpire school. I taught there for 16 years afterward, and eventually made it to the Major Leagues. Which youth baseball/softball league did you officiate in? Khoury League, I don’t know if it exists anymore, but it was the big deal in St. Louis back in the ’60s and ’70s. Umpiring has a unique set of challenges such as unruly fans, and confrontational players and managers. What is the best way to deal with the poor sportsmanship that is sometimes exhibited by participants? Well, the first rule of thumb is treat people the way you want to be treated, and know that you are the law out there. You’re out there to keep the peace and if you don’t, and let one team or set of fans get an advantage by intimidating players or umpires, then you’re not being fair. So you have to try to quell [poor sportsmanship], as much as you possibly can, especially in the Little League setting where they have the code of conduct rules. People have to remember that these games are for the kids. People too many times try to live vicariously through their kids. When they can imagine themselves out there, making that play or getting called out on strikes, they take it personally. The umpires really don’t do anything personally. They’re out there trying to call the best game they can. I think what fans should know too, and umpires come from fans really, is to know that the umpire, he or she is trying to do the best job and don’t take the decision personally. On the other side of that coin, the umpire shouldn’t take any of the criticism personally. You could put a saint out there in the umpire uniform and that saint is still going to get yelled at because [they have] that uniform on and because they’ve made decisions that are unpopular with that crowd. Fans see the play with their hearts; the umpires see the play with their eyes.
Describe good pre-game preparation. What can youth league umpires do to make sure that they are physically and mentally prepared? First thing, make sure you know the rules. Don’t even think about showing up until you’ve studied the rules thoroughly. Especially local rules, the curfews, Little League rules, pitch counts, stuff like that you might have to be involved in later. Secondly, make sure you’re prepared to work a fair game. Make sure you’re focused on the game. Put your cell phone, your work, everything behind you. It’s a great escape actually to umpire and concentrate on doing a fair job because it is just a game. It’s not life or death. We talk about umpires being policemen out there — policemen have, unfortunately, life or death situations to deal with in a split second every day, umpires are just officiating a game. The best thing you can do is study the rules, be prepared to do a good job, and of course have a pre-game conference with your partner. If you’re working a two-or three-umpire system, make sure you’ve talked about your coverages, the system you’re going to work — hopefully it’s a consistent system taught by the Little League or whatever league you’re working for, and make sure that you’re preparing that crew to cover all the play situations that may arise. Good communication can make up for a lot of mistakes out there in coverage. What are the core characteristics of a good umpire? Impartiality, sound judgment, good eyesight is a given, and a feel for the game. If you have those four things, you’re going to do a successful job. Those four things have to come together well. If you take somebody that wants to be impartial but doesn’t really have a flow for the game and know what’s right and what’s wrong, then it’s not going to be a well-officiated game. But when you’re impartial, you hustle, and you know the rules, you come across as a fair person. One team is going to win and one team is going to lose. We like to think the umpires win every game, every night by doing a good, fair job for the participants.
|Basic Umpiring Tips By Rich Rieker, MLB Umpire Supervisor
The successful construction and maintenance of a quality baseball field requires careful planning and research. It is important to receive input from all parties that will be involved with the field construction. Construction plans for the playing field should be reviewed and discussed with all of the parties that will use the field.
Before a construction plan is finalized, the following field development issues must be considered. These issues will help to define the goals of the field development that best suit the budget and needs of the community or organization.
Use of the Field
- For what age group or classification will the field be used?
- How often will the field be used and during what time of year?
- How many new fields are needed accommodate the projected use?
- Type or scale of construction needed – Will the field be used for competitive or recreational use?
- Will the field be used for high level, competitive or tournament play?
- Will the field by used for night games? What are the permitting and community approval issues related to field lighting?
- Will the field be used for other sports or non-baseball events and activities?
Budget and Funding
- What funding is available for the construction of the field?
- What funding is available for the on-going maintenance of the field?
- What sources of funding will be identified and solicited?
- Who (or what organization) will be responsible for fundraising?
Location of the Field
- Location of the field – urban, rural, downtown, residential, near schools?
- Land ownership issues
- What are the permitting and community approval issues?
- Field Orientation- How will the sun and shadows affect the safety of the field?
- What is topography of the existing land?
- How much grading and fill will be required?
- What is the condition of the existing soil (the foundation subsoil and surface topsoil)?
- What is the condition of the existing turf?
- What is the availability of utilities (electricity, sewage, water)?
- What is the natural drainage of the area?
- What are the stormwater issues and flood plain concerns?
- How accessible is the location in terms of:
o convenience for players and public;
o transportation – traffic issues, proximity to public transportation, availability of parking;
o deliveries; and
o hotels – proximity and availability for tournaments.
- Does the location of the field have opportunity for future construction?
Type and Scope of Construction
- Who will design the field? Will an engineer or architect be hired?
- Apply value engineering during the field design process. Value engineering is the method of identifying and selecting the lowest cost options in design, materials and processes to achieve the desired level of quality, safety and maintainability of the field over the long-term. Value engineering will help eliminate unnecessary costs during the construction process and on-going maintenance of the field.
- Safety and comfort measures for players and guests – dugouts, dugout roofs, player benches, fencing, fence cap, batter’s eye, restrooms, concessions, bleachers, etc.
- Construction timeline – When will the field be available for play?
- What organization will be responsible for the maintenance of the field?
- What experience, expertise, equipment is available to maintain the field?
- What is the annual field maintenance budget?
- Should the field have synthetic or natural turf?
- Will the field be used for other sports or events?
In summary, the construction planning process includes:
- Determine the expected field usage including type, size and number of events;
- Design the field to accommodate the usage;
- Develop a construction plan that will facilitate on-going maintenance to allow consistent and safe playing conditions;
- Develop a construction budget and confirm funding for construction costs.
Not Everyone Can Be an All-Star Q&A with Jim Thompson of the Positive Coaching Alliance
There comes a time when all youth athletes encounter the selection of an All-Star team. For those that are selected, it is the realization of a goal. But for the others, it can be disappointing and discouraging.
In either case, parents and coaches should be prepared to talk to their children and players to make the experience as positive as possible. Recently, BTF spoke with Jim Thompson, Executive Director of the Positive Coaching Alliance, for his advice on how to handle the situation.
What challenges do coaches face with the selection of All-Star teams?
All-Star team selection can be the source of needless conflict and dissatisfaction. There are specific actions coaches can take ahead of time to lessen the problems. How a team and individual players respond to the potentially divisiveness of All-Star selection is usually a reflection of the team culture that has been established long before the selection is announced.
The most important thing a coach can do is to build a team culture in which players support each other and are happy when anyone succeeds. A key idea here is the “Emotional Tank” that every player needs to have filled to be able to perform at his or her best. When coaches make sure that all their players get their E-Tanks filled on a regular basis, disappointment is easier to take. Coaches should teach their players about the importance of the E-Tank and encourage them to fill each other’s tanks through praise and appreciation. This way you can create a team culture in which players are more likely to feel good about a teammate getting selected for an honor they might have also wanted.
When All-Star teams are selected, some kids will be picked, while others won’t. Each situation presents different challenges. What are the biggest challenges in each scenario?
For kids not chosen who think they should have been, there is likely to be disappointment. Coaches and parents can help them deal with the disappointment with statements like, “I can imagine you are disappointed that you didn’t get picked, but one of the things I like about you is that you are the kind of person who doesn’t dwell on disappointment. You’ve been working hard this season to improve as a player and that means a lot.”
For players selected, there may be nervousness at moving to a bigger stage. They have established themselves on their team but now they will have to do the same on a team of All-Stars. It is always helpful to focus on effort and learning rather than performance. “You know that every player on the All-Star team has been the star on their team. Not everyone will get to play the infield or pitch. I want you to go to the first All-Star practice and give it everything you’ve got. If you end up playing a position that you haven’t played much this season, then look at it as a learning opportunity. Be a sponge and soak up as much about how to play this position as you can. If you don’t get to play as much as you did on our team, then use that to try even harder in practice and fill the E-Tanks of your All-Star team members. Remember, you can help your team win, even if you aren’t out on the field.”
Is it helpful to have a discussion with your players or children in advance of All-Star selection? If so, what should be said?
It depends. If the All-Star selection takes place after the season is over and most kids don’t seem to be that tuned into it, I would say don’t bring it up. Singling out individual players in a team game is always potentially divisive, so I’d avoid calling attention to it unnecessarily.
If All-Star selection is a big deal with a lot of emphasis in your league (which by the way, I don’t recommend), then you may want to set the table for it with your players. Also, if you know that particular players have their heart set on becoming an All-Star, you might want to talk with them individually.
You might say something like, “You probably all have heard about All-Stars that will be coming up later in the season. I just want you to know that I am very excited about this team. I think we have the opportunity to have a great season together, and a big part of that will depend on our supporting each other and filling each other’s Emotional Tanks. By definition, only a few people get to be selected as All-Stars. I really want us to focus on playing together and as hard as we can. Some of you may be chosen as All-Stars, and that will be great. But mostly, let’s play hard and have fun and see what we can accomplish together this season.”
What should a coach do if All-Star selection creates animosity on their team?
If a coach creates a team culture where E-Tanks are getting filled and effort and improvement are noticed, this is less likely to happen. But if it does, then I might take the individuals involved aside individually to talk with them. For example, “Nate, I sense that you might be feeling bad about Matt getting named to the All-Star team when you didn’t. Is that true?”
Then based on what Nate says, you can respond. “You know, Nate, we’re trying to build a team here where we all support each other and feel good when a teammate has something good happen to them. Do you think you can congratulate Matt on being named to the All-Star team even though you are disappointed that you didn’t? That takes a lot of inner strength. What do you say?”
I might also talk with Matt. “You know, Matt, Nathan has had a great season. He’s worked really hard and has improved a lot. I think he might easily have been chosen as an All-Star also. Do you think you might say something to him about how you’ve noticed how hard he’s been trying and how much he’s improved? Perhaps you could say to him, ‘Hey, I’ve seen how you give it your best every day and how much you’ve improved. As far as I’m concerned, you should have made the All-Star team also. I would have really liked to play with you on the team.”
How can a coach reassure kids that feel disheartened or rejected because they don’t make the team?
I’d avoid saying things that invalidate feelings of disappointment. It’s normal to feel those feelings and dismissing them isn’t helpful. Use of the “you’re-the-kind-of-person-who” statements is always good for this. “I can imagine you might be disappointed, but one of the things I like about you is that you are the kind of person who keeps trying hard even when you are disappointed.”
How can a coach congratulate and support a child that makes the All-Star team without appearing to favor that player?
Coaches should take advantage of everything that happens to build their team culture. Recognizing players selected as All-Stars should be done in the context of how hard they worked and improved because those are the values that make up a positive team culture. “Steve and Robbie were named to the All-Star team and I want to congratulate them on this honor. I think it is recognition of how hard Steve and Robbie worked this season and how much they learned and improved since the beginning. Let’s all give them a cheer.
“I also want to take note of how hard each of you have worked and how much you each have improved this season. Not everyone who deserves to be selected to the All-Star team is selected. In my book, you all deserve to be on the hardest-working, most-improving All-Star team. Now let’s go out and have fun and work hard at today’s practice.”
Is the role of the parent different from the role of the coach in any of these situations? If so, how?
The team culture a parent is building is the family culture, so the setting is different but the principles mentioned above are valid. Recognizing effort and improvement and taking care to fill every family member’s E-Tank helps build strong, resilient families.
What should parents say to siblings when one is selected and the other is not?
You’re-the-kind-of-person-who statements work great for parents with their children in this situation.
How should parents and coaches react when a child that normally makes the All-Star team is not selected, perhaps because he/she is in a new division or has moved to a new town?
Addressing the disappointment is important, as is using this to reinforce a character lesson. “I imagine you are disappointed that you didn’t make the All-Star team…since you were selected last season. But successful people keep working hard even when they are disappointed. I hope you will keep trying hard and having fun in baseball. That’s much more important than whether you are selected for the All-Star team, in my book.”
Are there certain words that you should and shouldn’t use when talking to kids about the subject?
Terminology is important. Talk about a player having been chosen to be on the All-Star team rather than referring to him as an All-Star.
Research shows that attributing one’s success to effort is helpful while attributing success to one’s innate ability is not helpful. So it’s great to say “Derrick was selected to the All-Star team because the selectors noticed how hard he worked.”
It’s not so good to say, “Derrick is an All-Star.” That implies that the reason he was selected has to do with his innate talent, which is not within his ability to change.
What are the three most important things to remember when dealing with this situation?
1) Create a team culture in which everyone is recognized for his/her contributions to the team’s success.
2) Regularly fill E-Tanks of all players and teach them how to fill each other’s tanks with specific praise and appreciation.
3) Focus on recognizing effort and learning rather than on outcomes. When players realize they will be recognized for their effort and improvement, they will work harder and be less disappointed by not being given an honor like All-Star selection.
Keeping it Positive: Q&A with Jim Thompson, Founder & Executive Director, Positive Coaching Alliance
In 1998, Jim Thompson founded the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) with the goal of “transforming youth sports so sports can transform youth.” Since its inception, PCA has worked with over 1,100 youth sports organizations, leagues, schools and cities throughout the country and has helped create “a positive, character-building youth sports environment for more than 3 million youth athletes.”
Recently, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund sat down with Mr. Thompson to get his insight into the best methods of coaching youth sports.
What is the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA)?
PCA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission to transform youth sports so sports can transform youth. We have three national objectives:
• To make the Double-Goal Coach® model the standard in youth sports. A Double-Goal Coach wants to win (goal #1) but has the even more important goal to use sports to teach life lessons; • Empower youth sports leaders to create an organizational culture in which everyone involved Honors the Game. • Spark a “social epidemic” of Positive Coaching working with national and local organizations.
What motivated you to create such a program?
As a youth coach for my son’s baseball team 25 years ago, I realized that most adults who worked with youth athletes weren’t prepared to get the best out of kids nor to seize the endless procession of teachable moments that sports provide. I knew the power of great coaching and believed that young people needed great coaches even more than professional and college athletes.
What services do you provide for youth sports leagues?
Our annual partnerships for schools and youth sports organizations (YSOs) include live workshops for:
- Leaders on how to create and maintain a positive culture in which coaches see themselves as character educators and parents learn to support rather than undermine their children. • Coaches on practical tools to be Double-Goal Coaches who prepare their teams to compete and win at the same time they build character. • Parents on how to act as “Second-Goal Parents” who let the coaches and athletes focus on winning while they reinforce the life lessons that sports offer. • Athletes on becoming “Triple-Impact Competitors” who make themselves, their teammates and the game better.
We have account representatives assigned to each partner organization to work with them throughout the year to help them build the strongest possible positive culture.
Do you provide any resources for leagues that are not able to host a coaching seminar?
We have coach and parent workshops on-line and we have a vast set of materials on our web site (www.positivecoach.org) available for downloading. We also seek contributions to allow us to provide partnerships for organizations working with underserved populations.
On the PCA website, http://www.positivecoach.org, you often reference the idea of “Honoring the Game.” What do you mean by this?
Honoring the Game is a more robust version of sportsmanship, which too often is not taken seriously by people with a win-at-all-cost mentality. To make it clear what it means we developed the ROOTS of Honoring the Game, respect for the:
- Rules – Never bend the rules to win. • Opponents – Recognize a worthy opponent as a “gift.” • Officials – Respect officials even when they make a mistake. • Teammates – Never do anything on or off the field that will embarrass your team. • Self – Always live up to your own standards even when others don’t.
How can coaches help “Honor the Game?”
They can introduce the concept of Honoring the Game to their players and reinforce it throughout the season. They can hold a parent meeting at the beginning of the season to introduce Honoring the Game to parents and get their commitment to supporting the team’s goal of being a team (including parents and fans) that Honors the Game. We share many tools in our coach workshops, including a script for introducing the topic to players and a sample parent meeting agenda and outline.
PCA has a National Advisory Board, which includes two Major Leaguers, Barry Zito and Brad Ausmus. What is the role of this board?
Our National Advisory Board (NAB) allows high-profile coaches and athletes and other leaders in sports, academia and business to show their support for the PCA Movement. NAB members also participate in PCA events and provide me with advice on how to grow the movement.
Through PCA, you have the opportunity to meet with many youth baseball and softball coaches. What are the most pressing issues/common problems that they face today? How do you suggest handling these issues?
• One of the biggest is how to make and keep the great sports of baseball and softball fun for kids. Because they are there is so much failure built into the games, coaches need to work hard to build players’ confidence and show them how to bounce back from mistakes.
• PCA teaches coaches to establish a team mistake ritual to help athletes recover from mistakes and learn to welcome challenges rather than fear them. A mistake ritual that we like is “flushing mistakes.” When a player makes a mistake on the diamond, he or she tends to look at the coach. Instead of turning away or throwing the clipboard on the ground, coaches make a flushing motion with their hand to signify that the athlete should flush the mistake and get ready for the next play.
• Coaches who make a team mistake ritual part of their team culture report that their players are more aggressive, have more fun, and do better on the scoreboard. The irony is that the use of a mistake ritual results in players making fewer mistakes!
• Another issue that comes up again and again is how to deal with parents who are over-involved and over-invested in their children’s success as an athlete. In our coach workshops we encourage coaches to pro-actively recruit parents to be part of the culture-shaping team. If coaches can get parents on their side (in terms of Honoring the Game, for example), they will become positive influences. We know of many situations where a parent started to get out of hand at an umpire’s call he disagreed with and another parent has intervened to encourage him to “Honor the Game and set a good example for our kids.”
In your opinion, what are the best qualities to have as a youth sport coach?
The ability to fill Emotional Tanks is a high priority for any coach, especially of youth athletes. When players have full E-Tanks, they can perform their best without worrying about failure or having their coach come down on them when they fail, as everyone does in baseball on a regular basis. Teaching athletes to fill each others’ E-Tanks is a crucial aspect of building a team culture in which players commit to trying to reach their potential.
Serving as a model for players to learn to Honor the Game is absolutely imperative given the decline in civility in much of sports today. If I had to choose, I would take a coach who teaches and models Honoring the Game above one who is a great teacher of the skills of a sport but is a poor role model in this area.
Being able to teach the skills and strategies of the game is also important, especially as players get older. For younger kids, making it fun is the very most important thing because if they are not having fun, they will not stick with the sport. If they do have fun, they will keep coming back.
Finally it is important for a coach to share his/her passion for the sport to develop a life-long love of the sport in players.
Do you find that different sports require a different approach to coaching? If so, how?
In terms of X’s & O’s and the skills of a particular game different approaches may be appropriate. But in terms of the art of coaching, there are common elements that work from the tee-ball level to the professional ranks. In particular, regarding using sports to build character and teach life lessons, we have found that our coaching workshops communicate the basics to coaches of all sports.
Similarly, should coaches utilize different methods for different age groups and/or skill level?
It is critically important that coaches use developmentally appropriate methods depending on the age and maturation of the athlete.
In addition to training coaches, PCA also values the role that parents can play. What can parents do to support and cultivate a positive experience for their children?
Parents who are not coaches need to let the coaches and athletes worry about winning. Parents should be what PCA calls “Second-Goal Parents” where the Second Goal is using sports to teach life lessons. For example, if your child strikes out with the bases loaded and the game is lost, a parent can have a first-goal conversation or a second-goal conversation with the child. “Keep your elbow up, stride into the ball, don’t bail out of the batter’s box,” and the like are first-goal conversations better left to the coach.
Parents should talk about life lessons like resiliency using a tool we call You’re-the-kind-of-person-who Statements”: “I know you must be disappointed about not driving in the winning run, but one of the things I like about you is that you are the kind of person who doesn’t give up easily.” In this way a parent can focus on the second goal and build a child’s self image as a person who doesn’t give up easily!
As leagues gear up for the start of another baseball and softball season, what is the most important piece of advice you can offer to coaches and parents?
Keep in mind how quickly your child grows out of their youth sports experience and just enjoy it! Parents of grown children tell me they wish they had enjoyed watching their kids play more rather than getting so uptight about whether they were being coached right, whether the officials’ calls were fair to their child, whether they were playing the right position. When their child’s sports experience is over, parents often realize that they should have chilled out more and just enjoyed it. Parents who have kids playing sports are experiencing the “good old days” and they should enjoy them while they can.