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.
So, your organization applied for a grant or solicited a donation from a local company, and a representative from that organization wants to sit down and discuss your request? This is good news for your organization…congrats! Here’s your chance to elaborate, clarify and show the potential donor that your organization is ready, willing and able to accomplish the goals set forth in your request. Be prepared and put your best foot forward!
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund conducts site visits with all organizations to which it seriously considers awarding grants. Once the meeting is scheduled, we provide the following in advance:
- an agenda
- a suggested list of attendees from your organization – all attendees should be well-versed with details of the project, the donor and request.
- a list of topics to be discussed or information needed in writing.
Upon conclusion of the visit, we rate the organization on the following areas:
- Expression by the applicant that the proposed project is intended to support its goal for continued growth of participation in youth baseball and/or softball.
- Decisiveness of the plan and/or answers by the applicant and representatives.
- Demonstration of professionalism, organization, preparedness by applicant.
- Cleanliness and apparent adequate maintenance of existing facilities and/or fields.
Most of the applicants for our funding have little or no experience in the grant making process. To provide assistance, we found the following articles that might be helpful:
Summer is around the corner and cutting the grass may even be on your to-do list this weekend. Mowing is one of the most important practices for maintaining a healthy turf. There are four main components to mowing: mowing height, mowing frequency, clipping disposal and mowing equipment.
- Optimum cutting height is determined by the growth habit and leaf width of the turfgrass.
- Narrow leaf blades that grow horizontally are usually mowed shorter. Examples are: bermudagrass and creeping bentgrass
- Upright-growing grass with wider leaf blades are usually mowed higher. Example is: St. Augustinegrass
- Repeated mowing below the recommended heights for each species is a primary cause of turf injury.
- Mowing frequency is determined by the growth rate and the utility of the grass.
- The growth rate is determined by species, time of year, weather conditions, and management requirements.
- Grass that receives repeated athletic use will need more frequent mowing.
- No more than 1/3 of the blade height should be removed per mowing.
- Grass clippings contain nutrients and organic matter that can be taken up and reused by the turfgrass.
- Grass clippings are generally not desired on athletic fields and golf greens, and therefore are bagged.
- Make sure to blow any grass clippings on sidewalks, driveways, or other hard surfaces back onto the grass as to avoid pollution.
- The two basic types of mowers : reel and rotary
- Reel mowers are used on grasses that require a low height of cut and are best suited for high maintenance, fine-bladed grasses (golf courses and athletic fields)
- Rotary mowers are best suited for grasses with mowing heights above 2 inches.
- Keeping blades sharp on every kind of mower is very important for the turf health.
Thanks to our friends at SportsTurf for providing this great insight. Read the full article and be sure to here. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for some great, very practical mowing tips.
To Current and Past Grant Recipients:
As we mark the 15th anniversary of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) this year, we thank you for your continued support of youth baseball and softball in your community.
The BTF Board of Directors recently approved a new policy, the One Grant at a Time and Waiting Period Policy, effective immediately. This policy stipulates that BTF will award only one grant to an organization at a time with a two-year waiting period before a subsequent request will be considered. The purpose of this policy is to enable BTF to use grant outcomes, reporting and the demonstration of proper, on-going maintenance and operation of the programs and facilities to make well-informed decisions.
To summarize, BTF will require recipients that receive a BTF grant through our standard application process to complete the term of a grant, submit a final report and annual follow-up reports for at least two years before it will consider a subsequent funding request. Exceptions are noted for BTF/MLB Equipment Day and Field Maintenance Education Program grants.
You may review the complete policy at www.baseballtomorrowfund.com. Thanks again for your cooperation.
With the arrival of Spring comes the arrival of event season. From Opening Day Parades to Field Lighting Ceremonies, it’s all underway.
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is lucky enough to be involved in a variety of events. We understand planning an event can be an overwhelming task, so we thought it may be helpful to have something to refer to when the details feel daunting.
1. Start with a vision – what do you want your event to look like? What image do you want to portray to the media and the guests who attend?
2. Determine where you’re going to host your event. At the ballpark? Inside the new batting cages? A parade down Main Street?
3. Determine a Run of Show. Write down a brief schedule of the event.
4. Create an invite to spark people’s interest. Request that people RSVP and then make a guest list.
5. Designate a photographer and a videographer.
6. Create and distribute a press release to your local outlets.
7. Promote the event on your social media profiles.
1. Arrive early to set up the event.
a. Test the sound system to make sure it works.
b. Do a mock run through.
2. Greet the media and tell them what to expect from the day.
3. Meet with the photographer and videographer. Give them a list of desired specific photos/video footage.
a. TIP: Try to ensure your organization/sponsor signage are visible for photo opportunities.
4. Upload pictures and status updates during the event to your social media profiles.
5. Enjoy the event!
1. Collect all photos and video.
2. Create a photo album and/or recap to post on your social media profiles.
3. Contact media to discuss details or photos they may need.
4. Search and save any articles that mentioned the event or your organization.
5. Make notes for yourself of what worked really well and what could be improved next time.
Events are a wonderful way to celebrate a new season, a completed project or ring in a new program. They are a lot of work but they always prove to be productive, joyous and memorable.
If your organization was rejected for a Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant or is planning to apply, please review this information to gain a better understanding of the most common reasons a request is rejected and for examples to strengthen your request.
KEEP IN MIND: The Baseball Tomorrow Fund (like all grant making organizations) select recipients that demonstrate strong leadership, professionalism, the ability to properly manage a budget, paperwork and oversee a project to completion. As in your job or at school, spelling, grammar, punctuation, organizational and administrative skills count! If your organization’s request is poorly written or incomplete, it does not reflect well your organization’s ability to manage a grant and reporting requirements, complete a project or sustain a program or facility. Take the time to proofread and get help from others before submitting a request.
Do you know your non-profit organization’s current tax-exempt status? Now is a good time to double-check. If your organization’s tax-exempt status was revoked, learn what to do.
For anyone in the process of writing a grant or considering it, this is an informative Q&A with a foundation expert. Great advice!
Now that the summer league season is over, we encourage all U.S.-based, youth baseball and softball organizations (as well as other small non-profit organizations) to confirm the charitable exemption status of your organization with the IRS.
According to the IRS website, “Although they are exempt from income taxation, exempt organizations are generally required to file annual returns of their income and expenses with the Internal Revenue Service. Beginning in 2008, small tax-exempt organizations that previously were not required to file returns because their gross receipts did not exceed a certain threshold may be required to file an annual electronic notice…In addition to required filings, a charity may have other ongoing compliance obligations.”
Therefore, if you have not checked recently, have not filed the appropriate returns (or don’t know if your organization has filed), don’t assume that your organization is still exempt!
Read all about the IRS requirements for charities and non-profits in the U.S. at http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations—Required-Filings
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund application requires a copy of your IRS letter of determination, confirming the non-profit status of your organization. So, make sure your organization has a current copy before beginning the application process.
Know Your EIN
This is also a good opportunity to confirm your organization’s EIN (Employer Identification Number or Federal Tax Identification Number.) All U.S. organizations are assigned this number by the IRS.
At BTF, we require an EIN for all U.S. based applicants — whether the organization is a registered 501(c)(3) or tax-exempt organization, such as a municipality or school. This number is used as an applicant’s unique identification number in our database and is required before any grant award is approved or paid. Without a EIN, BTF will not process or evaluate a request.
The format of a Federal EIN is XX-XXXXXXX. If the number you have on file has more or less digits, it is unlikely to be a Federal EIN.
If you have never written a grant proposal but are considering it, we encourage you to do a bit of research and educate yourself on the basics before jumping right in.
The Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and global grantmakers and operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at all levels. The Center offers an excellent library for free webinars (in English and Spanish) covering topics including grant seeking basics, developing a proposal budget and fundraising planning.
Go to http://fdncenter.sharedby.co/links/LjLBC2 to learn more about grant writing, grant seeking and the world of philanthropy.