Seems like every day we are treated to a new story about sports stars behaving badly.
What is often missed in all the commotion is that these are not spontaneous outbursts, but merely an escalation in a long pattern of behavior that starts at a young age when star athletes are coddled and told that they are “special”.
Indeed, having a player on your team who can be counted on to hit a homer in every game or a pitcher who can strike out a couple of batters every inning is something every coach hopes and prays for, but the tendency is to make exceptions for that player and excuse behavior that, for any other player, would draw punishment.
1. Setting Expectations
I’ve spoken before from a coach’s perspective about setting expectations, but the same is true for parents. Parents often have very set ideas about how their child should be treated and where they should be playing, but they should make it clear to their child that sometimes things don’t always work out as planned.
They should be willing to accept what happens and turn disappointment into opportunities. If a kid has played 1st base since tee-ball and he’s suddenly asked to move to 3rd, then he should be taught to look at that as an opportunity to show what a great 3rd baseman he can be.
Children should also be taught from the outset that no matter how great a player they are, all players should be treated equally and come to expect that from coaches.
An “all-star” who comes in expecting to be treated as something more than any other child – at least on the teams I have had the privilege of coaching – is bound to be disappointed.
Most of my fellow coaches have related to me that they have no problem with cutting a star player from their team if he (or his parents) becomes more of a liability than an asset.
Fortunately, this seems to be becoming more of a common theme, at least in terms of rec ball, than the exception.
2. The Coach is In Charge
As I mentioned previously, there are always parents who come up and say, “this is my son, Joshua, and he’s a star 2nd baseman,” or “Dylan is a great pitcher, I know he’ll win you a lot of games.”
While I appreciate knowing what positions your son has played in the past, there is no guarantee that’s where he’ll end up. Some years coaches are stocked at a certain position and a little thin elsewhere.
A position player who is also a great athlete will sometimes need to be shifted to fill a hole, and that’s just the reality.
As a parent, you know when your child has a special talent or ability as an athlete, and sometimes it can be hard to stand by and watch the coach take him out of the game, whether it’s due to an infraction or just because other players need playing time
Ultimately, it’s the coach’s decision, and any attempt by a parent to question a coaching decision or complain about it, undermines that coach’s authority and further indicates to the child that he is above the rules.
3. Everybody Has a Talent
It’s important for everyone, parents, children and coaches, to remember that every child is “all-star” in some respect. Some are great athletes, some a wonderful artists, others have a way with words or dealing with people. We all have special gifts, some that never receive any kind of public recognition, but everybody has the chance to be somebody else’s “all-star”.
My father-in-law passed away not long ago after a long battle with cancer. His home care nurse was there right up to the end, giving everything she had so he could be comfortable. Her care and dedication meant more to my wife and myself at that point in our lives than any baseball or soccer player I ever had on my team. She inspired me to want to be an “all-star” for somebody else.
Dealing with an “all-star” player really doesn’t involve anything more than a basic understanding that the player in question is just like any other human being. He may have a specialized set of skills that makes him a real asset to the team, but if you want to make sure that he also becomes an asset to his community – ultimately a far more important goal – then he needs to realize that he is an integral part of that community, not an entity that rises above it.
The reality is that anything that was given to him in terms of talent or ability can be swiftly and unexpectedly wiped away for any number of reasons. The key is to nurture those abilities that he does have – and not just the athletic abilities – to ensure that he becomes the best human being he can possibly be.
How About You?
What techniques do you have for handling the “all-star”? Would you hesitate to cut an “all-star” who does not conform to the rules?