Sunday, April 01, 2007


Managing in Little League? My advice is: Don’t do it!

That might be some of the best advice you get in your life.

When my kid turned 8 he was anxious to get into Little League. Anything to blend in, to be one of the group. I had brought him home from Vietnam when he was 4. So at 8 I signed him up for Little League. On the sign-up form they ask you to volunteer for something. Strictly out of guilt, it didn’t seem fair to ask everyone else to do the work, I checked, “Coach.” Well it turned out no one else checked anything so I got appointed Manager. There was no player draft. They just gave me 12 kids at random, like you deal a deck of cards, except for my kid of course who had to be on my team..

At our first practice almost all the parents turned out. Many helped chasing balls and hitting flies and picking up fallen kids and such. At the end of the first practice they had all given up on the team. It was doomed. They wished me a smirking good luck. I hardly ever saw any of them again. Not one parent helped with or even watched another practice.

I didn’t know why they wrote off the team. Three of the kids were really good, three were pretty bad, and the other 6 were so-so. (My kid was in the middle.) To me, it had the makings of a pretty good team. Most teams would be glad to have that level of talent.

But the effort required of me, both physical and mental, was enormous. As usual when getting into a project, I threw myself into it with complete psycho-tinged abandon. Which meant abandoning regular work and most everything else for the three weeks of our pre-season training.

During our pre-season, in addition to our regular practice, I emphasized two things. After a ground ball was fielded and thrown to first, I called out a random base to throw to, and then another, and then another. It was like working with an empty slate. They did it without thinking. The kids got expert in this. That turned out to be a devastating weapon when playing against wild-running 8-year-olds.

The second thing I emphasized was extra batting practice for our 3 weakest players. Some days the practice would be for them alone. I did not want an automatic out in our lineup.

When we came to our first game, I didn’t know what to expect. We hadn’t played any practice games. I just hoped it wouldn’t be an embarrassment for us. All the parents showed up, most likely expecting the worst.

What surprised me most was the intensity of our players. In the top of the first inning we scored 15 runs. The opposing team came off the field in tears. My job then was to keep our team from losing its concentration. It’s hard to keep an 8-year-old focused when his team is leading by a couple of dozen runs. It didn’t help that our parents had started rooting for the demoralized, tearful opposition. We won that first game 31-7. It would have been more but my guys let up.


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