Passing Interest or Long-term Devotion?
By MARTY SLIMAK
Head Baseball Coach, Cal Lutheran University
Editor's Note: Over the years, many parents have asked me to help them with their child's development in baseball. The children range from Little Leaguers to the high school student-athlete looking to continue playing at the college level. My patented answer is this: "Does your child have the love for the game, or do you want it more for you than for him?''
I realize that might be a touchy response, but their answer is the first step in defining how to develop the player into an above-average player at the level he is competing. Let me breakdown the three types of student-athletes who play baseball in their childhood years:
" The FIRST is the one who has the love for the game as well as the physical talent to do the things necessary to become a better player. You cannot force desire on someone. If the parent wants it more than he does, the child will not put in the effort necessary to develop. This player has the God-given talent and desire to propel him to the next level.
" The SECOND is the player who has the desire and love for the game necessary to make him a special player, but not the ability. One can recall great players such as Pete Rose who excelled due to hard work and effort. This is the type of player that parents should assist in becoming a better player, because the desire and love of the game is there.
" The THIRD is the player who plays for many reasons, none of which is a burning desire to excel. It could be the sport in season. Or his parents push him to play. Neighborhood friends are playing, so he does. He enjoys the game but not enough to put in the effort it will take to move to the next level. His athletic ability might not be suited for baseball. Parents need to recognize this and not push the child harder than he wants to be pushed.
The best advice and training parents and guardians can do for all players at all levels is to encourage and make baseball a positive experience. Sooner or later they will tell you whether the game is something they want to continue to pursue. The old saying we seem to forget is that we have two ears and one mouth, so we need to listen more than talk. Listen to the kids. Listen to their hearts and desires.