Recently I was doing a clinic for a youth team and 8 of their girls who wanted to learn how to pitch. First, let me recommend that instead of all the parents paying $20 for their kid to take part in an hour of pitching, they should let the coach identify the three or four best pitching prospects and let those three or four do the hour session instead of bringing every kid who can hold a ball. The team will be better off for it.
So this team of 8 girls and two coaches come in and they are like most little league teams. They had a few girls who were very interested in learning more about pitching while some were just glad to be there with their teammates they hadn’t seen all day. This was apparent by the nonstop talking. There were a few serious girls and a few silly ones, some girls with high expectations who became upset after not getting it down in the first ten minutes and a few who wondered why they were there.
So nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact that most of the kids were calling each other by a nickname, in fact the coaches also referred to the players by these same nicknames. There were names like smiley and happy, there were nicknames that took a play on the kids last name, where they changed a syllable or the first letter which was all good.
What was troubling to me was a nickname the kids and coaches gave one kid in particular which is a definition of crazy.
So here is why that is not okay. That kid, who by her appearance you could tell was a free spirit, which is great. She wore her own style of hair which showed her individuality and strength. So why would they call this kid a name that basically told her she is crazy. Now I am sure this nickname was meant as a term of endearment, but when you think about a twelve-year-old pre-teen girl just coming to terms with who she is, her self-worth, her place in the world the last thing she needs to be thinking about is whether or not she is crazy. Because only one of two things will happen, she will defy the name and prove that she is not “psycho” or she will start to live up to her name. Either way, why do that to a young impressionable kid who is there to play softball and learn some life skills.
Many times I see parents and coaches do things that they think is needed, wanted or as we say where I come from, they do it because they think it is “cute”. Below is a list of things that I came up with after talking to hundreds of 12, 13 and 14-year-old kids over the course of many years about what they want and need from their parents. What’s interesting about the list is that most parents would be surprised by what their daughter really wants and why they want it.
Parents this is what your kid has told me…
Give me everything that I need before the game so I can focus 100% on what I need to do.
Don’t yell out my name I get embarrassed with that kind of attention.
Talk with me about what I want, my goals and why I play.
Prepare with me, healthy foods between games so that I can have the energy to play at my best all day.
Help me with in-between game maintenance (emotionally and physically)
I don’t need side deals they actually make me feel like you don’t really believe in my ability.
Stop coaching me during games, it confuses me and my performance suffers.
Don’t say negative things about my coaches in front of me. Unless you want me to not listen to them.
Make sure I have the appropriate gear I need.
I need to hear more positive things to outweigh the negative things I create in my own head.
Tell me what you want me to do, not what you don’t want me to do.
Help me think off the field so it comes natural on the field.