Monday, April 23, 2012

MIKE JACOBS COLUMN: Take it from Matheny: Big league advice works for Little League

From the Evansville Courier Press, April 23, 2012

I recently had a friend forward a link to a letter a Little League Baseball coach — a truly special coach — had sent to his team parents at the beginning of the season.

That coach was Mike Matheny, the new St. Louis Cardinals manager.

Following his retirement as a professional baseball player, Mike coached his kids in Little League. Here are the key take-aways and references to his letter to the parents on his team:

* On the role of a Little League parent: "I believe that the biggest role of the parent is to be a silent source of encouragement. I think if you ask most boys what they would want their parents to do during the game, they would say, "NOTHING!

"Once again, this is ALL about the boys. I believe that a Little League parent feels that they must participate with loud cheering and "come on, let's go, you can do it," which just adds more pressure to the kids. I will be putting plenty of pressure on these boys to play the game the right way with class, and respect, and they will put too much pressure on themselves and each other already."

*On umpiring, and how parents and players should deal with umpires: "Let the record stand right now that we will not have good umpiring. This is a fact, and the sooner we all understand that, the better off we will be.

"We will have balls that bounce in the dirt that will be called strikes, and we will have balls over our heads that will be called strikes. Likewise, the opposite will happen with the strike zone while we are pitching.

"The boys will not be allowed at any time to show any emotion against the umpire. They will not shake their head or pout or say anything to the umpire. This is my job, and I will do it well … I have taken out any work at all for you except to get them there on time, and enjoy.

"The thing that these boys need to hear is that you enjoyed watching them and you hope that they had fun."

* On teaching his players to be responsible: "The best situation for all of us is for you to plan on handing these kids over to me and the assistant coaches when you drop them off, and plan on them being mine for the two or so hours that we have scheduled for a game or the time that we have scheduled for the practice. I would like for these boys to have some responsibility for having their own water, not needing you to keep running to the concession stand or having parents behind the dugout asking their son if they are thirsty or hungry or too hot, and I would appreciate if you would share this information with other invited guests, like grandparents.

"If there is an injury, obviously we will get you to help, but besides that, let's pretend that they are at work for a short amount of time and that you have been granted the pleasure of watching."

If it's good enough for the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, it should be good enough for you and your child.

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