If I Knew Then What I Know Now…
When I was a kid I was a big dreamer. At around age 6 I wanted to be Batman but by age 10 I figured that probably wasn’t very realistic so I turned to baseball and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. After the competitive career ended my adult/professional life has taken many turns but I have finally settled into something I am truly passionate about and will likely sustain me for the rest of my life and that is coaching/guiding young people.
I always hear athletes mention what a big influence certain coaches had in their lives in the form of valuable life lessons in addition to athletic skill development. I never had an impactful relationship with a coach during my youth/teen years. In fact, after my competitive career ended I began to learn certain things about the game of baseball and athletic development that definitely would have helped me as a young athlete. Initially I was frustrated because no one took the time to work with me. That is the driving force behind my desire to share what I have learned with the young people that I work with and it goes well beyond the playing field.
I never want a child that I coached to look back in ten years and say I wish my coach had told me…
Just for fun I thought I would share the strategy I would use if equipped with my current life experience and education to optimally develop myself starting at the age of 4.
My goal is to develop a broad base of athleticism early and use that foundation to help me excel on the baseball field by the late teen years.
I would not play organized sports at all. I would take gymnastics and martial arts to develop balance, mobility, body control and spatial awareness. I would swim a lot during the summer but just for fun no lessons. And when the lakes and ponds froze in the winter I would ice skate and play hockey again just for fun. Free unsupervised play would dominate my free time with friends.
I would start in organized sports. I would however only play seasonally, baseball in the Spring/Summer and basketball in the Fall/Winter. I would continue with the marital arts and start doing an off-field/court training program with an emphasis on body weight movements and speed and agility development. I would play pick-up games of football and hockey with friends in the fall and winter and tinker with tennis in the summer.
I would devote more time to developing my baseball skills and overall athleticism through off-field/court training. I would continue to play basketball for my school in the winter and would totally separate myself from the game of baseball for at least 4 months out of the year.
Post High School
I was fortunate at one time to have an opportunity to play baseball in college and I would strongly consider doing so again. However, my main priority would be to put my education first and baseball would take a backseat to that, I wish I could say that was priority the first time around. I would use my education to cultivate the visions and dreams that I have right now to better serve young people.
You see a funny thing happens when you are riding buses throughout the Midwest and South playing ball you start asking yourself; is this what I really want to do?
Living off Subway, Shoney’s and all-you can eat buffets was not something I was particularly interested in.
Sometimes the things you pursue with the most passion and dedication actually ends up draining your energy while limiting or stalling your long-term potential. In the youth sport culture it’s easy to get caught up in the competitive surroundings with your blinders on and you begin to lose touch with what the whole process should be about.
Which brings me to the last and most vital lesson of all; have fun! It really is only a game. After my sophomore year in high school I started to take baseball way to seriously and this carried over in to college and baseball became a job. As parents and coaches we need to ensure that our kids are involved in sports for the right reasons and becoming a superstar and winning trophies should be at the bottom of the priority list.
The bottom line is baseball and sport would be nothing more than tools that I would use to shape the career and person I ultimately wanted to become. I recall a quote from sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman who once stated; “you have to use the game or otherwise it will use you!”
The other strategy I would have used is insisting that my family only eat meat, eggs and dairy from pasture raised cows and chickens in addition all of our fruits and vegetables must be grown with only organic methods. I would have driven my parents insane! Upon further review I wouldn’t change a thing! I developed just fine athletically and I ultimately ended up right where I most needed to be. As a bonus my parents are both full of vigor and not exhausted from dealing with a boy with to much knowledge for his own good.