A letter to parents.

I first posted this 4 yrs ago. It has since been turned into a book.

He ya go little league parents…a letter from the skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals.

image

Letter from Mike Matheny…..

I always said that the only team that I would coach would be a team of orphans, and now here we are. The reason for me saying this is that I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents. I think that it is best to nip this in the bud right off the bat. I think the concept that I am asking all of you to grab is that this experience is ALL about the boys. If there is anything about it that includes you, we need to make a change of plans. My main goals are as follows:

(1) to teach these young men how to play the game of baseball the right way,

(2) to be a positive impact on them as young men, and

(3) do all of this with class.

We may not win every game, but we will be the classiest coaches, players, and parents in every game we play. The boys are going to play with a respect for their teammates, opposition, and the umpires no matter what.

With that being said, I need to let you know where I stand. I have no hidden agenda. I have no ulterior motive other than what I said about my goals. I also need all of you to know that my priorities in life will most likely be a part of how I coach, and the expectations I have for the boys. My Christian faith is the guide for my life and I have never been one for forcing my faith down someone’s throat, but I also believe it to be cowardly, and hypocritical to shy away from what I believe.

You as parents need to know for yourselves and for your boys, that when the opportunity presents itself, I will be honest with what I believe. That may make some people uncomfortable, but I did that as a player, and I hope to continue it in any endeavor that I get into. I am just trying to get as many potential issues out in the open from the beginning. 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. You as parents need to be the silent, constant, source of support.

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 once got paid to handle those guys, and I will let them know when they need to hear something. I am really doing all of you parents a favor that you probably don’t realize at this point. 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. I know that it is going to be very hard not to coach from the stands and yell encouraging things to your son, but I am confident that this works in a negative way for their development and their enjoyment.

Trust me on this. I am not saying that you cannot clap for your kids when they do well. I am saying that if you hand your child over to me to coach them, then let me do that job.

A large part of how your child improves is your responsibility. The difference for kids at this level is the amount of repetition that they get. This goes with pitching, hitting and fielding.

As a parent, you can help out tremendously by playing catch, throwing batting practice, hitting ground balls, or finding an instructor who will do this in your place. The more of this your kids can get, the better. This is the one constant that I have found with players that reached the major leagues….someone spent time with them away from the field.

I am completely fine with your son getting lessons from whomever you see fit. The only problem I will have is if your instructor is telling your son not to follow the plan of the team. I will not teach a great deal of mechanics at the beginning, but I will teach mental approach, and expect the boys to comply. If I see something that your son is doing mechanically that is drastically wrong, I will talk with the instructor and clear things up. The same will hold true with pitching coaches. We will have a pitching philosophy and will teach the pitchers and catchers how to call a game, and why we choose the pitches we choose. There is no guessing.

We will have a reason for the pitches that we throw. A pitching coach will be helpful for the boys to get their arms in shape and be ready to throw when spring arrives. Every boy on this team will be worked as a pitcher. We will not over use these young arms and will keep close watch on the number of innings that the boys are throwing.

I will be throwing so much info at these boys that they are going to suffer from overload for a while, but eventually they are going to get it. I am a stickler about the thought process of the game. I will be talking non-stop about situational hitting, situational pitching, and defensive preparation. The question that they are going to hear the most is “What were you thinking?” What were you thinking when you threw that pitch? What were you thinking during that at bat? What were you thinking before the pitch was thrown, were you anticipating anything? I am a firm believer that this game is more mental than physical, and the mental may be more difficult, but can be taught and can be learned by a 10 and 11 year old. If it sounds like I am going to be demanding of these boys, you are exactly right.

I am definitely demanding their attention, and the other thing that I am going to require is effort. Their attitude, their concentration, and their effort are the things that they can control. If they give me these things every time they show up, they will have a great experience.

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 2 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. I will have them at games early so we can get stretched and loosened up, and I will have a meeting with just the boys after the game. After the meeting, they are all yours again. As I am writing this, I sound like the little league Nazi, but I believe that this will make things easier for everyone involved.

I truly believe that the family is the most important institution in the lives of these guys. With that being said, l think that the family events are much more important than the sports events. I just ask that you are considerate of the rest of the team and let the team manager, and myself know when you will miss, and to let us know as soon as possible.

I know that there will be times when I am going to miss either for family reasons, for other commitments. If your son misses a game or a practice, it is not the end of the world, but there may be some sort of repercussion, just out of respect for the kids that put the effort into making it. The kind of repercussions could possibly be running, altered playing time, or position in the batting order.

Speaking of batting order, I would like to address that right from the top as well seeing that next to playing time this is the second most complained about issue, or actually tied for second with position on the defensive field. Once again, I need you to know that I am trying to develop each boy individually, and I will give them a chance to learn and play any position that they are interested in. I also believe that this team will be competitive and when we get into situations where we are focusing on winning; like a tournament for example; we are going to put the boys in the position that will give the team the best opportunity.

I will talk with the boys individually and have them tell me what their favorite position is and what other position they would like to learn about. As this season progresses, there is a chance that your son may be playing a position that they don’t necessarily like, but I will need your support about their role on the team. I know that times have changed, but one of the greatest lessons that my father taught me was that my coach was always right…even when he was wrong.

The principle is a great life lesson about how things really work. I hope that I will have enough humility to come to your son if I treated him wrong and apologize. Our culture has lost this respect for authority mostly because the kids hear the parents constantly complaining about the teachers and coaches of the child.

I need all of you to know that we are most likely going to lose many games this year. The main reason is that we need to find out how we measure up with the local talent pool. The only way to do this is to play against some of the best teams. I am convinced that if the boys put their work in at home, and give me their best effort, that we will be able to play with just about any team. Time will tell.

l also believe that there is enough local talent that we will not have to do a large amount of travel, if any. This may be disappointing for those of you who only play baseball and look forward to the out of town experiences, but I also know that this is a relief for the parents that have traveled throughout the US and Canada for hockey and soccer looking for better competition. In my experiences, we have traveled all over the Midwest and have found just as good competition right in our back yard. If this season goes well, we will entertain the idea of travel in the future.

The boys will be required to show up ready to play every time they come to the field. Shirts tucked in, hats on straight, and pants not drooping down to their knees. There is not an excuse for lack of hustle on a baseball field. From the first step outside the dugout they will hustle. They will have a fast jog to their position, to the plate, and back to the bench when they make an out. We will run out every hit harder than any team we will play, and will learn how to always back up a play to help our teammates. Every single play, every player will be required to move to a spot. Players that do not hustle and run out balls will not play. The boys will catch on to this quickly.

The game of baseball becomes very boring when players are not thinking about the next play and what they possibly could do to help the team. Players on the bench will not be messing around. I will constantly be talking with them about situations and what they would be doing if they were in a specific position, or if they were the batter. There is as much to learn on the bench as there is on the field if the boys want to learn. All of this will take some time for the boys to conform to. They are boys and I am not trying to take away from that, but I do believe that they can bear down and concentrate hard for just a little while during the games and practices.

I know this works because this was how I was taught the game and how our parents acted in the stands. We started our little league team when I was 10 years old in a little suburb of Columbus, Ohio. We had a very disciplined coach that expected the same from us. We committed 8 summers to this man and we were rewarded for our efforts.

I went to Michigan, one went to Duke, one to Miami of Florida, two went to North Carolina, one went to Central Florida, one went to Kent State, and most of the others played smaller division one or division two baseball. Four of us went on to play professionally. This was coming from a town where no one had ever been recruited by any colleges.

I am not saying that this is what is going to happen to our boys, but what I do want you to see is that this system works. I know that right now you are asking yourself if this is what you want to get yourself into and I understand that for some of you it may not be the right fit. I also think that there is a great opportunity for these boys to grow together and learn some lessons that will go beyond their baseball experience. Let me know as soon as possible whether or not this is a commitment that you and your son want to make.

Thanks,

Mike Matheny

10 questions that instill boldness:

This week’s blog is a section from an email I received from Dan Rockwill.Questions we might ask ourselves in problem solving.

Talk less about problems and more about people. Do you have an issue to address?

What personal qualities do you possess that equip you to address this issue?

How do your passions connect to this challenging opportunity?

What skills have you developed that apply to this challenge?

Tell me how you dealt with something like this in the past.What have you recently learned that gives you strength to deal with this problem?

How will succeeding with this problem help you become who you want to be?

What skills do you currently possess that enable you to thrive in this situation?

How might you bring your best self to this challenge?

What might you do that will make you proud?

Who do you aspire to be while solving this problem?

There are two types of questions in the list. Questions that focus on personal qualities and questions that center on skills. Begin with personal qualities. What is there about you that enables you to step up?

After reconnecting with character, move to skills. What skills might you have that enable you to deal with this?

We Are All Actors

Amy, our oldest daughter, just finished filming her second movie. I had the privilege of spending a few days on set with her and seeing how movies are made. Fascinating!

In fact, one of the directors asked me a few days prior to the event if I would give a 5 min. devo to the cast. Not all were followers of Jesus. It was a great honor to get to know these people and share what Jesus had put on my heart. This was a different world to me as my life has been primarily speaking to athletes. Actors and athletes can be a different audience! Actors are often very expressive and most athletes less than expressive.

image

My little 5 min. speech was titled “We all are actors but some of you are in a film.”

The reality is that all of us have the ability to act a given part. Those of us who follow Christ are often the most guilty. We ACT as If all is good. We attempt to put on a good Christian face even when things are not good. We can act the victim when we need sympathy, act cool when we feel we don’t fit and even act the like the bad guy when we don’t want to engage. Every human knows how to act!

Why are we like this? Peer pressure? Upbringing? Expectations of others?

Or maybe we have been taught how to act. Rather than living from God we are trying to live for God?

We have so much pain, heartache, stress, insecurity, etc. that we are afraid to be real. We can become stiff and predictable, attempting to fit some perceived mold. Yes, there is responsibility in life and we need to act responsibly.  We need to respect authority and follow the rules. But there is also a freedom in Jesus to be authentic; to be measured by the standard of God’s Word rather than other people’s bias or expectations.

Why do we act a part that is not really who we are? Why not live in the personality and spiritual gifting Jesus has given us? We are all unique and we are all are in process. The question may be, Who are we allowing to set our direction? Jesus is real and cares deeply!

This week’s meditation: Read Romans 14. Are we allowing others rather than Jesus to dictate the rules and set the direction for our lives? Is that stifling the man or woman Jesus desires us to become? Be honest. Be free! Live for an audience of One.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.  Romans 14:10-12

A form of freedom…

Why do we want some people to win and others to lose?  If you are the fan of one team, typically there is another team you want to do poorly. I guess that is part of competition.

image

 

Unfortunately, sometimes we have the same attitude toward individuals, and this can be harmful.  It calls into question our motivation and integrity.

 

About a month ago, one of my high school teammates passed away. Jeff Sewell was a Wisconsin basketball legend. He led the state of Wisconsin in scoring in 1968. He had a three game stretch where he scored a total of 158 points. (Yep, he averaged over 50 points a game!) He was eventually inducted in the Wisconsin H.S. Hall of fame. I had the honor of playing center on that team and grabbed a few of his missed shots, of which there were few.

 

Jeff went on to have an outstanding career at Marquette University and was also inducted into their Hall of Fame. I remember watching his games on TV and hoping every shot of his would go in. I was not passive in my approach—I wanted him to do well! Because we had relationship, part of me was on the court with him.

 

There were other times throughout my life that I did not want a certain player or team to do well. Why? My loyalties were elsewhere! But does that bias extend to my personal relationships? If I am honest, sometimes that attitude spills over to life outside the athletic arena.

 

Envy. Hatred. Jealousy. Revenge. Prejudice.   Are these attitudes OK? 

An attitude that represents Jesus may require a change in my heart and motivation. Never an easy thing. In fact, sometimes it’s impossible on our own. But Jesus challenges us to move toward maturity; to have His mind and heart toward others. True Freedom!

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 

I am still working on this! There are some people who have disappointed me deeply in life and there are times I would like to see them fail.  This attitude is totally wrong, but sometimes it’s true! Am I the only one who ever has this thought? Anyone else need an attitude adjustment on this one? Let’s be totally honest! Maybe we need Jesus to renew our minds and let Him fight our battles.

  

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

A COACHES PRAYER

I was sent this prayer the other day…see this as your prayer as a leader in any environment.

The Coach’s Prayer

 
Lord, when I pick up the whistle, lace up my shoes and walk out of the locker room, I coach for You alone. There is no turning back. In every victory and every defeat, I celebrate Your goodness and greatness. The way I coach demonstrates my love for You. I stand for the cross and declare my loyalty to You. I coach for You.

 My energy and enthusiasm come from the Holy Spirit. My purpose and passion come from above. Through the strain and struggle, I never give up or give in. The champion inside of me is Jesus who gives me strength. Winning is honoring You in all I do. I coach for You.

 When I coach, I feel Your pleasure. My heart longs for Your applause alone. All of my abilities are from You. I am under Your authority as my Ultimate Coach. I will respect and honor all competitors, coaches, and officials. I compete by all of the rules. I coach for You.

 My coaching is my offering to my Savior. I am Your warrior in the heat of battle. I am humble in victory and gracious in defeat. I coach to serve You, my athletes, and our opponents. My words bring healing and refreshment that inspire and motivate. I speak words of life. I coach for You.

 Success isn’t a winning program, but seeing the power of Christ transform the lives of my athletes. Victory is not the scoreboard, but for my athletes to become more like You. Bless my athletes in great ways and increase their faith and confidence. I coach for You.

 In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Remember, lift up your athletes through prayer daily. God will use your prayers to transform lives. Pray well. Coach well.

image

 

 

Triple Play!!!

II Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion
of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

A few years back I was watching a big league game and the Mets did something that not many teams do on a regular basis.  A sharp, one-hop bullet was fielded by John Olerud at first, and he immediately fired to second base to force the runner out. The return throw got the hitter at first, and then John fired home to get a sliding Barry Bonds at the plate . . . A TRIPLE PLAY!  It was a thing of beauty for any baseball enthusiast to see-something that doesn’t happen every day.

The above scripture shows us three things that are also pretty amazing when we think of the love of God.  First,we have the forgiveness of sins through our Lord Jesus Christ.  The second great benefit of redemption is the reception of God’s love.  The third benefit of redemption is the “communion of the Holy Spirit.”

The schedules of life can keep us so focused on tasks that we forget the great truths mentioned in this passage.

Forgiveness means freedom from penaltyLove gives us our sense of worth to a Holy GodThe giving of the Holy Spirit allows us to experience the power of God within us 

This week, consider this triple play of great benefits from the gracious call of God to Himself.
image