By Wes Simmons
“Emotions make excellent servants, but tyrannical masters.” – John Seymour
It was the bottom of the 6th, the last inning of a heated championship game at the 9U “GLOBAL World Series.” I was talking to a player’s dad who was telling me how important it was to get this win because, “It will help them get a higher seeding in next week’s state tournament.” I said, “Time out. It’s important to win the GLOBAL World Series so that you can get a better seed in the STATE tournament?” Hmmm.
Youth sports marketing at its finest.
The game was knotted at 3-3. There were no outs and the winning run was on third-base. The batter hit a low line drive to the 1st basemen. The 1st basemen made a great diving catch, and the field umpire quickly and decisively called the batter, “OUT!” The 1st basemen popped to his feet and fired the ball across the diamond to double up the runner who was caught down the 3rd base line. The team in the field, along with their coaches and parents, erupted with excitement after this unlikely turn of events. They had new life!
There was only one problem. The home plate umpire (who had a better view of the play), said that the 1st basemen TRAPPED the ball on the ground and overrode the field umpire’s ruling. He waved his hands and exclaimed with unwavering authority, “SAFE!”
Uh oh. Now what?
The runner on 1st was now safe, but what about the runner on 3rd? He was still being ruled as an out. The batting team’s coach argued that he would have scored and won the game had he known the ball was trapped. To further complicate the issue, the 3rd basemen didn’t even put a tag on the runner coming back to 3rd. He just stepped on the base thinking it was a force out double-play. If the ball was trapped, the runner at 3rd shouldn’t be out if he wasn’t tagged. A trapped ball at first meant there would NOT be a force out at 3rd.
What do you do? At this point, I think it would have been impossible to make any call without one of the teams feeling like they were cheated. It’s a tough predicament for a couple of 16-year-old umpires who make $20.00 per game to find themselves in.
Things began to escalate, and the discussion between parents, umpires, and coaches quickly turned into a full-on screaming match. Finally, one of the teams took the “moral high road” and decided to forfeit the game because they didn’t want to “do this in front of the kids.” However, this was about 15 minutes AFTER the kids had already witnessed a hideous display of poor sportsmanship and foul language from adults on BOTH sides. In other words, it was 15 minutes too late to claim any sort of moral superiority.
This is a classic example of what happens when coaches aren’t clear on their transformational purpose.Click to tweet
This is a classic example of what happens when coaches aren’t clear on their transformational purpose. When we don’t know our purpose, winning BECOMES the purpose (especially when it’s during the 9U “GLOBAL” World Series).
As one who didn’t have a dog in this particular fight, I simply observed the scene and tried to contemplate how I would handle the situation if I was the coach on either team. I was also intentional to observe how the kids reacted to what the adults were modeling for them. I saw some of them “courageously” joining in the battle, but I mostly saw looks of sadness.
Gaining Clarity Through Purpose
When we know our purpose, it makes a lot of our hard decisions for us. I immediately thought about my own stated transformational purpose. My transformational purpose statement is: “To inspire athletes to pursue excellence in sports and in life while enjoying the journey and embracing the process.” In that moment, I tried to filter the situation through that lens and how it could serve me if I was the coach in a situation like this.
I believe it’s important that we have our transformational purpose statements memorized so the words can be better internalized. If it’s not memorized and internalized, how else can we have quick access to it during the heat of competition when we need it most? Ideally, it should serve as a filter for every interaction and activity that takes place in our programs. I thought about how this could help govern my behavior… regardless of which side I may have been on.
I mostly thought about the part of my statement that talks about “enjoying the journey.” When crafting this statement, I chose the word “enjoy” to serve as a constant reminder that I need to be intentional about letting kids have fun and enjoy their sports journey. I’ve already taken my journey as an athlete. As a coach, sports should not be about me or any other adult. It’s the kids’ journey. It’s their turn.
It was very evident that NO ONE was enjoying the sport journey at that point. There wasn’t a trace of joy on any of those kids faces as the parents and coaches were facing off. As I witnessed the tempers flare and the emotional temperature rise, I couldn’t help but compare this adult-driven sports model to the kid-driven sports model that used to regularly take place in backyards and cul-de-sacs everywhere. If this would have been just a pickup game of Whiffle Ball in the neighborhood, how would the kids have handled this situation?
I imagine some emerging young leader taking control of the situation and saying something like, “REDO!” Then they would get back to playing and having fun with their friends. Unfortunately, the playgrounds are empty and neighborhood ball seems to be mostly extinct. But that’s a topic for a different blog.
By and large, I think the social contract has been broken in our country. I believe that the sport-experience is most life-giving when it helps meet the needs of kids physically, socially, emotionally and even spiritually. Unfortunately, sports are often hijacked by adults to meet the needs of adults at the expense of kids. With a youth sports industry that has ballooned to an annual MULTI-BILLION dollar industry, it’s hard to make the argument that it’s still, “all about the kids.”
I’m not saying I would have handled that situation perfectly by any means. However, I would like to think that by taking the PROACTIVE approach of defining my purpose and developing 3Dimensional strategies, it would have helped me be less reactive in a situation like this. How about you coach? Are you being proactive or reactive? We want to help you be proactive.
Check out our online 3D Coaching Course for Certification or our Course for Credit for some great training. We will help you to define your “WHY” and develop a plan to deal with emotions along with the rest of the 2nd & 3rd Dimension issues. Don’t be mastered BY your emotions. Define your “WHY” and allow your purpose to reign OVER your emotions.
Mark Hull of the 3D Institute shares some thoughts about why it’s important for coaches to proactively develop a 3Dimensional plan.