It was the 7th inning with two outs and runners on first and second. I was pitching my fourth game in a row in a Southern California Little League game. I was tired, sore, and was having trouble getting the ball over the plate.
After pitching my third ball in a row, my coach called 'time' and came out to the mound. He didn't ask how I was, didn't offer encouragement, rather, he shouted at me to bear down and quit being such a sissy about my arm! He stormed back to the dug out and after my next pitch (which was a ball), he unceremoniously pulled me out of the game and instructed me to sit on the far end of the bench. Oh, did I mention I was 10-years-old?
This situation may sound like fantasy, but it was my reality as a 10-year-old pitcher in little league. It was ultimately what caused me to stop playing baseball. Not because my arm was sore, not because I walked the batter, and not because we lost the game. But for the most heinous reason of all: because it made me stop loving the game.
As many youths at that time, I was a baseball fanatic. I collected Topps baseball cards, having a complete collection of the 1968 series. I played over-the-line. I sat in the bleachers at Dodger stadium with my glove, time and time again, waiting to catch a homerun ball. I was glued to the radio every time the Dodgers played. But after the 1968 little league season, I never played again, never collected another baseball card, and rarely went to Dodger games.
Winning at All Costs
My coach was only concerned with winning. He wanted that 12-inch pennant trophy so badly, that any 10-year-old that stood in his way was toast. He'd start the same pitcher on the mound every weekend until he lost, and then switch to another until he lost. Basically, he had no idea what it means to 'coach,' and ultimately had no business being a coach in the first place.
So what's the point here? Why am I digging up the past? Mainly to make a point about how coaches can impact young athletes. Sure, others have endured worse, and continued to play baseball, but that's not the point. The point is that athletes play the game of baseball mainly because they love it.
Helping Young Athletes
Coaching young athletes is a challenge. They have much to learn, and many are at different stages of body development and coordination. Heck, as a ten-year old pitcher, just getting the ball to the catcher somewhere in the vicinity of the strike zone of a 5'2' batter, is an achievement!
Helping these young athletes develop to their potential means being able to assess their current abilities, finding their strong points, helping them with their weak points, and organizing them into a team that can make it through six innings.
Studies have been done with young athletes to see how coaches affected baseball play. In one of the studies, they equipped teams of young baseball players with equipment and just let them play ball. They played and enjoyed themselves for hours.