A Developmental Baseball Club in Oviedo, FL

Daddy Ball

Posted on 13th February, by andybarkett in Staff. 3 Comments

Daddy Ball

What exactly is “Daddy Ball?”  A question I have often asked myself.  After watching a few games at the Swing Into Spring tournament this weekend and listening to parents post game reactions (normally after a loss) I heard the following quote numerous times, “We lost that game because of Daddy Ball.”  Maybe I am a little slow at times to figure things out, but either way, the light bulb in my head finally turned on and I realized what “Daddy Ball” is all about.   Ah ha!  We blame losses on coach’s kids.  One of the coach’s kids makes an a couple errors and the manager stays with him or the manager’s son is pitching and can’t throw a strike and he leaves him in there and he walks the park.  Manager’s son plays short stop the whole game and can’t catch a cold, costs the team runs, and we never switch him out.   These are only a few of many “Daddy Ball” examples out there, and I am sure that if I were to ask, I would hear a hundred or so more!  Are people who say those things justified?  Are managers and coaches guilty of this?  Is there a way to fix this?

For what it is worth, here are my two cents on the topic.  First of all, it is impossible to rid the world of “Daddy Ball.”  And to be honest, I feel we sometimes use this term as a crutch or a way to justify a loss.  Basically, “Daddy Ball” is playing favorites, plain and simple.  The coach and or manager are accused of playing his favorite players (the coaching staff’s kids) in the most critical positions because of the game because he can.  Does this happen?  Of course it does, all the time, on baseball fields all around the world.  Here is problem.  When you play baseball in competitive tournaments where coaches chest bump after machine pitch victories, you are asking to play “Daddy Ball.”  You have signed up for it.  I watched more signs given to 8U players from a 3rd base coach this weekend, who are hitting off a machine and can’t steal bases yet, than a professional or college coach would ever give.  Youth baseball has turned into winning at all costs (even at the machine pitch level).   And, with that mentality, “Daddy Ball” is here to stay.  Not only that, it is getting worse!  Will the base coaches please stop telling these kids what to do all the time?  Please.  They can’t learn to play when we are always directing their paths.  I heard multiple times from 3rdbase coaches to watch them instead of the ball.  At what point do we let them make their own decisions?  Otherwise, all we are doing is creating robots and trying to control the outcome of the game by our actions and not the kid’s.  Is that is what is best for the development of the player?  Everyone has different agendas and ways of thinking, This is just mine.  Players have to be able to play with the freedom to know that they can make mistakes as long as they make them aggressively.  We do need to teach players to play to win the game and be competitive; that is what the game is all about.  But most importantly, as instructors and role models for young players, we should make sure and teach them how to play correctly. Part of that learning curve is to allow them to make mistakes freely and then use those mistakes as teaching moments so that the player has the opportunity to get it right the next time, and so on.  The contrary would say, “But we are in a tournament and trying to win.”  Yep.

The way to combat “Daddy Ball” would be to have a set rotation for the players to play both infield and outfield, sit the bench, no matter who the player is.  Make it mandatory in tournaments to do so.  That would eliminate “Daddy Ball” from the equation and would give each player an equal opportunity to play all positions on the field (which long term would be best for his development).  Many of you reading this are thinking, “That’s ridiculous.”  And that is the problem.  You think it is ridiculous because you want your kid to play on the team that wins the tournament and if we rotate players on a set rotation then we would dramatically limit our team’s chances to win and be able to see grown men chest bumping and fist pumping on the field.  Professional, nor college coaches, rarely act like that by the way.  And here is why.  Because those guys know, that without good players, no matter how good they manage or coach, they are not going to win.  The credit always goes to the players for the victory and the manager always takes the blame for the defeat.

In youth baseball it is backwards these days.  The managers, coaches and parents like to take credit and pat themselves on the back when the team wins but then point the blame on the players for lack of production or execution when the team loses.  Winning trophies and tournaments is above player development and until that changes, and coaches (Dads) and parents, all put the player’s development as an athlete and a young man ahead of winning tournaments and fueling egos, “Daddy Ball” will thrive.

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3 responses to “Daddy Ball”

  1. Joshua Middleton says:

    Great Article on Daddy Ball!

    In short, daddy ball refers to the coach’s child playing either preferred positions or increased playing time, in exclusion to other more athletically gifted competitors.

    Having raised two sons I can say that there is not much as painful as watching a coach play the game to advance the talents of his own child. When a game is played and it clearly revolves around the coach’s son, unless he’s the best athlete on the team, it’s daddy ball.

    In baseball, you may see the daddy ball coach’s son batting ahead of players with higher batting averages, playing shortstop or pitching frequently and not getting the job done. In football, it usually involves increased playtime and the position of quarterback or running back or you may see in most short and goal situations mainly one boy getting the chances to be the hero and score the touchdown — of course, the coach’s son.

    Regardless of the sport, the concept is the same – when a child gets playtime or position that he does not earn through his own hard work and athletic ability or if others who can get the job done are not given the opportunity-so the coaches son can play more- it is daddy ball.

    I regard coaches who play their son above where he falls athletically as cheating his son, the other boys, the team and himself. What do I mean by that bold statement?

    A coach who does not make his son earn his position has in effect trained the boy to expect something for nothing. Continued over time the boy expects things to be handed to him and has little incentive to put in the hard work necessary to beat out other young athletes and truly earn what he gets.

    Would that be the type of employee you would like to hire out of college? So I say, the coach who did not make his son truly earn his position on the team has cheated his own boy.

    It is easy to say that the other teammates who may have higher batting averages, or otherwise were better able to play a spot were cheated because the coach’s son got to play it.

    Young boys hold few; in as high regard as their coach, if they put in the work, have a good attitude and can beat out another kid- they deserve to play the spot.

    A coach, who will not play the best boy for the job to work another agenda, improving his own child’s ability, should not be coaching the team.

    Daddy ball also serves to cheat the team, as a team, because when boys are not played where the fall athletically, the team will be less competitive and the boys will be less motivated. Resulting in a team that is not all it could have been.

    Well how does the coach who plays daddy ball cheat himself?

    A coach who plays his son above his athletic ability to the detriment of more qualified boys has failed in its primary mission as a father, that is to adequately prepare his son to leave the nest and stand on his own 2 feet. When children do not experience earning by their own efforts and truly competing, they suffer.

    How do you avoid daddy ball?

    The main way to avoid daddy ball is to coach the team your self. But if you do, take careful objective measure of each child’s athletic ability and play it accordingly, lest you fall into the daddy ball role as a coach.

    A way to lessen the impact of daddy ball is to get your son on a team coached by a father whose son clearly is the best athlete on the team. In that situation, it will be hard for the coach to play the son over more athletically inclined children.

    Or if you can afford it, the best way to avoid daddy ball is to play your children with a coach who does not have children on the team. This will either be a paid professional coach or someone who truly loves the game. If you choose the paid coach route, ask hard questions of the paid coach before joining the team as some paid coaches seem to feel obligated to the dad who helps coach or put the team together and you may well find your son back in the same situation you were trying so hard to avoid.

    It has been my observation that coaches that play daddy ball are usually in denial about the situation. Typically, they have eyes for one boy on the team, their own.

    Some coaches feel that by coaching the team they have earned the right to play their son where ever and however they want and for the reasons set forth above, I say, find another team.

    Speaking with the daddy ball coach has little chance of success because it involves his own son. If you do speak to the coach, be very careful to keep the conversation about facts and not opinions.

    In baseball, that may mean keeping batting statistics your self or other objective measure depending on the sport and situation. You can hand the coach the batting averages for all players on the team and he will get the message with out a word spoken.

    With the daddy ball coach, the best option for your child may be to finish out the season and more carefully select another team next year.

    Greg Baumgartner is a Houston personal injury attorney and founder of the Baumgartner Law Firm. He enjoys coaching, mentoring children and is a safety advocate.

    Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/4776840

  2. andybarkett andybarkett says:

    By the way. I did not mean anything in that blog personally towards anyone. I was just making general statements about what I see at the ballpark and trying to get some to realize that we can’t have such an emphasis both on and off the field on winning, then complain about “Daddy Ball.” You can’t have it both ways.

  3. Mark Schanback says:

    I three-quarters agree with both of you and here is why we can all agree and still disagree.

    First of all the times are changed and the players that used to get together without parental supervision to just play and make their own observations and grow in the game A LA “Sandlot” ,the movie, are gone. The fabric of our sports world is tainted by the illusion of grandeur and the allure of big money.

    I took a route as a parent of practicing my coaching on my nephew first and then my son. The “sacrifice” to spend hours for some is nothing more than a way to add to the years being involved in a kids game that we loved and never stopped yearning for more. No matter how “objective” I was still the cries of favoritism could be heard. To make it worse my wife and in-laws did not think i used enough influence.
    Talk about a no-win situation!

    My theory was to surround my son with a group of kids that were his equal or better and make him rise to the challenge of playing competitive ball … not just that rinky-dink little league stuff. The goals were two fold, make him compete for playing time like the rest and put him in situations for him to succeed and build confidence. Those two did not always mesh.

    Missing was the natural development that comes with playing in the “Little League” or simply league ball where you can “play-up” to your level and learn from older players that are experienced if you are a young kid with talent and on an older team that matches your ability. Do I regret the choice to start and develop my son’s own travel team? No.
    But I later realized that at some point everyone needs that chance to be the older player … the leadership being learned when you are the “Veteran” little-leaguer builds it’s own bonds and memories that are unlike the rivalry among teammates all vying for those AB’s or pitching innings on typical travel teams.

    I surrendered the role of Head Coach and chief decision maker of the teams when it became apparent that I could no longer remain unbiased. I still think that stepping away was a good decision at the time … but if no parent coaches then who will work with the less gifted and pass the game on to the kids with no father or male role model? That is a good topic for another blog, but my point is – quit complaining about Daddy Ball unless you are willing to put your self in the cross hairs of writing the line-up yourself and dedication of all your waking hours trying to teach the game.

    I agree with Andy in that the age of kids with “Tourney Crazed Parents” has shrunk while the number of BONUS BABY hopefuls increases and coaches striving to WIN are losing the main thing. Make it FUN! Make it FUN! Keep it fun! Let the game – be the game.

    Those kids my son got to know in his youth are now all sprinkled throughout the HIGH SCHOOL baseball landscape. But you know what … a few that had none of those “advantages” are playing Varsity ahead of some still playing JV today. Lesson learned is that it is a marathon not a sprint. Still others are burned out and literally “retired” due to injury or tired arms. He does have a special bond with kids he would not have met except through Travel Baseball. Two trips to Cooperstown and a scrapbook full of memories from numerous events around the Southeast. Dad and Mom and Grandparents had fun watching some great baseball too.

    Baseball in it’s purest form is the greatest game on the planet I know. the only one where your weakest link can become the ultimate hero and the strongest often can be the goat. Where failure is a norm rather than a rare occurring incident. And no other sport allows a stage to become SHOWCASED like hitting or pitching. All eyes are on you and one play can alter the entire direction of game flow and outcome. (i.e. Bill Buckner, Kirk Gibson, David Freese, etc …) Little things matter as they do in relationships and life.

    Take a moment and encourage a League Coach. Give that Travel ball coach the benefit of the doubt. Trust that your kid will overcome and learn that life is not fair — and he/she will succeed anyway just like many before them. Winning is not a score or even a higher batting average … winning is that pursuit of being the best we can be. Striving to win is no SIN ,but, being a “poor sport” when undone by a loss is the enemy.

    Thank you Andy and Greg for the insights you have shared. I hope you see where we agree. And I hope that no one disagrees that we all need “DADDY BALL” to a degree.

    Mark Schanback is a former Collegiate Player and College World Series participant that has coached for nearly 30 years at all levels including Head High School and Collegiate Assistant. He is currently retired from coaching and is working with Durkin Sports Connections as a consultant.

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