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.
Leave a Reply