How NOT to coach


On the drive home tonight, Bob McCown (my favourite sportscaster) was talking
about an article by Rick Reilly (my favourite sports writer) in this week’s
Sports Illustrated (which I haven’t received yet). (Here
is a link – not sure if you need to be a subscriber or not to read it) It talks
about the championship
game in a kids’ league (9- and 10-year-olds) in Utah. The home team
is down by one, batting in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and the tying
run on third. Their best hitter comes to the plate, and is intentionally
walked
to get to the next batter, Romney, who is the worst hitter on the
team. He strikes out to end the game. The kicker (well, one of them) is that
Romney happens to be a cancer survivor who has to take human growth hormone and
has a shunt in his brain. The coach of the winning team defended his decision,
saying that it’s “just good baseball strategy”. Well, sure it is, and I initially
agreed with him. Cancer survivor or no, if he can’t play at the level expected
in the league, then he shouldn’t be playing.

That’s when I heard the second
kicker — in this league, everyone gets to bat, there’s a four-run
limit per inning, and there’s no stealing until the ball crosses the plate. Given
those rules, it’s obvious (or should be) that this isn’t a rep league —
the primary focus of this league is fun. There is no “level
expected in the league”. Because it’s not a
rep league, things like intentional walks shouldn’t happen, and pitching to the
slugger was the right thing to do. Walking him to get to the kid who could barely
swing the bat made it all about winning. Obviously the winning coach never
heard the old saying “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the
game”.

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