Jersey Shore A's: My Site News

Tuesday, September 18
Principles and Objectives

Program Principles and Objectives

My priorities as a coach, for ALL players are:

1. Maintaining Safe4ty - the physical and emotional health of every player

2. Building a love of the game - so young athletes WANT to play more.

3. Developing athletes - teaching & Training skills of the game, teamwork & sportsmanship

      Unlike a professional coach, I an NOT paid to win games, but rather entrustedby parents, players and the community to do the 3 things listed above. Yes, the objective of most any sport is for each player / team to strive to win, but at any level of youth sports, winning a game should not be at the expense of any ofthe 3 priorities listed above, (Heck, even minor league baseball, at times, sacrifices a "W" for the sake of player development} I also firmly belive that focusing on these three priorities leads to "W's" - - maybe not in a given game or even a given season, but certainly over time. We are certain that consistently failing to live up to these 3 priorities leads to losses, games and otherwise - - again, maybe not in a given game or season, but over time. I will measure my success not in wins, but rather in effort towards wins.

     Failing to maintain safety by pushing an athlete beyond their physical limits and / or physical readiness (e.g. curveballs for a 10 year - old, running until they "drop". etc.) or verally abusing players (e.g. constant negative criticism, screaming & yelling, motivating by fear, etc.) will lead to injury, drop-outs, burn-out, or worse - maybe not for every player, and maybe it gets a win here or there, but I don't have the right to take that risk.

     Failing to build a love of the game by taking the fun and "play" out of playing the game, minimally, leads to players losing a commitment to their own development, and over time, leads to drop-outs.

     These priorities may sound a lot like the same priorities as "Rec" ball - and then, what makes a travel team different? It's the intensity and commitment of the third priority, development, on the part of the coach, player and parents, a travel team gives select players the opportunity to build a higher level of skill by playing with and against other athletes with advanced skills, by potentially being taught/trained by coaches with a more advanced knowledge of the game, and probably the biggest factor, having more time on the field.

      On the topic of "playing time" - Overall, I believe game experience is critical for both the "love of the game" and "player development". It needs to be a higher priority than winning. At the same time, I think this issue should be looked at differently for different age groups, primarily because the 3 priorities play out in very different ways for an 8 or 9 year-old versus a 14 year-old. I need to take into consideration what is known about child development.

     For a travel team of 8-9 year-olds, I see no reason why a coach should not strive for equal playing time, and to give players the chance to play multiple positions. At these ages, differentiation of talent on a travel team is likely to be minimal, if team selections are done well. And, even over the course of a short season, development can be huge. The least capable player at the start of the season, given a cahce in practice AND games, can easily end up being the most capable by the end of the season. In many instances, ablility at this age can be determined not just by potential, but by sociological factors such as having older siblings.

     For a travel team of 10-12 year-olds, the concept of earning playing time and/ or earning a position can probably start to be implemented. But, I still do not belivev there is any reason for major disparity in playing time. Especially at these ages, growth spurts, physical development, puberty, etc. starts to takes place - and, over the course of a season any player may significantly improve or vice-versa all of a sudden become awkward. Specialization in fielding positions should start to be implemented at this age group since playmaking becomes more advanced and many players cannot keep track of the many responsibilities of ach and every fielding position.

      For a travel team of 13 and beyond, players are at an age where they are most likely "specializing" in a particular position/skill. Emotionally, they are maturing to a point where they are able to learn from, and better understand, the concept of earning playing time for performance, It is also time to start preparing them for middle school and high school sports where "sitting the bench" may be a part of their experience.


Anthony Ruszczyk