TRAINlete is excited to share another entry from one of our GREAT contributors, a GREAT Youth Sports Coach, Ira Blumenthal. Enjoy the below entry where Ira "puts everything in perspective!"
“Putting It All In Perspective” - Ira Blumenthal How many times have we all heard the expression,
“It’s only a game…” Although we’ve heard those lines over and over again, I often wonder whether anyone “
really” hears them… and “
really” accepts the fact that it is, in fact, only a game… and an activity for children to get some exercise, learn about team play, develop work ethic, understanding the importance of hard work, etc., etc., and more etc. As a longtime youth baseball coach, on both the recreation AND elite travel team level, I innately knew… and accepted the
“It’s only a game…” positioning (and reality) and found myself constantly being reminded of that reality through the words and actions of my young baseball team players. For example, I’ll never forget giving a motivational “pep talk” to my East Cobb Tiger travel team just before playing in the Baseball Players of America (BPA) National Championship in Cherokee, NC. Here we were, a team that won about 50 regular season games and lost around 10 or 15… and a team that was winning most of the high level tournaments we entered. And here we were, in Cherokee, North Carolina, getting ready to run out onto the field to win a national championship. In a highly focused, serious tone, I delivered the motivational messages to my team… and discussed our strategies in depth, as well as introduced them to the signals our coaches would use that game… you know, signals for “take,” “bunt,” “steal,” “hit and run,” etc. I was serious. My coaching staff was serious. And I thought the boys were serious… and focused. After 10 or 15 minutes of my motivation and messages, how could they not be, right? Coach B (me), I asked the team,
“You guys got any questions?” I looked them each in the eyes and initially, no one had any questions until one of our players raised his hand and asked,
“Coach B… I have a question… what’s the snack?” Taken by surprise with “What’s the snack?” at first I was in disbelief, you know, how is it possible that we’re about to play the most important game of our season and a player was seemingly more interested in the snack than the strategies and signals and pep talk message I just delivered? Then it dawned on me, as I had to laugh, this team of young boys was exactly that… a team of young boys. They were there for fun. They were there for fellowship. They were there for snacks. Why? Because it is, in reality,
only a game! And so, we won the championship, had a great snack and enjoyed a wonderful experience and afternoon in the mountains of North Carolina… all of us a bit wiser than when we started out because we understood perspective. Another of my favorite “bring the coaches back to reality…” moments reinforcing
“It’s only a game…” came when my Oregon Park Dragons baseball team of 12 nine-year-olds ended its season somewhere around 50 wins and less than 5 losses and we were invited to move our team to the prestigious, nationally acclaimed “East Cobb Baseball” program. East Cobb has been in the top 1-3 travel and development baseball programs in the U.S. since the early 1990’s putting out more college scholarship and professional players than any park in the U.S. (according to “Baseball News” magazine). My coaches and I were proud and thrilled and excited. The players were also proud and thrilled and excited. After all, we were moving “big time.” We would have pristine fields to play on against teams coming in to play at East Cobb from California to Texas to New York and other long distances. Hey, we were the East Cobb Tigers. Watch out! Talk about another
“It’s only a game…” moment… well, as we finished our first practice at East Cobb, we were sitting in the bleachers doing what I called “Team Talk” … discussing practice, work we needed to do, our upcoming schedule, etc. and I proudly, excitedly asked my team,
‘Hey boys… great practice! I know you’re excited about being here at East Cobb. It’s an amazing complex with great fields. So here’s my question… why are you so excited about playing baseball here? I expected someone to answer, “Coach, the fields are amazing…” I expected another player to answer, “Hey Coach B… the scoreboards are major league…” I expected yet another player to answer, “Coach… the teams we will play here come from all around the country and real college and pro baseball scouts come to watch East Cobb teams play…” But I never expected to have one player answer me and have the whole team agree with him and shake their heads positively when he said,
“Coach B… you know why we love it here at East Cobb? It’s simple. They sell ‘Dip n’ Dots’ in the concession stand and we love ‘Dip n’ Dots!’” Needless to say, I was floored… but had to laugh, along with my assistant coaches, because we adults again learned and reinforced “why” the boys play the game. Yes, they loved baseball… and competition… but mostly, just loved playing the game, having fun and obviously sprinting to the concession stand… win or lose… for “Dip n’ Dots.” Yes,
“It’s only a game!” And coaches, parents, grandparents, siblings and friends of youth teams… don’t you forget it!