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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

The Little League Manifesto

I noticed something yesterday that was pretty obvious after watching my son’s T-ball practice: He grew up fast in 1 week.

The week before at a practice, (which I unfortunately missed), my wife reported that he was “having too much fun out in the field.” Too much fun was described as being a clown, funny faces, little dances, and distracting the other kids. I guess you could say this is normal behavior for a 5.5 year old boy. She “counseled” him directly and to the point on the ride home. He was visibly upset and crying, clearly realizing he upset his mom, and then later the message was re-enforced by his dad. Trauma in the life of a 5.5 year old…..

To say that I’m OLD SCHOOL when it comes to baseball, learning fundamentals, and doing things the “right way” is probably an understatement.

I believe the ball field should be respected, and the coaches who are selflessly donating their time and energy to help our kids should not have additional challenges from kids that think it’s “Play Time.”

Granted, this is 5-6 year old T-ball, I get that. But what if it was 9 year old Little League? 12 year old Babe Ruth?

When is it the “right time” to bring Old School Fundamentals to Kids?

I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer. Except in baseball, the answer to me is obvious: RIGHT NOW.

Coaches matter in life.

I came across what is widely circulated and known as the “Little League Manifesto”, written by (now) Cardinal’s manager Mike Matheny when he was coaching a local youth team. I started editing what I thought were the key points, and realized I was cutting and pasting nearly every one of the 2,556 words. It’s a gem and I encourage you to read it.

I can imagine some parent’s on Coach Mike’s team cringing, and refusing to sign. I understand that. It’s Old School. And I’m sure it is difficult to envision what Jr.’s life would be like vs. a non “OLD SCHOOL” team coach. This is supposed to be fun, will this be fun for Jr.?

Maybe Jr. would like to play on a team or league as profiled in the great Billy Crystal Movie scene in Parental Guidance: “There are no outs in this game.” That could be more fun and conducive to one’s view of how youth sports should be. There are tons of people that think so, it is very common, almost the rule these days.

I certainly understand that sentiment.

If given the choice to play for Coach Mike and sign this document or a coach NOT from the Old School, I can tell you one thing:

I’m signing. In INK. And FAST.

I’m not sure my boy would make it, but playing for a coach like this is a rare, life shaping opportunity. Hard to see at the time, but many years down the road they will look back and say, “what a difference!”

There are a ton of examples on Hustle Or Bust where a BLEND of Old School & New School creates the best results. Blended approaches work best in most situations. Less polarizing. More inclusive of different styles, and therefore, likely to succeed.

Not true here.

When learning fundamentals and discipline, OLD School rules. No short-cuts. Put the time in. Learn it the right way.

Be sure to thank your coaches along the way…

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