DEAR CAL -- My son is 13 and has been playing Pony Baseball for nine years. He has been on four travel teams and played almost every spring and fall season. It seems like he is very good, but almost none of the coaches ever says anything to me about it. I'm not one of those parents who tells the coach where to play him or how to coach him. I just make sure he makes it to practice and the games on time and ready to play. Is it just me, or do the coaches just not tell the parents how good their kid actually is? Should I just be happy that he plays a lot and seems to like it? And when should it get serious? I think it should only get serious when there is money involved, and until then it should just be for the love of the game.
Blake Eubank, Mesa, Ariz.
DEAR BLAKE -- if you have questions about how your son is progressing, you should speak to the coach directly. From my experiences, you are the type of parent coaches love. You understand the commitment to the team, make sure your son arrives to practices and games on time and never complain. I don't want to say that the coach takes you or your son for granted, but he probably has to deal with other issues involving other kids and parents and is just happy that you continue to show up and seem pleased. He has to deal with enough, and since you don't have issues, maybe he assumes everything is fine.
So, if you really want to know how the coach feels your son is progressing, stop him after practice or give him a call. Tell the coach that you think he is doing a great job, that your son loves playing and that you are happy with how your son is treated. Then tell him that you are just curious as to how he thinks your son is doing, if there are things that your son should be working on, and so on. The coach will appreciate the feedback and most likely will be happy to speak about the progress your son is making it. He might even talk more than you care to listen!
As for your question about when things should get more serious, I always leave that up to the kids. If they love the sport so much that they want to play and practice year-round and want to seek the best competition they can find on a regular basis, support them. If they want to play a variety of sports, there are athletic benefits to doing that and you should support that decision, too. At some point, if they are forced to do something they don't want to do, they will lose interest and look to participate in another activity.
DEAR CAL -- When I was teaching and coaching baseball, I was taught that the shortest distance between two places is a straight line. When a player hits the ball and travels the bases, why do they touch the base with their left foot when going to the next base, which will take them farther from the next base? Is this the correct way now?
Bill Fisher, Abingdon
DEAR BILL -- As far as I know, nothing has changed in the way base-running fundamentals are taught. I'm pretty sure that if you watch professional players carefully, you will see them touching the base with either foot before moving on to the next base. When preparing to run to the next base, the key is to make a turn that will allow you to touch the inside part of the base closest to the base that you will be going to without breaking stride. It doesn't matter which foot you use.
The idea is to bow out gradually as you approach the base so that you can get your momentum going toward the next base before you actually touch the base that you are approaching first. Don't think of a question mark, which is a more abrupt turn, or a banana, but instead think of a sickle, which bows out gradually and then comes back around. When touching the base, again, you shouldn't have to break stride or stutter-step so that you can hit the bag with a particular foot. Maintain your stride, hit the bag on the inside and use the base to propel yourself, like a starting block would, toward the next base.
Many coaches teach kids to touch the inside corner of the base, but I shy away from that terminology. By trying to touch the corner you take the risk of missing the base altogether, tripping or twisting your ankle. The shortest route between points is a straight line, but in baseball you can't just run to a base and make a hard left turn. You have to come to a complete stop to do that. Bowing out gradually allows you to maintain your speed and then, if the turn is executed properly, you are running in as straight a line as possible toward the ultimate destination.
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