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Desire to give back to kids thread that binds coaches, umps, fans

Eric Gomez knows where he will be Monday through Thursday for the next few weeks -- Charles Peebles Complex.

Gomez coaches three youth baseball and softball teams, and he helps coach a fourth team.

It would be an understatement to say Gomez, who has seen kids progress all the way from T-ball to being skilled players, spends a lot of time at the baseball and softball complex.

That is what drives him, saying there is great enjoyment in seeing kids grow into the game he loves.

"I enjoy the game. I am out here every day of the week," he said.

And he's not the only one. In addition to coaches, each night Peebles Complex in Garden City is filled with umpires, field managers, concession stand workers, scorekeepers, and of course parents, grandparents and other family members. And they're all there for the same reason -- the kids.

One of the teams Gomez coaches is comprised of younger girls, made up of 7 and 8 years olds, where no scores are kept. With this team, Gomez is teaching them the skills they will need when they play in a league where older players compete.

He also coaches his son's 11- and 12-year-old baseball team, a 9- and 10-year-old team in another league, and he has added a fourth team.

Gomez said he wants to coach the players the right way.

"I want to coach the girls the way I want them to be out there," he said.

Gomez is just one of the many adults who come out to the baseball and softball complex on a daily basis to either assist or cheer the kids on in the same sport they once played as youngsters.

Melinda Parras, the concession stand manager at Peebles, said they sell a little bit of everything, especially snow cones for the younger kids.

 "A family atmosphere is what it is," Parras said in describing the complex on game nights.

Tina Kinney, who manages the fields at Peeples Complex, said parents and relatives, with their children in tow, begin showing up at the park 45 minutes before the first pitch is thrown.

While some coaches may be yelled or screamed at by emotional parents, relatives or coaches, Gomez said it does not compare to what umpires go through.

"Umpires have it rough," Gomez said. "In older leagues, fans and coaches are angry at the umpires. It's tough for the umps."

Kim Bogner, a softball umpire for the last seven years, said she sees umpiring as a way of returning what she was provided when she played the sport while growing up.

"I played a lot of sports," she said. "I started playing softball when I was little. This is one way to give back to the sport and the community."

Bogner said having a good understanding of the sport is extremely important.

"I don't mind dealing with parents or coaches, as long as I can explain the rules to them (on a decision or call I made)," she said.

Umpire Jason Huth decided to call games for the enjoyment.

"Kids, by far, are the best part," Huth said.

What is funny, he said, is that while coaches and umpires argue, the kids want the arguing to stop because they just want to play.

"The sport itself is fun," he said. "I give as much teaching as anything else I do."

Both umpires said they do not mind giving tips to the younger players.

And the sport would not be nearly as fun if it were not for the fans cheering the kids on.

Josh Messenger and his wife, Kristain, were moving back and forth to catch both their son and daughter play on Wednesday night.

"I am just watching them warm up and play," Josh Messenger. "The excitement starts when they go to the dugout to get ready."

The Messengers said they spend four nights a week watching their son and daughter play the game they love.

"This is pretty much our summer home," he said. "I like watching them get pumped up over a good play."

Grandparents Sam and Kathy McMillan would not miss watching their grandkids play either baseball or softball. Because all of their five grandchildren participate, they go from one field to the next to catch parts of all of their games.

"Our kids played, now their kids are playing," Kathy McMillian said.

Sam McMillian said it has come full circle, as he once coached his son and daughter, and now their children's children are playing.

Kathy McMillian jokingly said that it is important for them to be at the complex because who else would buy the snow cones and food from the concession stand for their grandkids.

She sees other grandparents taking in the sights of the games, too.

"It's fun, and everyone is excited," she said.

Parent Tony Wilkerson said he would never miss watching his daughter play in a softball game.

"I enjoy every minute of it," he said. "The entertainment the kids bring to it is great."

Scorekeeper Cherlyn Suderman said softball and baseball always have been her passion for as long as she can remember.

"I enjoy watching them play," she said.

Source: Garden City Telegram


Local umpires growing tired of abusive fans

Trion Rollins has served as an umpire for Bannock Youth Baseball for the past 12 years. A native of Pocatello, he also went through the local sports program and was involved in the local baseball scene with each of his five sons. But Rollins said out-of-control parents and fans, bullying of players by coaches and just overall bad sportsmanship makes it difficult to keep umpires on the field in Pocatello.

"We hire 30 umps at the beginning of the season, but at the end of the season, we're down to seven," Rollins said.

Rollins said during tournament play on June 17, the police were called to NOP Park after a rowdy, loud and verbally abusive fan was asked to leave the field.

"I told the coach to go talk to him," Rollins said. "The next thing we knew, he and the coach were fighting out on the field."

Rollins' oldest son, Treson Rollins, planned to umpire this year but changed his mind after he witnessed the abuse handed out by the fans.

Trion said part of the problem is a lack of participation in Bannock Youth Baseball.

"When I played, we had 24 teams in each division, now we have six," he said. "This is the worst I've ever seen it."

Umpires for Bannock Youth Baseball are paid $14 to $20 per game, and there are typically two umpires at each game.

"I do it for the love of the game," Trion said.

Chris Rodriguez played youth baseball, high school and college ball and he just finished his first season as an umpire for Bannock Youth Baseball.

Rodriquez's 14-year-old son, Jadun Marley, plays in the Bannock Pony League, and Chris said he never officiates his son's games.

Chris said he's not at all surprised by the behavior of the adults during the games.

"We want the games to all be kid-friendly, and we have to remind people that there's no swearing and no smoking during the games," Rodriquez said. "And if you're losing, it's not automatically the ump's fault."

Rodriguez said there's a big difference between good-natured heckling and outright abuse.

He said each referee has his own style and occasionally makes the wrong call. But according to the rules of baseball, the ump is always right.

"We don't have instant replay," Trion said. "We can't go back and look at it again. But I'm a good ump and I bring a lot to the game."

Both umps said the situation is worst in the Pony League, where youth aged 13 to 15 compete.

Signage at Pocatello baseball parks warns that rowdy fans can be ejected from the game after just one warning.

Trion and Rodriguez both said they have witnessed coaches bullying and pressuring their young players, and unfortunately, they are the lessons they're passing onto the teams.

"When these kids get to high school, the poor sportsmanship doesn't fly," Rodriguez said.

He said it's usually the losing team that complains.

Following the incident at NOP Park, Trion said the fan involved in the fight was allowed back in the park during the next game.

"We need the fans, they're important to the game, but some of them are way too competitive," Trion said.

Trion said he wants to see more training for umpires and better enforcement and signage in all Pocatello baseball parks.

Currently, umpires are not required to be certified, but an online course is recommended and available for about $25.

The umps are employed by the City of Pocatello, and Trion said few return for a second season.

"If we had more returning umps, we would have better umps, but most of them don't even make it through a full season because of out-of-control fans," Trion said. "It boils down to parenting and coaching, you can't just teach kids how to win, and you have to teach them how to lose as well."

Source: Idaho State Journal


So Did You Have a Bad Experience Playing Youth Sports?

Over the lifespan of our non-profit organization, National Alliance for Youth Sports, I have been asked many times about what motivated me to create such an organization. After all, no one had ever done so before. Never in the history of youth sports had there been anyone wanting to tackle the issue of volunteer parents coaching their kids and the inherent problems while they do so.

I finally told the story in my new book titled, Unsinkable Spirit.

When I was 12 years old, I moved with my family to Johnstown, Penn. To put it mildly, times were tough for the family. We moved in with my grandfather who had a one bedroom apartment. There was my mother, my 4-year-old brother and an older brother and things were tight in that small apartment.

Moving to a new town and having to go to middle school was a challenge. The other kids in school were not friendly to an outsider coming in to their school. The only outlet for my constant sad state of dejection was the local YMCA. The building was right around the corner from our little apartment. It became a haven for me and little did I know that the experience in this YMCA would someday change my life.

I would go to the YMCA almost every day. I'd swim in the pool and, most of all, play basketball. I was small and being considered a basketball player was a stretch. But I practiced constantly and became a good ball handler and even a pretty good shooter.

The YMCA had a youth basketball program and I couldn't wait to sign up. I was designated to play on one of the teams and while we practiced, the other kids were surprised at how good I was. My self-esteem grew daily.

My older brother came to town to visit just in time for the first game of the season. I was so excited for him to come and see me in my first ever game. Since the YMCA was right around the corner it was easy for him to come to the game and I was full of pride as I saw him sitting in the stands just across from the bench.

The game started and to my surprise, the coach didn't start me. He put his son in the line-up and told me he'd get me in later. The game went on and on and with each minute my embarrassment grew. There was my brother sitting straight across the gym and with each look at him my heart sunk. I begged the coach to let me play and all he would say is, "Not now." The game ended and with it everything I felt about myself died with it.

I'm sure I speak for millions of people who went through a similar experience, but what grew out of it many years later was the creation of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, an organization dedicated to making sports a fun, safe and positive experience for all young people.

Source: Huffington Post


Lessons learned by a rookie youth sports coach

I wasn't planning to coach a kiddie soccer team this past season, but when I got an email saying my 8-year-old daughter and a number of other girls might not be able to play unless someone took the job, I half-heartedly raised my hand.

I was reluctant because this was going to be my daughter's first experience with a team sport, and I wanted her to have fun. How fun would it be with her own father stalking up and down the sidelines, screaming like a lunatic?

That's the sort of coach I always imagined I would be -- volcanic, irrational, ridiculously demanding. A lot of coaches had been that way when I was growing up, and I figured that deep down, I had absorbed those lessons.

Luckily, the season turned out much differently than I had feared, and I learned many unexpected things, starting with this:

Coaching is really hard: Every sports fan has surely looked at the flummoxed Marc Trestman or the bumbling Lou Piniella and thought, "Man, I could do that job a thousand times better than him."

Well, no, you couldn't. Professional athletes are apex competitors who toil in a cauldron of money, ego and inconceivable pressure, and if you tried to lead them, the team would be a smoking wreck in less than a week (unless you were coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers, in which case you would just sit quietly on the bench and let LeBron James do whatever he wanted).

But if you still think you've got the right stuff, I suggest starting with pint-sized soccer players. You'll soon realize that getting another human being to do what you want her to do is an incredibly difficult task.

For example, I tried all year to persuade my players to kick the ball with their insteps, not their toes. It produces much better accuracy and almost as much power, and while they humored me at times, they almost always went with toe shots when it counted.

At last, I gave up. Toe, instep, shin, whatever -- as long as they didn't use their hands it was all good. I could do only so much, because:

Yelling doesn't work: Some of the girls had never played soccer before, and weren't sure where to stand or what to do. We went over those things in practice, but once the game started, they formed a tight knot, following the ball in unison instead of sticking to their places.

A soccer field is a rather large piece of territory, so whenever this happened, I cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted for all I was worth: "Spreaaaaad ouuuuuut!"

Sometimes it seemed as though they heard me, and one or two would peel away. But mostly the roving huddle went along undisturbed, no matter how loudly I hollered.

I gradually realized that yelling was more of a nervous habit than a constructive technique, as if I were at home barking at the TV. I tried to tone it down, and eventually, as the girls learned the game, they got where they needed to be on the field.

Besides, I needed to save my lung power for when it really mattered -- practice. Those dog piles and handstand contests don't break themselves up, you know. I had to stay vigilant because:

Winning is crucial: I know youth sports are supposed to be about good sportsmanship and skill-building and blah, blah, blah, but let's face it, there's nothing like leaving the field a winner, knowing you gathered your fortitude, absorbed an opponent's best shot and prevailed.

Oh wait, I'm talking about me. The girls couldn't have cared less about winning as long as they got a post-game snack.

The top priority for any kid who participates in sports should be fun, and by that measure, my team had a great year. They chased each other all over the place, laughed their heads off and even petted a few puppies that showed up at the field.

As for my daughter, she made new friends and discovered she was more athletic than she could have imagined. She's going to play next season, and once again I'm going to coach. I was able to keep my inner Lombardi under control, and by the final few games, I could tell that the players really had been listening: Some even started kicking with their insteps.

That, I think, is what keeps people coming back to coaching -- being able to see the positive influence you have had over another person.

So here's to all the coaches out there, from Little League to Halas Hall. Finally I feel your pain. Finally I know your joy.

Source: Chicago Tribune