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Voluntary Practice Held By Assistant Coach

Feb 9, 2019
1
0
I’m looking for assistance on how to handle an issue or maybe not an issue. I coach a 10U travel team. Two of my assistant coaches would like to have a voluntary practice. They asked one girl from team to practice on a Friday but did not inform me or rest of team. Am I right by feeling something shady is going on? Are voluntary practices good for team unity?
 

Jul 16, 2013
2,807
48
Pennsylvania
How good of a working relationship do you have with the two assistant coaches? Do you trust them? Maybe a brief conversation with them would be warranted. It could be something shady, or it could be completely innocent. I have some experience with this as both an assistant and a head coach.

1) While not an expert with pitching, the head coach of our 14u team asked me to work with the pitchers when I was able. One had a cage in her backyard, so I would get the three of them together along with the one player's dad. We would work on pitching and do some hitting as well (since the cage was right there :) ). But this was done by the request of the head coach. However, one time another player happened to be there and wanted to hit as well. The head coach found out and called me out on it. Honestly, I didn't see the issue, and didn't want to say "those three girls are allowed to hit, but you are not". But apparently the head coach felt differently and accused me of doing things behind his back. I learned quickly how to deal with this coach and made sure he was notified each time moving forward. DD moved to a different team the following season (thankfully...), so we didn't have to worry about that again.
2) Several players from our 16u team approached me about working with them on hitting. I cleared this with the head coach first. Once having his blessing, we arranged weekly slots with each player that was interested. 8 out of the 12 on the team decided to do this.
3) As a head coach at 18u I had complete faith and trust in my 2 assistant coaches. Both were very knowledgeable and had expertise in areas that I wasn't as strong in. I told both up front that they could do whatever they wanted. As an example, the one was a former D1 catcher. One of our players would work with him on catcher specific drills outside of practice. I fully endorsed this. And due to my work schedule, I wasn't as available as the other assistant. Once a week he would run a team practice by himself and there was another weekly practice that he would start until the other coach and I could make it there. It worked very well.

Bottom line is that the entire coaching staff should be on the same page. I don't have an issue with a coach working with players either individually or in groups, but I do feel it is something that should be discussed and endorsed. Each coach has their specialties and allowing them to explore those strengths can make the team stronger. At the same time, it can be a negative if it is not handled properly. Or if there is a lack of trust between the staff.
 
Nov 26, 2010
4,006
38
Michigan
why that one girl. why does she need special practice time alone? Why do this under the radar? Sounds shady in 2 possible directions.

1. Absolute worse case scenario. pedophiles groom their victims with special treatment,plus getting them separated from the pack so being alone with the assailant isn't seen as unusual.

2. Your assistants are looking to start their own team and want to get this kid on board before they make a move.
 
Jun 11, 2012
355
18
If they are trying to make it secretive then there are tons of red flags.
DDs coaches have often announced that if anyone had things they wanted to work on then they would make time outside of regular practice but this was said to everyone even though usually only a handful followed through
 
Oct 11, 2010
7,448
38
Chicago, IL
DD and me used to practice Sunday morning, she would get more done then any team practice .

I would invite a player or 2 at the most. It was mostly about DD.

I did not tell HC or was it an open invitation for anyone to show up .

I thought it was OK and would do same thing again .

If you think they are running things for team behind your back, I would have an issue .
 

Strike2

Allergic to BS
Nov 14, 2014
633
18
why that one girl. why does she need special practice time alone? Why do this under the radar? Sounds shady in 2 possible directions.

1. Absolute worse case scenario. pedophiles groom their victims with special treatment,plus getting them separated from the pack so being alone with the assailant isn't seen as unusual.

2. Your assistants are looking to start their own team and want to get this kid on board before they make a move.
Or...

3. Although the OP wasn't specific, I'd wager that those two assistants both have daughters on the team and invited the kid because she's a friend. There are all kinds of reasons to have a smaller, more focused practice. Pitcher / Catcher is obvious, but you can do the full range of work with a catcher when you have a fielder to take throws. There are plenty of other drills that I can think of that work very well with three people. As an assistant and a HC, I've run focused practices with a handful of players that worked on specific things in depth, but couldn't get the same number of reps if the whole team was there.

Although people do sometimes pull shady stunts in this game, there needs to be a level of trust between the coaches on the team. Asking the assistants what they worked on in a non-confrontational way lets them know that YOU know what's going on in the background, but if they intend on leaving and poaching a player in the process, there isn't anything you can do to stop that. If they want to play that way, you'll be better off when they leave.
 
Last edited:
Jun 1, 2015
333
0
I've done something similar-ish with my rec team in the past. I only practice on Sunday evenings, but there have been some Sundays I KNEW I wouldn't get all girls to show up (i.e. Mother's/Father's Day), so I would make those practices "voluntary" - Show up if you want/can, if not it won't count against you. The only advantage for the girls who DID show up was individualized practice on whatever they wanted (pitching, bunting, fielding, etc). It would NOT give them leverage in playing time, batting order, pitching rotation, or anything like that, because it was stated to the team it was for whomever could attend. I know my assistant coaches wouldn't have held private practices because of their schedules, so I didn't feel bothered about it. But that being said, if I wanted to do something privatized, I would a.) Make sure it was public (as in out in the public in view of anyone) and b.) With more than 2 or 3 athletes/parents present. I'm 100% about transparency - if I appear to be hiding something, I want it to be known I'm not.
 
Jun 12, 2015
3,580
38
Were they being secretive about it, or just taking their kids and a friend to the park for some extra practice? If it's the latter there's nothing wrong with that IMO. Maybe they didn't want to run a real practice, just wanted to get some reps in for their kids, and invited the one along. Or maybe there was something specific they wanted to work on. Once when my DH was an AC we met a player at the park to work on her throws. She was really bad about overthrowing 1B so he had our DD play 1B and just hit balls at this player at 3B to throw to 1 and work on her throwing technique. It wasn't a plot to leave out the other players. She just really needed some extra help. It could mean anything, the only way to know is to ask them about it.
 
Last edited:
Jul 14, 2018
132
18
I've been on both sides of this scenario and a couple of things could be going on. At 10U, I was an AC on a travel team that mostly consisted of players from rec who were ready to move up to a greater challenge. As such, all of the parents knew each other, the girls were friends from school, and it was not unusual for two or three families to meet at the park and just throw and hit the ball around. It was equal parts social and softball, nothing nefarious at all.

On the darker side, the HC of that same team arranged for some professional group lessons but only offered a select group of players the opportunity to participate (DD was not among them). As you can imagine, that created some bad feelings among the parents and that team only lasted one season.

As others have mentioned, pitcher and catcher work is an obvious spot where a special practice with fewer participants is appropriate, especially if one of the coaches brings some specialized knowledge like a catching background. The fact that your two AC's were doing this without telling you about it is a bit of a concern, but your first step should be to have a chat with them about keeping you in the loop as far as what they're working on.

The aforementioned HC had a college baseball background, but his daughter was the team's weakest player. We found ourselves in the same situation with a different team a few years later. In both cases, the AC's spun off onto another team.
 
Oct 4, 2018
302
18
DD and me used to practice Sunday morning, she would get more done then any team practice .

I would invite a player or 2 at the most. It was mostly about DD.

I did not tell HC or was it an open invitation for anyone to show up .

I thought it was OK and would do same thing again .

If you think they are running things for team behind your back, I would have an issue .

You should let the HC know. Otherwise it might come up and be an uncomfortable situation for you or them. I can't imagine they'd have any problem with it, and could most likely offer advice and thoughts to improve it. It would take you 10 seconds to tell them, and the development of these players is their role.
 

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