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Chuck Schumacher

Chuck Schumacher is an American karate and baseball instructor born in 1953. Chuck was raised in Oklee and Crookston, Minn., and has traveled many paths in his life: professional musician, woodworker, baseball coach, certified personal trainer, martial artist and baseball instructor. He and Lynn, his wife of 32 years, have raised two children, Shelley and Phillip. They moved to Franklin, Tenn., in 1990 and have lived there for the past 24 years. Chuck spent 20 of those years as a volunteer coach. He has coached all age groups at the rec level, several competitive travel teams and served as a varsity baseball hitting coach. Teaching baseball and martial arts at his facility, Chucks Gym, Schumacher has become known for his ability to work with young athletes, motivating them to get the most of their ability while developing character traits that will benefit them later in life. Chuck Schumacher’s longtime training in martial arts has resulted in an expert understanding of the movements of an athlete’s body. He has been applying this knowledge of movement while teaching the discipline of the mind not only in martial arts, but baseball. The main focus of his teaching and athletic training has been that mind, body and technique are “one," meaning that all must be present and fine-tuned to develop ones full potential. Coach Chuck's way of teaching young athletes to achieve their full potential has been influential for parents as well as youth coaches. The mainstay of his teaching and writing has been to educate parents and coaches of young athletes as to how they can best play their role so kids can enjoy the process of skill development while learning life lessons along the way. The role of the parent in their child’s journey through sports, Chuck believes, is crucial to their healthy development as a player and as a person. Chuck is the author of “How to Play Baseball: A Parents Role in Their Child’s Journey,” available at www.chuckschumacher.com (signed copy) or www.amazon.com.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Pressure In Youth Sports: Protect Kids Or Teach Them To Deal With It?

“C’mon, Mason, you can do it! One more strike, put him in the books!”

As these encouraging words resonate from the crowd, Mason receives the ball back from the catcher after throwing one in the dirt, allowing the runner to score from third — one ball, two strikes. He pauses to compose himself, taking a breath to relax his mind and loosen the muscles. He hears the crowd but they become mere background noise as he prepares to allow his body to act without his mind doing anything. The pitch is on the way — strike three!

Does it seem unrealistic for a 9-year-old kid to have this kind of mental control over his thoughts in the heat of competition? Along with proper mechanics, my student Mason has been taught a routine that helps him mentally prepare before every pitch. This routine keeps his mind “in the moment” instead of “in the crowd.”

You won’t see this kind of poise from a kid with little or no training. After throwing a wild pitch, you are more likely to see negative body language — looking into the crowd at his parents or rushing the next pitch hoping to get lucky. The truth is, in a competitive environment a trained pitcher merely feels challenged while an untrained pitcher feels “pressured.”

In youth sports, preparation equals fun.

Whatever the sport, teaching kids about basic mental preparation is crucial for managing pressure. It starts with taking a breath. Doing this consistently will focus the mind and loosen the muscles, allowing the body to effortlessly perform the mechanics unique to the sport. If taught along with basic physical technique, kids will learn it. It’s that simple.

The best time to learn how to manage pressure is when an athlete is young; the best time to teach it is at practice. When failure happens, be ready to give instruction.

What causes pressure? Along with a lack of training, unrealistic expectations from parents and coaches are a big cause. If these expectations are out of balance with the amount of training a young athlete has, there will be pressure, and it can be overwhelming.

As parents, we purposely train our kids to listen to our voices at all times. Usually, this is a good thing, but it’s not particularly helpful when your child is trying to perform a difficult skill like hitting or pitching a baseball, so coaching from the stands should be avoided. Encouraging cheers from the crowd can also be distracting for some kids.

Cheering is a normal part of a competitive event; this will never change, nor should it have to. How a kid responds to the cheering, however, should be cause for reflection for parents. If a player feels pressure from normal cheering and failing because of it, it may mean that their parent’s expectations have been unrealistic the whole time, not just during today’s game. Just hearing their parent’s voice can rattle even the most talented kid if they’ve been constantly overcoached on results, and “this is the problem, not the cheering.” Instead of “C’mon, you can do it,” this player subconsciously hears, “C’mon, you better do it!” Parent’s expectations are powerful! If they are unreasonably high, they can shatter confidence and ruin a young player’s competitive experience.

The key is to not add “unnecessary” pressure by over-coaching during competition. Once the game starts, an athlete’s training is what they can count on, not some anxiety-ridden parent or coach yelling, “Throw strikes!”

Pressures in professional sports and youth sports are similar, but when it comes to managing this pressure, the age and experience levels of the athletes makes the difference. Pressure is normal during competition, but an athlete needs to learn effective ways to cope with it or the pressure is likely to win the battle.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — The Inner And Outer Journey Of Youth Sports

“I want to be a Major League Baseball player.”  “I want to play in the NBA.”  “I want to make it to the NFL.” — Anonymous kids

When one of my young students tells me his goal is to be a professional baseball player, my response is always the same: “Let’s get to work.”

Instead of squashing a kid’s dream, let’s focus on something even more important than the goal itself: understanding the process associated with achieving one’s goals. Not only will this increase your odds of realizing your dreams, but the hard work you put in along the way will not be wasted even if your ultimate goal eludes you.

When we understand the process, success is achievable

The martial arts model is a great example of the inner/outer journey. To legitimately reach the level of black belt in karate, it requires a certain mastery of technique associated with a complete system of training. As students move forward toward their goal of a black belt, they must be patient enough to master the movements at their current level before being taught more advanced movements. Whether it’s physical or academic training, understanding the concept of “one step at a time” is crucial for the development of mind and body.

Once we know where we want to go, how do we get there? First, visualize your “outer journey” which is, I want to do this — or that. Then, get to work.

Our everyday effort, week by week — month by month — year by year, represents our inner journey, and it is where many of us fall short. When striving for high goals, progress can feel slow and if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere, you should ask yourself this question: Am I skipping steps along the way on my inner journey? This is the time to be honest with yourself because time passes quickly and you don’t get it back.

The outer journey lets you know where you’re going. But just knowing where you want to go won’t get you there. You need a map and you need the discipline to stay the course. You also need the awareness to change course as needed, making sure your change of direction isn’t just a shortcut but a logical progression based on the shifting dynamic.

The main purpose of youth sports shouldn’t be about becoming a professional. The low percentage of success speaks for itself. But what we are witnessing in youth sports these days is professionalization, causing a trend toward the advanced training of kids before crucial developmental stages have reached their peak. When this happens, your training becomes like a chain with weak links. It looks like a chain, but it won’t hold up when needed most. On the other hand, by understanding and becoming proficient at one thing at a time, training accumulates in you, creating a strong foundation capable of holding up under the most pressure-filled situations in competition.

The inner journey is where self-belief is born

Understanding the inner/outer journey process is a game-changer. When these two dynamics work together creating a balanced, connected approach, you will continually see the results of previous efforts, and you’ll become motivated to forge ahead. The dream becomes more real, and it only makes sense that continuing on this path will bring you closer to your ultimate goal.

It takes discipline to stay the course on your inner journey, but it’s worth the effort. Be that person who can do it and you will separate yourself from the rest of the pack.

By being patient at your current level of training and allowing motor learning to take place, the next, more difficult steps are easier to accomplish because you are starting at a new, fully developed base level each time. In other words, you will be mentally, physically and spiritually prepared to move forward toward your outer journey. See it ― and believe it can happen.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Balance Is The Foundation Of Success

The 2017 World Series was balanced. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were neck and neck in every game, making for a very exciting series to watch and learn from. But if one team had totally outmatched the other, we wouldn’t be calling it one of the best World Series ever. It was as if both teams made each other better by continually raising the bar.

That’s what competition is all about: two equally matched teams, each tipping the balance in their favor — if only by one run.

But balance isn’t just physical; it’s a way of living one’s life. Striking a healthy balance in youth sports has much to do with perspective and good judgment. When my son was 6, his baseball team won every game with scores like 20-1 and 30-3. Because this rec team was unfairly stacked with the most talented athletes, there was absolutely no competition; any type of learning life lessons from failure was unfortunately put off until a later date. And how do you think the inexperienced 6-year-old kids on the other teams felt? In this unbalanced situation, created by adults with poor judgment and lack of perspective, nobody won.

When winning is overemphasized in youth sports, imbalance is usually the result.

In youth sports, there are often two philosophies when it comes to winning: Winning is unimportant or winning is the only thing. Neither of these extremes represents a balanced approach.

Winning “is important because without the desire to win, it’s no longer sport and any opportunity to learn life lessons through competition will be lost. But when a coach’s sole desire is winning, kids are the losers. Overtraining, playing too many games and pressure to perform beyond their ability results in burnout and overuse injuries.

The rising popularity of travel teams has produced many unbalanced situations. They are not all created equal so research is important. When managed responsibly, however, they can be a good venue for kids whose interest level matches the commitment.

Being on a travel team is not an automatic stepping stone to the future. If you think it is, you may be disappointed. There must be a proper balance of playing time and personal training on skill development for progress to happen, whether playing travel ball or not.

The only stepping stone to something bigger lies within one’s self. There must be a self-motivating notion that drives a player forward, no matter what.

Physical Balance:

Mastering one’s physical balance is the first step in developing athleticism. In martial arts, the code of karate states: “A person’s unbalance is the same as a weight.” Trying to execute a difficult athletic movement without a solid foundation of balance will be futile as the body fights to overcome unwanted movement or weight. Whether it’s a boxer delivering a punch or a baseball player swinging a bat, it’s all about focusing all of your energy into the movement in the most efficient way possible.

When the body is unbalanced, this does not happen. The nervous system must recruit muscles to try to “regain” balance, leaving less energy to put into the ball, resulting in a weaker hit, for example.

Mental Balance

When a hitter steps into the batter’s box, or a basketball player steps up to the free-throw line, their mental approach will prove to be the difference-maker between success and failure. At this moment, an overcompetitive mind will cause an out of control body and mechanics will suffer. When mental stimulation is balanced, previous physical training will manifest itself to the highest degree possible. Achieving mental balance starts with taking a breath before every pitch, free throw, serve or swing.

Whether it’s an entertaining World Series or our kids seeking joy in playing sports, balance is needed for good outcomes to become possible. For kids, a balanced approach to their sports experience is crucial whether it’s to avoid overuse injuries and burnout, or to avoid laziness by thinking others will make them great by creating unrealistic opportunities for them.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Replace Frustration With Knowledge

Is frustration dominating your child’s athletic experience?

When young athletes can’t let go of frustration after failure, it’s a clear indication they have no clue how to make an adjustment, leaving them vulnerable to more of the same. And when adults get over-involved during the game, it usually makes things worse.

A parent’s natural reaction is to come to the rescue when their kids are struggling. But during competition, excessive coaching really amounts to an attempt by the parent to make something happen immediately. The truth is, it can’t happen if the athlete hasn’t learned it. The athlete must be the one who possesses the knowledge to turn things around in the moment. Learning this takes time and training with intention. There are no shortcuts.

Adults should have proper perspective when young athletes fail, not just raise their voices in disgust.

There are many resources available today that help parents and coaches gain knowledge about technique and mental concentration. When parents put forth an honest effort to learn, they are less likely to raise their voices in disgust because they have gained knowledge about the difficulties their kids face. Once everyone gains a better understanding of how things work, young athletes will be better equipped to make adjustments on the fly, less likely to experience frustration and more likely to experience joy.

Experience is gained on the field, but technical skills are gained through practice. A balanced approach to both is necessary to achieve excellence. One relies on the other. When basic mechanics are mastered and control of the body is achieved, learning to apply these skills comes next — not the other way around.

“Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do.” – Bruce Lee

Weak groundouts in baseball, missed free throws in basketball and missed penalty kicks in soccer are normal mistakes that happen to everyone, even the best players. But the best players tend to possess an attribute that others do not: “Knowledge about what may have caused their failure and knowledge about how to adjust.”

Here are some common phrases heard at a youth baseball game that inhibit a struggling player’s performance. Every sport has similar phrases.

• “Throw strikes!” — These useless words only add more pressure. The young, inexperienced pitcher is well aware that they are trying to throw strikes. But there are reasons why they can’t. Has there been any previous credible instruction? If not, having control and throwing strikes probably won’t happen today.

• “Swing harder!” — This usually causes young hitters to swing out of their shoes, resulting in poor mechanics. With an out-of-control body, weak results are predictable.

• “You gotta have that one!” — Many times in youth baseball, you hear this being shouted from the stands when a player makes an error on what was clearly not a routine play. In the big leagues, this is a base hit, but many times in youth ball, we hear, “C’mon, you gotta have that one!“

When the game starts, it’s time to let go of worry and anxiety about outcomes and just enjoy the experience of being an athlete. When this is accomplished, a person’s training and natural ability have a chance to flourish and grow. Frustration will be replaced by the knowledge that they have prepared for this moment.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Managing Expectations

There is an old proverb that states, “You can’t put the cart before the horse.” But metaphorically speaking, this happens quite often in youth sports. Parents preoccupied with their kids getting scholarships or playing professionally is an obvious example. But when the primary focus is on these long-range goals instead of playing for the sheer joy of it, expectations of young kids can become unrealistic with some real consequences.

During my coaching years, my expectations for my players were that they gave a good effort, had a positive attitude and were team players. Having respect for coaches, teammates and their opponents was mandatory. If we were to win, it would be a direct result of applying these things over which we had 100 percent control. Through continuous work on technique during team and individual practice, we would improve over time.

For many parents sitting in the stands, expectations for their kids are quite different. Immediate success is more of a priority, whatever the cost. But competition, like life, presents many things that are out of our control, sometimes causing success to elude us. A parent’s inability to recognize this truth can lead to out-of-control emotions.

When unrealistic expectations are present during competition, failure is inevitable. This is not just failure on the scoreboard, but failure to provide a nurturing environment for kids to have fun while learning life lessons provided by youth sports.

The world in which we live can be a loud, distracting place not unlike the field of competition. We should prepare kids to achieve success under these conditions, not protect them from it. But the training must take place one step at a time, mastering basics before attempting advanced technique. When a person’s expectations during training are unrealistic (wanting things too quickly), steps will be skipped and real learning will not take place. When the emphasis is on long-term development, however, it is understood that each step taken produces immediate results toward that goal, even though the progress is subtle and sometimes unrecognizable at first.

When emotions are in charge during competition, mental and physical control are at risk. Parents throwing fits and coaches arguing with umpires in front of impressionable young kids are just a couple of examples. I’ve seen much worse.

Young people are often very quiet about what they see and hear when it comes to their parent’s out-of-control behavior. But if this embarrassing behavior continues, a young player’s enthusiasm for the game can become stale. It creates conflict for them because they’ve been taught to control themselves by the very people who are “losing” control over a game that is supposed to be fun. The truth is, competition can make the most disciplined of us lose perspective when it comes to our kids. But there’s no excuse to allow out-of-control behavior to continue.

Unrealistic expectations by adults turn youth sports into a job and threaten to derail the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being a kid.

The truth is, fun is a major factor why young athletes sign up for sports in the first place. If kids aren’t having fun because of too much pressure to perform, good luck trying to teach them the difficult skills associated with their sport.

When a young athlete consistently fails, the reason may be that they lack interest or their level of training doesn’t equal the level of competition. Either way, they’re in over their head. If parent’s expectations are also out of balance, no one will be having fun. Being challenged with new techniques at the proper time is what will help all young athletes have fun and develop the necessary skills to compete. By doing this, parents and coaches are allowing a young player to enjoy the process instead of dreading the experience of embarrassing negative behavior by adults, caused by unrealistic expectations and out-of-control emotions.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Making the Team: A Parent’s Role

Michael was a superstar in the rec league at age 10. Every time he pitched, it was an automatic win. Why? He had excellent velocity for a 10-year-old, and the players on the other team were afraid of being hit by his pitches.

But it wasn’t just the speed they were afraid of. More so, it was because Michael’s control wasn’t exactly spot on, so their reaction was to wildly swing and miss. This is the nature of youth sports: It’s possible to have success with undeveloped skills.

Fast forward to high school …

Expecting success as an undeveloped player in high school is unrealistic. At this level of play, a coach can’t afford to have a flame-throwing pitcher on the mound with no control. In highly competitive environments, coaches have no choice but to select players with the skills, attitude and work ethic to do the job, otherwise they will not be able to compete.

Parents often make judgments based on their emotions. Coaches make judgments and decisions based on their experience and expertise.

Conflicts arise between parents and coaches for various reasons, but high on the list is lack of playing time. Everyone wants their young athletes to be on the field instead of on the bench. So, how to best accomplish that?

The process of understanding competitiveness should begin at the earliest noncompetitive stages of youth sports. By being informed about the pathway to future success, parents will have a better understanding and respect for decisions a coach has to make. By teaching their kids to focus on their own efforts, parents and players will also be better prepared to handle any situations that might seem unfair, realizing what they can control, and what they can’t.

Parents whose kids had superficial success early on like Michael are going to be disappointed if they fail to recognize this simple truth: Their child’s early success was not based on the development of sustainable skills over many years. It was feel-good success based on the unbalanced nature of the early developmental stages of youth sports.

Those who put forth more effort over a period of time will have the best chance for success in sports and life.

Consider this: Instead of being concerned about making someone else’s team, what are the requirements to make your own team? In other words, what are you content with when it comes to the amount of effort you are willing to put forth to reach your goals? The measure of a person’s success lies in the answer to that question. If you’re satisfied with an average or below-average effort from yourself, you likely will not succeed in a competitive atmosphere.

Most coaches and programs have in place a set of standards for players and parents to follow regarding playing time, coaching philosophy and practice rules. But no amount of well-considered guidelines is going to make sense to a parent who expects success for their unprepared child. They are more likely to complain, make excuses and blame others.

Before reaching high school, youth sports will have offered 10 years of preparation for parents and players to learn about sportsmanship, attitude, effort, having fun and developing skill. Whether they make the high school team or not, by applying these life lessons kids will be on an enlightening journey that will prepare them for their future. Additionally, by pursuing this honest path instead of seeking shortcuts, parents will become more open-minded and their relationship with coaches will be one of cooperation instead of antagonism.

Michael had a natural ability to throw the ball hard but was never taught about proper pitching mechanics. Consequently, by the time he tried out for the high school team, the coach had no choice but to not select him because his baseball skills were undeveloped. It’s that simple. If your young athlete’s goal is to play sports at a high level, think of it as a character-building process. It includes a willingness and desire to learn, not only for your child, but for yourself.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Failure: The Secret to Success

Tyler walked back to the dugout, dragging his bat, his head low and tears welling up in his eyes. He had just experienced what all hitters hate the most: A strikeout. My assistant coach, his dad, exclaimed, “There’s no crying in baseball! If you don’t cut it out, were going home!” Tyler was 8 years old.

Instead of teaching his son about the gift of failure, Tyler’s father reprimanded him for showing honest, raw emotion — something very common in young children. At that moment, maybe Tyler just needed a hug, a pat on the back or some words of encouragement. Maybe later a brief talk about perspective, doing our best at all times and learning from our failures would have been better than publicly embarrassing Tyler in front of his team and the whole crowd.

Kids must be taught how to deal with failure, not reprimanded for or protected from it.

chuck1Parents respond to their children’s failures in different ways. Some are like Tyler’s dad, who has no tolerance for failure, never mind his child’s very young age. Others will try to protect their children from any type of failure, or when it does happen, they will make excuses or place blame on someone else. Neither one of these approaches benefits kids in any way; they only benefit the egos of these confused parents. Expecting too much too soon from kids causes “unproductive failure.” Guiding kids through life’s natural letdowns with practical solutions is “productive failure.”

Failure is a normal occurrence on the road to success.

At my facility, Chuck’s Gym, where I teach baseball and martial arts, failure is something that happens on a daily basis. But so does success. The failures that occur are part of a calculated process that leads to sustainable success. As students master their current level, more difficult technique is introduced that challenges the students to higher, more advanced levels. In this way, over time, the body adapts to a higher degree of skill.

Success can be easy to achieve if you set the bar low enough.

If you’re never experiencing failure, you are either not getting out of your comfort zone, or you’re a natural phenom. Most of us are not, so putting in the work and constantly raising the bar is necessary for improvement. The higher the goal, the more obstacles there are to overcome. Even naturally gifted athletes experience failure. It reminds them that consistent practice is necessary if they wish to take their game to higher levels.

The first reaction for most kids when they experience failure is frustration. This is normal. But we must teach them to stay positive by replacing frustration with knowledge. Failure should cause us to learn, not cause us to quit.

Real learning does not take place in a negative atmosphere.

Kids won’t respond in a positive way when they fail if adults don’t respond in a positive way. Whether playing in a rec league or on a travel team, one thing all kids have in common is their young age and their lack of life experience. So, helping kids understand the role failure plays in their personal development is the secret to success.

chuck2Tyler’s dad was embarrassed that his 8-year-old son couldn’t just “suck it up” after his disappointing strikeout. Truthfully, the situation was more about him than his son. Tyler was acting normal. His father was not.

When kids shed tears after a strikeout, a missed goal or a tournament loss, it’s because they feel they have let their parents down. If this perspective isn’t changed, kids will develop a fear of failure. And to avoid it, they will no longer challenge themselves. This leads to playing it safe on the field, which is a recipe for failure in competition. It becomes a roadblock to success, both on and off the field.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Teachable Moments In Youth Sports

“Guys, one thing you will notice about me is, I never yell at players. I may be one of the most easygoing coaches you will ever have, but I also may be one of the toughest because I will hold you accountable for your actions. I will never yell at you for making an error, but show me a bad attitude or lack of effort, and I will calmly show you the bench.

chuck1“Now, because of my easygoing nature, some of you are likely to try to take advantage of it, thinking there will be no consequences; it seems to happen every year. But another thing you will notice about me is this: I keep my promises and make no mistake, a bad attitude or lack of effort will get you on the bench instead of the field. And by the way, it won’t matter if you or others think you’re the star player.”

This simple talk with my players every year at the beginning of the season was very effective in setting the tone for a learning atmosphere instead of a win-at-all-cost culture. What makes it effective is the follow-up on the promise.

Yelling at players is not teaching; it’s just yelling.

Certainly, learning how to win is an important life lesson. So is learning how to lose. The real winners in youth sports are those kids who have coaches who teach them to win or deal with a loss in a broader sense, not just today’s game. Some coaches will never take a star player out of the game even if they display a bad attitude. The best coaches will be unwilling to put that young player’s future at risk and will teach a life lesson when it’s called for.

In youth sports, the real losses occur when coaches fail to recognize teachable moments.

Teach kids to have the “attributes” of a winner, not just be a winner.

We have all seen professional athletes who lack humility — or have become winners by cheating. Yes, they became successful in terms of fame and fortune, but I wouldn’t say they have the attributes of a real winner.

In order to properly guide young players on their journey, it’s important to have a proper perspective — these are not big-leaguers. Most kid’s attention spans are very short. They will probably horse around a little during practice; they might say something about another player that isn’t nice; they might be a little lazy; and the list goes on. The responsibility of a youth coach — or any adult, for that matter — is to address these issues, not just win games. When this approach is taken, not only will they be better at their sport, kids will be learning valuable lessons for their future.

Even high school players who might think they know it all have much to learn. Lack of humility has ended many players dreams prematurely because with a know-it-all attitude, a person ceases to learn and grow in terms of mental and physical abilities. Humility will win over arrogance every time!

This is a great quote to remember from the Greek philosopher Epictetus who lived 1900 years ago:

It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows.”

A complete list of teachable moments in youth sports is too extensive to include, but here are a few to get you thinking and teaching:

Making excuses and blaming others: People who do this learn nothing. Teach kids to be accountable for their own actions and their personal growth will begin immediately.

Lack of effort/bad attitude: Consistent effort leads to sustainable results; a good attitude allows it to happen.

Tough loss: Know your goal, learn from the losses and move forward.  “I never lose. I either win or learn.” — Nelson Mandela

• Not making a team: Instead of placing blame, look inside yourself. Learn from critiques and make it about your own effort instead of being crushed by someone else’s opinion.

Being disrespectful: It cannot be tolerated.

Youth sports are one of the best teaching tools we have in today’s society. Let’s help kids grow and mature by recognizing teachable moments!

Order a signed copy of Coach Chuck’s book, “How to Play Baseball: A Parent’s Role in Their Child’s Journey,” at www.chuckschumacher.com.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — On the Road To Success, Not Taking The Shortcut Is The Shortcut

How long does it take to get a black belt in karate? Do you think my kid has a chance to play ball in high school or college? These are questions I’ve been asked numerous times throughout my teaching and coaching career, and the answer is always the same: It depends.

As our kids take their journey in sports, there’s a battle to be fought. The battle is within ourselves as we struggle with what we know to be just good parenting and the irresistible urge to push our kids to become superstars. It’s a battle that must be won for the sake of our kids.

People reach their goals within different time frames. Interest level, natural ability, attitude and perspective all play a role in how long it takes. Finances and other responsibilities are also part of the equation. Regardless, staying on your true path and avoiding shortcuts is the quickest way to reach your destination. This takes patience, perseverance and endurance on the part of young athletes — and their parents.

Shortcuts can get you lost, while increased effort will reveal the way.

When we take shortcuts, it’s usually an attempt to speed up the process and put ourselves on the fast track to the future where we hope our pot of gold exists. But by focusing too much on the future, you cease to live in the moment, you lose your way and your training becomes erratic and disconnected. As time passes, very little progress is made, disappointment sets in and by seeking more shortcuts, your efforts become a cycle of failure.

So live in the moment day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year as you train, and you will reach your goals when you’re supposed to — when you’re ready. If you wish to reach your goals quicker, instead of seeking shortcuts, increase your effort.

People with a good work ethic are less likely to look for shortcuts.

Good work ethic leads to “real” success. Whether they are 7 or 17, all athletes should be taught this truth at appropriate levels according to their age. One of my biggest pet peeves in this area is, after a hitting lesson with me, the student heads for the door leaving his/her parents to pick up the gear and haul it out to the car. As long as a parent allows this lazy, disrespectful behavior, it will not only continue — it’ll probably get worse.

When parents don’t require good effort from their children, seeking shortcuts becomes their way.

We all want success, and given the option would no doubt choose the quickest, easiest route every time. But if the goal is high, this truth applies: “Seeking shortcuts amounts to weak training with weak results.” When striving for a black belt in karate or a college scholarship in baseball, my students find out real quick that there will be no talk of shortcuts. Staying on the path and being consistent in correct training is crucial for a person to achieve these very high goals.

We all need to find the balance.

When kids are young, we should make sure a proper balance is struck between teaching technique, competition levels and having fun. If we can strike this balance, kids will enjoy the process. But if we make kids specialize too soon and treat them as professionals, not only are we taking shortcuts, we are denying them a normal childhood experience.

By trying different things, a child’s true passions can be revealed. If allowed to follow their honest path with realistic expectations and without pressure to perform beyond their current ability, young athletes will joyfully take the necessary steps toward reaching their goals. Thoughts of cutting corners will quietly disappear, skill will begin to develop and with encouragement, young athletes will come to understand the meaning of, “Not taking the shortcut, is the shortcut.”

If kids learn this valuable life lesson in sports, they will apply this philosophy to other areas of their life as well. It’s not all about winning — it’s about learning how to win!

Order a signed copy of Coach Chuck’s book, “How to Play Baseball: A Parent’s Role in Their Child’s Journey,” at www.chuckschumacher.com.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — The Purpose of Youth Sports: It’s All About Perspective

It’s for the kids. Youth sports are supposed to be fun. Life lessons are learned through youth sports.

Everyone knows the right words. The problem is, you don’t always see these truths being applied. In fact, as each year passes and competition levels in youth sports rise, these words are becoming empty rhetoric.

chuck1What was once a natural way for kids to gain life lessons and experiences via the neighborhood pickup game has been replaced by highly organized, result-oriented leagues. Overly high expectations of very young kids are becoming the norm.

Because of specialization and professionalism, burnouts and overuse injuries are on the rise and kids are dropping out of organized sports in record numbers. Seventy percent of kids are quitting by age 13.

Is this the purpose of youth sports? To sour kids on the idea of signing up for their favorite sport because they have figured out that adults have a way of turning it into a job? Kids are very intuitive, and many times will say nothing until the damage has been done.

I know many parents who are devastated that their child no longer wants to live out their parent’s dreams. Yes, we all want the best for our kids, but it’s easy to lose track of what our child wants and instead impose our own ambitions at the expense of our child’s enjoyment. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves by focusing on the future instead of just enjoying every moment of our kids sports experience now. If we would just let them develop based on their own interest level and true abilities, things would be different.

It’s the responsibility of parents and coaches to educate themselves about what it takes to integrate proper training technique with having fun. Finding this balance is the key to success in youth sports. If this is accomplished, kids will start to realize their full potential because they are enjoying the process. They will be able to see and follow their honest path whether it is in sports or some other activity. When a young athlete ceases to enjoy the process, it’s the beginning of the end of their sports journey.

The purpose of youth sports should be as much about learning sustainable life lessons as it is about winning games.

In the past, more kids had small jobs, such as a paper route where they could learn valuable lessons about responsibility, respect, self-discipline, accountability and teamwork. I, along with many kids in America, worked on the family farm.

chuck2But these life enriching opportunities are fewer now and we have become a more “entitled” society. Because of this, many kids today do not possess the life skills that their earlier counterparts developed at a young age. Therefore, I believe the main focus of youth sports should be to teach all kids how to win by using these life skills, not by just recruiting the best players. Let’s leave that to the pros.

Sadly, when winning takes center stage in youth sports, many kids eventually lose their love for the game. This is because their skill level typically does not measure up to the pressure being imposed on them by adults. Our goal in youth sports should not be to produce college or professional athletes, but to nurture kids in the way of personal character, skill development and physical fitness.

Ironically, if youth sports were approached this way, more kids would have a chance of reaching these very high goals, simply because they would retain their love for sports, and not quit.

Competition has a way of confusing the most rational of us.

When our own ambitions and expectations get in the way of letting our children live out their once-in-a-lifetime experience of just being a kid, we have missed the real purpose of youth sports. Remember, this is not their job. But sports can and should serve as a learning experience for other areas of our children’s lives.

If they drop out by age 13, this opportunity in sports is lost, and nothing can replace it.

Order a signed copy of Coach Chuck’s book, “How to Play Baseball: A Parent’s Role in Their Child’s Journey,” at www.chuckschumacher.com.