The players who left your travel baseball team aren’t disloyal, Coach. They’re doing what’s best for them.
Recently, we talked about the dynamics of player cuts and how to handle a delicate situation in a constructive manner. While the focus was on handling this from the parent and player side, I was recently reminded that this goes both ways.
Jordan Serena of Rogue Baseball shared these thoughts recently:
Tired argument coming from travel coaches that their kids “have no loyalty” and blaming it on pro athletes. Bad lesson for kids? Sure. Good lesson for the club? Ya, make your program something people don’t want to leave.
— Jordan Serena (@jserena4) October 6, 2019
Cuts can feel like a personal attack on the child, and that is difficult to navigate for both the player and parent. But coaches deal with a similar emotional challenge when kids choose to leave.
Why did they leave? Why would they choose this team and coach over me? After all that I’ve done and invested in him?
I often hear from coaches who complain of “disloyalty” among players and families who move on to another team. I understand the sentiment, but it’s misplaced and unproductive.
Let that player go. Let that family go. And, maybe most importantly, let the defensiveness and emotion go.
The Best Choice for the Player
Switching teams is never easy. But the parents and player ultimately made what they believe is the best choice for them.
I get that this may hurt a coach’s ego to hear this and come to grips with it. But it’s important to keep this in mind.
Maybe it was related to playing time and opportunities. Maybe it was coaching style. Maybe it was level of play. There are many reasons why a family may decide to move on.
They are doing you a favor.
By making the switch, they are saying that they aren’t as happy as they think they can be. You don’t want discontent on your team. Let them go.
Maybe they were wrong. Maybe they will regret the choice that they made. But, that isn’t for you to worry about now.
You can’t force loyalty. You can’t assume it. Loyalty is earned.
If you create something that people want to be a part of, that attracts the right kids and families who match what you are trying to accomplish, few will leave.
It’s not about values. The families have no obligation to be loyal. You have an obligation to create a situation that attracts your ideal family and player. A situation they’ll covet.
Turnover is Normal
Some level of turnover is normal. Every team will have it, whether it’s through cuts or players choosing to leave. Accept it. Embrace it. You should want people to find the best situation for them.
Don’t take turnover personally. Don’t attempt to prevent or eliminate turnover. It is all part of the process.
You should view every season as a step towards your optimal level. Parents and players are getting to know your philosophy. They begin buying in. You start seeing results from that buy-in.
Each season is a bit of a trial run from each side. Are your coaching style and team the right fight for a player and his family? Are that player and family the right fit for you and your team?
After each season, that assessment is made. Hopefully your core, not just in terms of performance but in group buy-in, will strengthen with each passing year.
Build Something People Don’t Want to Leave
Your goal should be to create something so amazing that people will rarely want to leave. No matter what you do, it won’t be the perfect fit for everyone. But minimal turnover is a sign that you’re doing something right.
Part of building something that people don’t want to leave is having an environment where everyone wants to be there. Everyone buys into the coach’s vision and wants to be a part of it. That’s what we ultimately label as “loyalty.”
Have a clear vision. Execute that vision. Have core values that you stand for as a team. Nurture a positive learning experience for all, not a select few.
The more players and families you have who are on the same page with you, the stronger that bond will be.
Informed Roster Additions
Things happen. But one way to limit roster turnover is to be diligent about the players you add in the first place.
This isn’t just about ability. This isn’t about “good” kids and families versus “bad” kids and families. It’s about having synergy related to expectations and philosophy.
There are plenty of good players and families who are a bad fit for me. That’s nobody’s fault. It recognizes that finding the right coach and team for each player and family is a delicate dynamic.
Do your best to ask all of the right questions. Make sure that they are the right fit for you.
It’s also your job to make sure that parents and players know what they are getting themselves into. Don’t hide from who you are. Don’t make promises and guarantees that you can’t back up.
Explain your coaching style and philosophy. Be clear about the things that some parents may not like. Lay out your expectations for parents. Make sure that they buy into what you are trying to do.
Minimize the surprises on both sides. If parents are surprised by anything once the season begins, you didn’t do your job to adequately prepare them. If you are surprised by anything that the parents or player do, you didn’t vet them well enough.
Ultimately, cries of “disloyalty” is a coach shifting blame for losing players. As mentioned above, it may not be anyone’s fault. If there is blame to be applied, it falls on the coach.
As I write this, it’s not a matter of calling out other coaches. I recognize my responsibility here. I recognize that when players leave, I need to do a certain amount of soul searching to uncover why.
When it happens, learn from it. Is there something you did wrong? Is there something you should do differently? Was it a bad fit that you weren’t diligent enough to prevent?
What are your thoughts on players leaving and the cries of “disloyalty”?
Let me know in the comments below!