Overcoming adversity - losing streak

Hi Folks,
I would much appreciate anyone’s input here who has experienced what I’m about to describe from a parent, player, or coach perspective, and how you dealt with it. Or if you simply have any thoughts or recommendations from the outside looking in.

2019’s high school team is in the midst of an extended losing streak. By extended, what I really mean is they’ve never really had a winning tradition since the program’s inception, that I’m aware of. They have some fairly decent teams who have made it a round or two into the state tournament but even those seasons were probably around .500 overall. His freshman season there were 10 seniors and this was one of these years I’m talking about. Last season, the team went 3-20 (only winning one game in conference) and this season they are 4-14 (0-8 conference). Quite frankly they’re just not very good and that starts with a fairly severe lack of pitching and culminates with spotty offense and a high probability that routine plays are botched. On top of that, they’re in one of the toughest conferences in the state being the highest enrollment schools (there are eight teams in our conference and three of those teams we play week in and week out are top 10 in the state). The school is an inner city high school and has been largely stripped of baseball talent by the private schools in the area so, in our case, the formula of basing class and conference purely on enrollment numbers doesn’t work well. There may be 10 kids out of ~2500 in the school that can play baseball. There’s virtually no way they can compete with outlying ‘burbs who have 50 show up for tryouts and most of those have played travel ball since they were seven years old.

I say all that not really looking for a solution the bigger problem, because I don’t think that can be fixed in the near-term, but rather how it might be dealt with from a team/player/parent morale, motivation, and attitude perspective. The coaches at this point are trying different methods–roster experimentation, game tryouts, chew their rears out, be lovey/emotional, etc.–none of which have made much difference to date. They have also dealt with multiple roadblocks with facilities and administrative issues since we’ve been there so I think their hands are tied at some level. We have paid full-time head and assistant coaches and one volunteer assistant coach.

They are great guys, know baseball, and are very good for the boys but I definitely think some instruction and development is missing and not necessarily due to lack of want or effort.

The parents for the most part try really hard to be positive. I know I certainly do, but it's wearing after two seasons of failure and it mostly shows in the lack of noise and chatter in the stands. It’s heartbreaking enough to see the looks on the faces of our children and experience a silent, brooding evening at home after a game (which I know probably everyone on this forum has) but when that happens three or four times a week, over 30-40 games, it’s absolutely crushing and we run out of things to say. There are only so many "you'll get 'em next time" and "just keep working on it and it will get better" before those words hold no meaning.

So my question about how to deal with this has two parts really:

  1. What successful strategies has anyone had experience with from a team perspective?
  2. More selfishly; my son is a good player and in the process of working towards playing baseball in college. Being part of a losing high school team certainly doesn’t seem like it is making that any easier. As I’m sure it is in most states, the winning teams get more nominations for all-*whatever*, and rightly so, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities on his team to stand out in the bigger picture. Our best offensive producer is out for the season with an injury so my son is hitting in the three hole and probably leading, or right at the top of, several offensive stats so there may be a silver lining there though I'd certainly rather have our other player in the lineup. There also probably aren’t a lot of college coaches coming to our games unless we’re playing someone with potential recruits on their side. Now I know this isn’t where most of the recruiting happens but it is a point of frustration for us. I just encourage him to try to stay positive, focus on his leadership, continue to develop his skills, work hard on academics, and work in the gym, and everything else will take care of itself. I feel it’s all I can really do at this point


Thanks for taking the time to read this novel and I’m looking forward to any comments that might be offered. Thanks!

Original Post

I think that losing teams adopt a sense of gloom and doom. That creates a losing attitude, even in good programs. 

A teams success is measured more by the coaching staff than the players.  Time for a change. 

In the meantime your concern should not be about your son winning any awards, but playing on a summer team for exposure, visiting camps, attending a good showcase.

One of the great things about baseball is that every player gets to do his thing in the batters box, gets to show his speed on the field, gets to show his glove on ground balls hit his way, gets to show his throwing ability.  No matter how bad the team is or who they are playing, a baseball player can show his stuff.  I would keep my son focused on these things.  And if he's a good player, his yardstick is not his team mates, but the better players on opposing teams.  Too many kids allow themselves to play at the level of their team mates, and he has to resist that and strive for better.  There is opportunity to grow from this situation that he needs to see.  He's got to learn to remain focused get better in spite of what's going on around him.  And as TPM said, get ready for the summer recruiting season.

You could almost be describing my son's former HS baseball team. On a good year they might be a tad north of .500, but usually play about .250. This year, with the departure of many talented seniors last year, looks to be particularly bad. The only place I could see it be excruciating is wasted pitching with 4+ out innings with errors. On the bright side, my son developed into a superb defensive catcher because 10+ bounced pitches per game was the norm, and some could have 20+. But it takes a toll.

It is a downer when a talented player seems to make little or no difference on a mediocre or worse team. It is what it is. As other have noticed, this means he'll get oodles of opportunities to shine. And in general, unless your son is fortunate enough to be in a power program, or one with an established track record of winning in competitive HS, a lousy HS team will have virtually no effect on his recruitment to collegiate baseball. Moreover, plenty of talented players on high-end teams will be on the outside looking if they can't get time on the field and ABs.

Batty67 posted:

On the bright side, my son developed into a superb defensive catcher because 10+ bounced pitches per game was the norm, and some could have 20+. But it takes a toll.

Thanks TPM, Smitty, and Batty67! It's funny you mention your son's catching. Mine is also a catcher and has experienced the same thing as far as balls all over the place are concerned. He's caught 14 innings this week and I bet he's blocked 30+ balls. Definitely gets practice with that!

Everyone's sentiments so far are in-line with what I know about recruitment, and we're doing the appropriate things outside high school baseball to move down that path, it's just brutal to witness failure after failure, week in and week out.

We have a road game with a team today who is one of our league rivals.  They are well coached and do well year in and year out.  We are a public school that is less than half the size of most of our seven league rivals.  I was thinking this morning about the first time I coached against today's opponent at their place several years ago.  We (coaching staff) had taken over a team that won a total of four games the previous year and never competed since moving to the bigger league.  We lost that game 20-3.  This was coming off a loss from another league rival the previous game, 30-4.  But we had started something.  And it took a few key players to buy in and start pushing some of the other players.  We finished that season much-improved and went on from there to several years of consecutive playoff appearances, two league titles, a few deep (state) runs and an established tradition of winning HS baseball.  This flies in the face of everything we should have been able to do on paper.  That team we play today?  Still an established power.  We have beat them five of the last six.  This all tracks back to those few players who bought in and led the charge -started the program turn-around.  You said you only have maybe ten players who can play baseball. Guess what?  You can only put nine on the line-up card.

Encourage your son to be one of those few players that "starts something".  It's not going to happen overnight.  But small victories can.  Measure against what is realistic.  Can we string together three good innings against today's opponent?  We had three hits yesterday.  Can we get six today?  They run-ruled us last time, can we play a full seven?  They scored double digits last time, can we hold them under eight?  We K'd ten times last time against this guy.  Can we get the bat on the ball and keep K's down to six or less?  Identify these things in advance and work with coaching staff to maybe make your goals a focal point of part of the practice so the team is preparing specifically for these small victories. 

What can we do to improve our practice energy?  What can I do to set the tone?  Which two or three other players can I pull in with me to really push us to raise the bar, to work harder, to ask for extra reps after practice, on Saturday, etc.?  What can we ask from our coaching staff that will better prepare us for competition?  A hard throwing guest coach with a nasty curve?  As a catcher, what can I do better to help improve our pitchers?  Offer extra bullpens outside of team practice?  Work harder at figuring out what approach works best to allow them to perform to their potential?  Assure them that they can throw any pitch and you will block or frame to the best of your ability to allow them to be successful?  You say they won three last year and four so far this year.  Shoot for six.  Then set the goal for next year at ten or twelve.  Then rally teammates to put in the work, starting today, to allow themselves to accomplish that goal.  Don't worry about HS as being part of the recruiting process but do make it part of growing as a leader and facing adverse conditions head on and coming out with small victories time and time again.  I'm guessing your kid already puts in the work.  Let this be a test for him as to how much he can influence the rest of his team to follow his lead.  Let this be a test for him to see how much he can focus on small victories and enjoy them.  One successful at bat against a P that he struggled against.  One successful at bat for a teammate that he helped improve his swing....  

Prepare him.  There will continue to be frustrations.  Some guys just won't buy in.  Go find others.  And meanwhile, don't give up on those who aren't there yet.  With this type of mental approach, ultimately, good things will happen.  It may not come in the form of a championship HS team, but perhaps in more important ways for Tequila Jr.

Great advice as usual Cabbage! He does put in the work, and tries to lead by example, but he's not a real "RAH! RAH!" personality so this is a challenge in that respect. Mrs. Tequila and I have been encouraging him to lead and motivate to the best of his ability and that his coaches are likely to be looking to him for that, at some level. Thanks for chiming in!

The cool thing about baseball is that you can still compete 100% on every pitch no matter how bad the imbalance in talent is.  It's not a football game. You're not getting your face literally pounded into the ground.

A hitter on a losing team that's down 10-0 going up against a future #1 draft choice on the hill  still has an opportunity to win the at-bat.

From what I have seen there are two kinds of losing teams, and two kinds of players on losing teams -- those who have given up, and those who still compete on every pitch.

As was discussed here on the board, the Caltech baseball team famously went 29 years without winning a league game before they won a couple last year.  I have seen them play.  They compete.

tequila posted:

Great advice as usual Cabbage! He does put in the work, and tries to lead by example, but he's not a real "RAH! RAH!" personality so this is a challenge in that respect. Mrs. Tequila and I have been encouraging him to lead and motivate to the best of his ability and that his coaches are likely to be looking to him for that, at some level. Thanks for chiming in!

Funny, our last three catchers have been solid fundamentally but all three were way too quiet, more the silent hard worker type.  We literally had to force each to be more vocal and then more timely with their newfound voices.  Literally had practices where we would make them yell as loud as they can the proper directives for situations.  This eventually bled into a little bit more "rah-rah" in other aspects.  2019... still not too late to add a bit of that to the arsenal.

cabbagedad posted:

2019... still not too late to add a bit of that to the arsenal.

It's definitely a work in progress. He's done a lot better this season with vocalizing various things on the field but he's not the guy that runs out of the dugout to welcome players in off the bases or whatever. I'm sure there are coaches who this means more to than others. I think if he's not a fit for a program because of that one thing then that's not the program for him :-)

tequila posted:
cabbagedad posted:

2019... still not too late to add a bit of that to the arsenal.

It's definitely a work in progress. He's done a lot better this season with vocalizing various things on the field but he's not the guy that runs out of the dugout to welcome players in off the bases or whatever. I'm sure there are coaches who this means more to than others. I think if he's not a fit for a program because of that one thing then that's not the program for him :-)

My son was more of the hard-working quiet catcher into his freshman year of HS. He got better and better at being a vocal leader, and in the end, was consistently good or better in that department.

Don't worry about any effect on your son's potential college baseball recruitment.  Our sons' high school has a notoriously underperforming baseball program and, despite this, has sent multiple players to SEC, ACC, Ivy and Patriot League programs.  They even produced a few draft picks over the years.  I prefer to protect our family's privacy so won't give the name but you would really be shocked that a team with that kind of talent would be unable to win a district title in the last 20 years.  It's like they traded Babe Ruth or something...

nothingtodust posted:

Don't worry about any effect on your son's potential college baseball recruitment.  Our sons' high school has a notoriously underperforming baseball program and, despite this, has sent multiple players to SEC, ACC, Ivy and Patriot League programs.  They even produced a few draft picks over the years.  I prefer to protect our family's privacy so won't give the name but you would really be shocked that a team with that kind of talent would be unable to win a district title in the last 20 years.  It's like they traded Babe Ruth or something...

On the flip side are the incompetent coaches who wind up in their state’s sports Hall of Fame. As incompetent as they are they benefit from so much talent streaming through the program year after year they can’t possibly screw it up. 

I would say that you are describing my team except I don't think that our HS program has EVER had a season over .100. 

I served as a dad assistant for a year and a half and 1/3 through the season last year the head coach basically just gave up so I took the team over unofficially of course because I was not qualified through TSSAA.  The Director of Schools of our School District approached me and asked me to take the team over and build the program.  I did all the NFHS courses and got my certifications to be the Varsity HC.  I committed to them for 2 years since my son graduates 2019, I may hang one more year depending just because my team is heavily populated with 2020's.

This team has not won a game in at least 5 years, meaning my seniors have never tasted victory.  Here's what I have done...

First and foremost, scheduling, scheduling, scheduling!!!  I went through MaxPreps and looked at teams all around me to see what I could put on the schedule for non-district games.  We opened the season 3-0.  Matter of a fact, when we played our first district game there were 4 teams in AA Baseball in the State of TN that were undefeated...we were one of them.  Now, we played 2 teams that were absolutely awful, but one of the wins was a legit win that we came back from an 6-0 lead to win 9-6 scoring 6 runs in the 6th inning to win the game at home.  This did the absolute best for building some confidence in our program as well as some excitement in the school and county. 

Just shy of scheduling is RECRUITING!!!  I serve as the Chaplin for the football team as well as am very involved in mentoring some of the basketball players.  When I say recruiting, I don't mean out of district, I mean in the halls.  The last football game I bought a cooler of water and individual drink packs and after the game every player lined up to come get a drink and told them great season and asked if they played baseball.  I had a preseason meeting with my returning players and told them to find the athletes or those that are hiding in the halls that have played baseball and get them to the field during preseason workouts and when the season opened for tryouts.

From there, it's really just fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.  Invest in a summer pitching camp.  If you can't afford to send them find some travel ball coaches to come do one for you at your school (check your State guidelines). 

Stay positive!  I think baseball is a gentlemen game and although there are times when they may need a good butt chewing (last night for my team) remember that baseball is a mental sport and that not being mentally aware in the game produces errors and errors produce more errors.

As far as your son is concerned, the comments above are perfect in that he has the opportunity to showcase himself at every at bat and every pitch. 

Thanks for the insight OB1 and I'm glad to hear you're seeing some positive results from your situation. I particularly like the comment about scheduling. I was talking to another dad after last night's game who mentioned that he thought next season we should look to schedule some early non-conference home games that might give us some chances to get the mojo going at the beginning of the season and I wholeheartedly agreed. Thanks again!

So we have a similar school.  Large classification, but low participation.  We are constantly out talented by the schools we play.  We have some programs that win, year in and year out.  And some that struggle to win a handful of games.  What's the difference?  Coaching.  The winning programs have over dedicated coaches.  They are 24/7, 365 days all about their program.  

I look at our baseball program and I see so many missed opportunities.  And to me, it all starts in the off season.  Our off season program sucks.  If I was king, the first thing I would do is get my pitchers and potential pitchers into a weekly clinic or lesson program.  I would also find a way to keep the kids hitting as much a possible.  Once official practice starts I am practicing as much as possible.  I want my practices longer and tougher than the games.  We are hitting every day.  I am pounding the infielders ground balls.  Those have to be outs.  And when a kid isn't doing something properly, I correct it.  

I wouldn't focus so much on winning.  And I wouldn't call loosing a game a "failure."  Winning is the result of a process.  If you are doing the right things winning will come.  

Thanks Golfman for taking the time to read and comment. There have been some good pieces of advice in every response here!

I can't really control the preparation of the team other than support and encourage my son with his part. The focus on winning, for me, is just for the team's morale at this point. I'd just like them to win one simply for that reason! At this juncture, talking about the off season can only help next year and I get where you're coming from on that one. I don't necessarily think losing a game is a failure. The failures come in failing to make a routine play, failure to win an at-bat (on both sides), failure to know and understand each situation during the games, etc. Basic baseball which, to my knowledge, they have been prepared for at some level but maybe not at the level they need with respect to the talent (or lack of) on the team,and the talent we're up against week and and week out. Thanks again!

It sounds like you have a good group.  My kids are all smiles after a loss.  We are also classified too high for our talent, except there's no classification lower for us to go.  I'm sure there is talent waiting for the coaches to find.  You have to build up the baseball program marketing wise within the school. 

tequila posted:

..............................................................................

So my question about how to deal with this has two parts really:

  1. What successful strategies has anyone had experience with from a team perspective?
  2. More selfishly; my son is a good player and in the process of working towards playing baseball in college. Being part of a losing high school team certainly doesn’t seem like it is making that any easier. As I’m sure it is in most states, the winning teams get more nominations for all-*whatever*, and rightly so, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities on his team to stand out in the bigger picture. Our best offensive producer is out for the season with an injury so my son is hitting in the three hole and probably leading, or right at the top of, several offensive stats so there may be a silver lining there though I'd certainly rather have our other player in the lineup. There also probably aren’t a lot of college coaches coming to our games unless we’re playing someone with potential recruits on their side. Now I know this isn’t where most of the recruiting happens but it is a point of frustration for us. I just encourage him to try to stay positive, focus on his leadership, continue to develop his skills, work hard on academics, and work in the gym, and everything else will take care of itself. I feel it’s all I can really do at this point

Tequila - Your son is doing the right things.  My oldest and middle son were on teams like this.  There school was known for football in our area (state champs many times over), but none the less they played high school baseball in the Spring and travel baseball in the Summer.  You can't count on high school baseball to be your exposure strategy.  I'd like to suggest Legion or a Travel baseball team that is successful in getting young men like your son recruited to the schools where he is the best fit.   You can also select individual showcases to get your son's talents in view of recruiters...there are many of those.   I think a common mistake in showcasing and recruiting is not knowing what you want, and how to get it.  In terms of showcase teams; there are name brand national teams, regional teams and local teams.   Each one of these has a different purpose, target and exposure strategy.  Choose your travel team on historical recruiting outcomes (travel coaches network) not based on a sales pitch.    To make a long story short, I know this because we initially selected the wrong travel team for what my oldest son wanted, but we didn't know any better and my son was unsure what he wanted to study when we started this journey.   It didn't hurt him in the long run, cost me a few more travel baseball dollars than I wanted to spend, spent more recruiting time than I wanted to spend, but we eventually got to his dream school.  Recruiting is like baseball, it is very situational.  If your son is not a blue chip recruit the best way to get attention is through a combination of baseball skills and great grades.  Please tell your son to keep up the good work in the classroom, gym,  and on the baseball field!

fenwaysouth posted:

Recruiting is like baseball, it is very situational.

This is so true and we've definitely learned that no two situations are ever alike! We've also gained a whole lot of patience over the last year about this process and gone from sort of panic-mode to a calculated approach and what happens will happen. Listening to the wrong advice can instill panic because, often times, folks are trying to sell you something.

My son is on a national name brand team in our area but not the "elite" squad, and I'm not really worried about that. They have some talent, play in a couple of good tournaments, and he enjoys his coaches and teammates. The organization also has a pretty successful track record for getting kids recruited but, in cases like ours, it takes some interaction from the parents in keeping the right people informed of performance highlights, etc. so that they can publish to their contacts and social media.

Between freshman and sophomore years, or maybe a little after, it became evident that the "dream school" was not going to align with his physical attributes and ability, and that's just fine. He got over the P5 D1-only mentality, that you see so often with younger players, and it has freed us up to focus on finding the right fit for him that hopefully combines baseball and academics, but where he would be good if baseball didn't work out. We haven't found it yet but we have a list and a plan that we're working though. This includes a mix of high school coach contacts, summer team exposure, small targeted school camps/visits, and one or two larger showcase events. I'm really starting to enjoy the process and sometimes wonder what the heck I'm going to do with my time when it's over. Perhaps the Mexico Tequila tour I've always wanted to do!

Exactly Tequila!  We found we had to figure out exactly what he wanted out of his 4 years, read the market signs around us....figure out who among his target schools were looking for a recruit like him then execute the plan.  There was a lot of hard work that went into that sentence above, and a lot of time (20 months).   His travel team and coaches provided a lot of exposure and opportunities.  However those opportuniites weren't the right fit.   So, we re-started our recruiting efforts to get that right fit.   Along the way, we learned a lot about the various baseball levels and academic opportunities.   If I had known all of this ahead of time, I could have saved myself about 12 months of recruiting effort but we wouldn't have had nearly as much fun!  Live and learn.   ;-)    

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×