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March 12, 2010 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Our son's Little League coach is constantly changing the practice schedule and practice location, albeit for legitimate reasons. Is this a standard part of the Little League experience?

Our son, 9, is playing in Little League for the first time (if it matters he's in AA, which is the entry-level league for his age group). We were told originally that there would be two practices/week and two games/weekend, but the coach (who is a nice guy and seems very earnest) is constantly trying to maximize practice time, so he's scheduled extra "optional" practices on the weekend at the last minute and has even moved practices from one day to another at the last minute to accommodate changes in the weather.

On the one hand, this is "great", as he's obviously very involved and is trying to make sure the kids get to practice before the field(s) get too wet and muddy -- we've had a wet season so far in Northern California, so if he didn't move things around the team would have lost some practice days. On the other hand, my wife and I both work, and constantly moving the schedule around is creating headaches for us, because our carefully planned out transportation gets wrecked when practices move from one field to another, or, as happened this week, move from Friday to Thursday with very limited advance notice. FWIW, our only previous team sport experience has been with AYSO, and in AYSO, the practice schedule was consistent and never moved around; if it rained, practice was canceled, not rescheduled.

Normally I'd speak up, but I never did LL as a kid and the whole "serious team sport" thing is new ground for me/us. Before I put my foot in my mouth I want to get a sense if this is unusual or if this type of micro-managing practice time is part of the LL culture. We haven't heard any complaints from other parents, and so far it's been annoying us but hasn' been a deal breaker. Also, it seems like at least some of the other families on our son's team may not have two working parents, and thus may have an easier time dealing with these last minute changes.

Sorry if this is a bit rambling. I am specifically asking any other families with recent Little League experience if a varying practice schedule is now common in your LL experience, or if our situation is unusual by current Little League cultural standards for this age/ability level?

A final comment: I want to stress that our coach doesn't seem to be overbearing and has a really positive attitude towards all of his players. I don't want to paint him as a bad guy or even necessarily as over-zealous. He just seems to be really into coaching, and his son is on the team as well. I'm just really unsure of the cultural standards for this sort of thing. Going into this, we were prepared for a three or four day/week commitment, but we both assumed we'd know in advance which days those were going to be and where we'd need to bring our son. The practice schedule has been much more volatile than we ever imagined it would be, and it's the volatility that's throwing us for a loop.
posted by mosk to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
Best answer: Heh. Are you on the same little league team as my son?

I think this is normal pre-season especially in the Bay Area as field open and close randomly with the threat of rain. Once the regular season started last year everything was very well organized.
posted by GuyZero at 2:14 PM on March 12, 2010

Best answer: No experience here with LL but our daughter's soccer coach did the very same things to us. Honestly, it was maddening. Especially when you throw in another kid and his activities. We just can't do last-minute schedule changes and I told him as much. He was really understanding, though, and said that if she had to miss a practice because he was changing the day last-minute, she would be fine. As in, no penalties, no hard feelings.

Tell your son's coach that the last-minute day changes are really, really hard for you and there might be times when your son won't make a practice. If he's as good as you think he is, this shouldn't be a problem for him or you.
posted by cooker girl at 3:43 PM on March 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do any of the other kids live near you? You may be able to coordinate with other parents to share transportation burden. I recall that sort of thing being a common solution as a kid--"Billy's mom will take you to the game, and we'll pick up you and Billy after the game" sort of thing.
posted by kprincehouse at 5:08 PM on March 12, 2010

Best answer: I have coached over 20 different teams for my kids. Everything from rec (casual) basketball to a competitive travel basketball and soccer as well as Little League too. It would be a rare instance where I would do what he is doing. If we had had successive rainouts or cancellations I would consider it. The main reason I would move a practice was if we missed a lot already and I thought that the kids were not getting enough playing time and I thought that the amount of money the parents were shelling out meant that they should find a time to be out there participating. However, it was my belief that these things (missing practices due to weather) would work themselves out over the course of a season.

Normally, there are several issues with what he is doing. First, in my town, simply getting a field is not that easy. There are probably 8 teams in 6 age groups all vying for time on the field and then you add in the fact that the school teams use their fields and then toss in some adult softball and getting a field to change is next to impossible. But, even if I could get a field, you need to respect everyone else's schedule including the kids. For the very reason you bring up too. Transportation, planning, driving other siblings. In the spring, my kids play lacrosse and baseball and one is also on an AAU basketball team as well. IF the coach had a floating schedule, my sons and I would have a major problem.

My guess is that his enthusiasm simply inadvertently blinds him to the issues. If I were you, I would call him and explain that Mosk, jr really wants to play and will come to as many practices as he can, but because you both work, when you change the schedule without 48 (?) hours notice, you sometimes have a hard time arranging transportation. Ask if maybe he can drive your child to and fro. Also mention that if he has to miss a practice because of a schedule change, you hope it will not be held against your child in terms of playing time or playing position. I would also mention that you appreciate all the effort he is giving and the teaching too. Offer to help in any way you can too. (After the call, nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile)

Lastly, this is not specific to LL. It is more relevant to the coach and his ability to have his time and get a field than it is the sport. As a coach, I would appreciate the call especially if I did not realize it was an issue.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:13 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. It really helps to hear from other parents that a) we're not alone, and b) this is beyond what is normally expected.

>My guess is that his enthusiasm simply inadvertently blinds him to the issues.

I think this is the core issue. He's really into coaching, which is great, but OMG these last minute schedule changes are driving us nuts!

I'll speak to him at one of the games this weekend and just let him know that we'll try to stay on top of this, but our schedules just aren't as flexible as his, so these last minute changes are really hard for us to accommodate. We'll do the best we can, but we have a younger child as well, and we can't turn on a dime like some other parents can.

And kprincehouse, I appreciate the carpool suggestion, but one of the odd things about this team is that despite living in a small town with only a few elementary schools, our son is the only kid on his team from his school. One other family does live in our greater neighborhood, and we're trying to coordinate some transportation with them, but their commitments are just as spread out as ours, and it's tougher to coordinate than you'd think.

Anyway, thanks all for the sanity check.
posted by mosk at 9:51 PM on March 12, 2010

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