The Blog

The Cubs' Maddon Tells it Like it is for Kids' Coaches

During our organization's interview with Joe Maddon, he made a statement about the importance of letting ALL kids on a team have the opportunity to play. He said: "Understand everybody plays, all right, everybody plays! If the kid is on the team, he plays."
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Wow! Close to 1,000 people responded to my last blog about what Tom Brady had to say about youth sports. With all humility, I realize that it wasn't because of what I was blogging about -- it was because of what Tom Brady thinks.

For that reason I decided to dig back into our National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) online video training program for youth sport coaches and present a series of really insightful thoughts from some of the nation's most recognized coaches that we have spoken to about the best ways to work with children and be a positive influence in their lives. Volunteer coaches in almost 3,000 recreation agencies that we work with worldwide hear these comments from some of these highly respected coaches and hopefully take their advice to the playing field to benefit the young athletes under their care.

Joe Maddon, as most sports-minded people know, is the manager of the Chicago Cubs. He worked in the Angels organization for 31 years, including time as a minor league manager, scout, roving minor league hitting instructor and bench coach for the major league team. He later went on to manage nine seasons for Tampa Bay, where he was twice named American League Manager of the Year, before taking over the Cubs.

During our organization's interview with him, Maddon made a statement about the importance of letting ALL kids on a team have the opportunity to play. He said: "Understand everybody plays, all right, everybody plays! If the kid is on the team, he plays."

That statement brought me back to the time a youth baseball coach commented to me about the team of 9-year-olds he coached. He related how at the beginning of the season he told the parents that no matter what, every kid would play an equal amount of time.

I told him that I was sure some parents would not appreciate that approach where the best players didn't get all the playing time.

He said, "I didn't care. I just knew that sports for kids had to be fun. Besides, if you've ever had to sit on the bench for a whole game you know how it feels."

And then he startled me by saying, "And you know what happened? We won the championship."

That's why I think Joe Maddon has been such a success as a big league manager. In brief, he cares about people.

Maddon went on to say in the interview: "Everybody wants to win and hey, I hate to lose as much as anybody else, but everybody plays. Do not ever jeopardize a kid's potential future for the sake of a win; that to me is crazy. That should be a by-law within the organization. Administratively that should be monitored. At the end of the day everybody wants to win. Don't misinterpret Vince Lombardi's message and all the great coaches that came before us. I need to win here as a Major League manager. As a Little League coach somewhere you don't need to win that day -- you've got to make sure that you're making every player better."

Oh, if every youth league coach listened to his advice.