I Coached A Travel Baseball Team For One Season. Here’s Why I’m Never Doing It Again. 

Youth baseball is different now. Nine-year-olds get their own walk-up music and wear designer practice uniforms. Batting stats are posted on an app, and games are broadcast live on Youtube with corporate sponsors anchored at the bottom of the screen. For context, as a kid I often wore jeans to practice and was sponsored exclusively by my parents, who paid the league dues. For better or worse, the world in which my kids play baseball is still somewhat foreign to me.

Until last year, I’d dabbled in assistant coaching.  It’s a commitment, but everyone loves the assistant coach.  Everything changed for me last Spring when I became a head coach.  Before the big season began, I got a call from a friend.  “You’re entering the lion’s den,” he warned.

I had no clue.  

You know how people without kids seem to know everything about parenting?  Well, baseball parents who have never coached apparently have all the secrets to Little League greatness.  Turns out, 99% of the job has nothing to do with what parents see.  I’m here to give you a glimpse of how hard this gig really is.  

Meetings Galore.  Head coaches are required to attend meetings.  Think: planning meetings; budget meetings; rules meetings.  So. Many. Meetings.  And if the email announcing the meeting puts the word “MANDATORY” in bold and all caps, then you know it’s super serious.  Regardless, you’ll leave all of them thinking: “this could have been an email.” Or better yet: “THIS COULD HAVE BEEN AN EMAIL!!!!

Drama-filled Tryouts.  If you’re a new head coach, everyone who previously ignored you will suddenly want to be your friend… for a few days.  Here’s the best part: at our park, you select the kids that make the team based on: three pop flies, three grounders, and five swings of the bat.  Your decision will change life trajectories and tear friendships apart forever.  No pressure.    

The Uniform Thunderstorm.  Design the uniforms, and then get hat, jersey, and pant sizes from every family.  After that, all that’s left to do is to collect all the money, order the uniforms, and then promptly get the uniforms back to everyone before the first big tournament. Fortunately, the uniforms will fit every kid perfectly and the parents will love the color scheme and they won’t have any suggestions on how it could have been done better.  

Either that, or you’ll have conversations like this: 

            Parent: My son’s jersey doesn’t fit, it’s a large

Me: Oh no!  What size did you order?  

            Parent: A large.  

Lions and Tigers and Fundraising.  Oh my, baseball is expensive.  But everyone hates fundraising.  The most outspoken haters will be the ones that didn’t come up with any ideas whatsoever.  I don’t get it.  I mean, there’s nothing I enjoy more than going to the local grocery store and begging the manager to allow me to bring a bunch of 9- and 10-year-olds to their front door…all so that we can beg their customers for money.  After all, everyone wants kids harassing them for cash while they’re getting some crackers and a bottle of wine.  

No cash, huh? That’s ok we take Venmo.

Field Prep Fun.  Before every practice, the field needs to be unlocked, raked, and fully prepped.  Fortunately, there are magic baseball elves that will help you do all of this.  When practice is over, the same elves will return and re-rake the field, put all the tarps back where they belong, lock everything up, and make sure every child is safely on their way home before they leave so your elementary schooler doesn’t routinely get home after 9pm on school nights.  Believe it?  Then you, my friend, are a cotton-headed ninny muggins.  

Equipment Woe$.  You need nets and tees and clipboards and baseballs, and guess whose bringing all that? You sir! And those baseballs?  They’re basically gold.  So during practice when a baseball from your personal collection goes foul and nobody gets it, you just donated $5 to the cause.  

From a financial standpoint, if you want to know what it’s like to coach a youth baseball team, you can just follow these easy steps: (1) set the air conditioning of your house to 60 degrees on a hot summer day, and (2) open the door.  

Group Messaging Misery.  You will spend lots of time preparing well thought-out messages to all the families and nobody will read them.  It works like this: 

Coach: Hey folks, for the double-header this Saturday please arrive at 9am.  

Parent: Is the double-header on Friday or Saturday?    

Parent: Hey coach can you please answer!  

Tournament Terrors.  Tournaments are a fun and relaxing way to enjoy your weekend at the ballfield.  You just have to consider pitch counts, getting everyone playing time, paying umpires, making sure all the bats are legal, trying to keep tired children motivated, and how to address all the upset parents (more on that in a bit…).  Oh, and winning baseball games.  

If it’s an out-of-town tournament, you also need to find adequate forms of entertainment during off-times, and coordinate all the hotels and transportation.  This won’t take a toll on you mentally or physically, and the next morning you’ll walk into your actual job feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the week.  

I almost forgot!  If the weather sucks?  That’s on you.  Before you registered four months back, you should have researched local weather patterns from the past 20 years to better anticipate the current Nor’easter, which would have prompted you to select a tournament 80 miles west where its currently dry.  Nobody’s disappointed about this; they’re just mad. 

Monday-Morning Quarterbacking.  It’s best to approach tournament losses like you would approach an angry spouse: just apologize early and often, even if you’re not sure why.  It works like this: 

  • Kid attempted to steal second base but he got caught because he did it the EXACT OPPOSITE way you taught him in practice.  “That’s my bad.”  
  • Kid bunted and popped it up to the catcher.  “That one’s on me.” 
  • Pulled a kid after 70 pitches and his relief blew the game.  “I’ve gotta do better.”   

Yes, you do.  

Unhappy parents.  You have 12+ kids and you are allowed to put 9 of them on the field at any given time.  That’s the issue.  The kids who aren’t always playing?  Youre gonna hear from their parents.  

Some will be very respectful…

Other parents?  Not so much. 

Fun fact: all jellyfish are spineless

But wait, there’s more.  If a kid plays the outfield, you may hear his parents tell you that the child is “more suited for the infield.”  

And if a kid is playing the infield and playing well, their parents are probably looking to join a more prestigious team next season. So basically, if you want to be endlessly cyber-bullied, get yourself a coaching gig.  And if you want loyalty, get yourself a dog.  

“Daddy-ball” Accusations. Coaching your own kid adds a classic win-win dynamic to this experience. Play your kid on the field and face the wrath of 11 skeptical families who think you’re taking all this abuse so your child can sneak in a few extra innings at left field. Bench your kid, and feel the wrath of your wife. Choose wisely, my brothers.


All this begs a few questions: Is travel baseball like this everywhere?  Are all youth sports like this?  Are all parents like this?  IT’S NO WONDER TEACHERS DRINK! 

My experience was a Hot Mess – one that took a toll on my entire family.  I made countless mistakes.  Some of you reading this may conclude I was a bad coach.  Or perhaps a spineless jellyfish…

Either way, my kids start their spring baseball this week.  And as we brace for the upcoming season, let’s agree to put the knives down for a second.  Cuz coaching, like parenting, is way harder than it looks.    

Despite the hurdles, the experience was invaluable, and I cherished the opportunity to serve amazing kids through the game of baseball.  I met some great parents too.  But I’m never doing it again.  

Here’s what’s crazy: our team was good – one run shy of winning the North Florida Cal Ripken 10U State Championship.  Not bad.

Especially for a team led by a spineless jellyfish like myself. 


  1. Thanks for making the time and investment in the boys.

    I have a discussion I need to have with our boys coach and I needed this reminder to keep perspective.

    Onward and upward, 👆⚾

    Just a Dad


    • I know how that goes and I assure you I need that reminder myself. There’s a lot of time, money and emotion wrapped into all of this. It’s a tough job these coaches have.


  2. Brother, I will pray for you personally. I am 49 yrs old. I coached both my kids. Both now are older and have moved on. The travel ball circuit has NOT changed. It was the same back in the early 2000’s. It’s a damn shame. I am now an umpire and I enjoy the game WAY more doing travel ball games. I know the rules (most) and have secured a diplomatic way to communicate with head coaches. The game of baseball has been put on its head with all these crazy, unrealistic adventures that these parents go thru. Less than 1% of these athletes will make it to the bigs, furthermore a D1 school. Stay with the knothole, youth league organizations. Cheaper, easier, less stress. Let the kids be kids. Life is too short. If you go to Pier Park for a tournament, by god make sure to spent adequate time at the beach in between games 😎.


    • Amen! Thank you so much. I think the game becomes more fun for parents when they let go of the D1, pro stuff, etc and just let the kids have fun. If they are truly in the 1% and they want it, then support it. But it’s not a parents job to make their kid good at sports. Too much of that out there and it ruins what is supposed to be a “character building” experience. Cheers.


  3. cotton-headed ninny muggins. What kind of coach writes that? I’ll tell ya what kind, a spineless jellyfish. Lol

    Very much enjoyed the read!


  4. My god! I felt like I was reading my life, in travel baseball.

    The best and worst part of travel baseball; knowing this is ALL almost over. I don’t know whether or not to cry or celebrate!


  5. Anonymous I coached as a parent coach and a non parent coach at a high level travel. All because I loved the game and wanted to give back to kids . But the disrespect from kids as well as parents all because there selfish needs are not being met blows you away. If you don’t establish tight rules it becomes a train wreck in a hurry . You want to keep it fun but people expect to win or they go elsewhere. It’s a tough juggling act for a non expierenced person . It’s a shame we burn out good coaches to fast.


    • Great points all around. I can’t do it again mostly because of my work schedule and the toll it took on my other kids whose games I was always missing. The stress of parents is rough but that’s definitely not what prompted me to step back. Thanks!


  6. JWSB
    Jk it’s the same in all sports. I prefer to be hardass fun coach and don’t care what parents think. Fire me, I’m a volunteer.


  7. Great article. I’m surprised you didn’t realize you were coaching 12 future MLB Hall of Famers. Lol. Good luck in the future!


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