Enter now to win an autographed copy of The Matheny Manifesto
By Greg Bach
Here’s your chance to win an autographed copy of The Matheny Manifesto, written by St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a four-time Gold Glove winner during his 13-year Major League career.
Simply post your favorite youth sports memory in 150 words or less in the Comment Section below this story and we’ll pick the best ones to receive a copy of this fascinating and insightful New York Times bestseller.
So think back to your playing days and what memories stand out to you; or if you’re a volunteer coach now or a parent with a youngster involved in sports, what’s been a highlight for you? A great game day performance; a fun post-game gathering; a special friendship; a coach-player bond; a car ride conversation; a fun practice routine; team nicknames; a cool display of sportsmanship – we want to hear about it!
THE MATHENY MANIFESTO
Back in 2008, after Mike Matheny had retired from a productive 13-year career as a Major League catcher, some local parents approached him about coaching a youth baseball team.
The idea intrigued him. As a product of youth baseball himself, coupled with the fact that his own 10-year-old son would be on the team, he gave it some serious thought.
But he knew that if he was going to commit to the job that the season wasn’t going to be all about winning; and parents weren’t going to dictate batting orders and positions.
“Frankly, I worried that all they wanted was an elite traveling team with cool equipment and a reputation for winning,” Matheny writes. “The last thing I needed was to hear from every parent who thought his kid ought to be pitching or hitting third or whatever. I knew I had better clarify things up front for my sake and for theirs. They deserved the chance to withdraw their invitation for me to be the coach before they finalized a decision they would regret.”
So on a flight home from a guest appearance on the MLB Network, he took out his laptop and wrote a five-page, single-spaced letter to the parents on how he would coach the team.
It talked about respect, discipline and humility; it stressed playing with class; and it clearly defined for parents that there would be no coaching, criticizing or interfering from the sidelines.
It was powerful.
The letter found its way onto the Internet, went viral and was the springboard for The Matheny Manifesto, a book that builds on that original letter and dissects the problems of out-of-control parents and win-at-any-cost coaches and serves up some old-school advice on how to be a difference maker in a child’s life through sports.
Matheny, now in his fourth season as the manager of the Cardinals, gave an exclusive interview to the National Alliance for Youth Sports during spring training last month. Here’s Part One of that conversation:
NAYS: What do you hope people take away from reading the book?
MATHENY: I guess if there was one quick takeaway let’s let youth sports be about the kids and let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s our responsibility to pass on a passion and enjoyment of the game. There’s so much we can do to help them enjoy it, but not to get our agenda, whether that of a coach or parent, in the way of truly making sports special for them. It doesn’t have to go all the way to the big leagues for it to be successful.
NAYS: What’s going on with some of today’s youth sports coaches and their win-at-all-cost attitudes?
MATHENY: I think we’re seeing the ball dropped by coaches who just have this lofty expectation that they’re only successful by stacking up a lot of youth league trophies. And I’m not against winning, believe me, that’s my job. But at the lower levels when we’re trying to teach kids passion, just trying to teach them a life-long love of the game and teach them the game because most of them don’t even understand it you better start with fun and you better start with making sure that you’re keeping them engaged. A successful day at the baseball field at the lowest levels is that the kids want to come back. Whatever you have to do – bubblegum, ice cream, whatever – make that happen. It’s amazing how that just kind of keeps on growing if you keep on track.
NAYS: What’s your take on travel teams and how that has affected parental behavior?
MATHENY: It isn’t always the purpose but in the end it’s almost like a higher return is required. So if parents are going to put in, and even stretch, to afford all these lessons and this high level team then they have the pressure to feel like if I’m doing that my child better get that scholarship and that’s not fair to these kids. If you can afford it that’s great, go out and give them every experience that you can but let that be led by the kids. But I think what that leads to is just a higher level of pressure put on by the adults and you’re seeing what I saw, which was parents climbing up the back of screens screaming at kids. Every game I’d go to I’d see a kid get balled out. A kid is walking out of there every single night crying and that’s usually not from the coach, it’s usually something that came from somebody else and some of the most important people to them. We wonder why these kids are opting out and deciding to sit in front of a video game where nobody is telling them what to do.
NAYS: Most coaches have their own child on the team but why does it seem that so many struggle with the dynamics of that?
MATHENY: It’s tough because I think some people are wired for this and some aren’t. I think they just need to be real honest with themselves right from the top. First of all, can I keep my eyes off my own kid and can I treat the rest of the kids with the kind of care that I want to treat my own with and I think a lot of parents have trouble with that. And that’s just being an honest evaluator and being able and ready to walk away and realize there’s probably more harm than good that I can do if this is going to be about me living vicariously through my child hoping for their athletic success that maybe I didn’t have; or me making sure that I’m showcasing my child so he can get to the next level. When those things start coming into play it is so obvious and most of the time the coaches believe they think they are hiding it.
Remember - post your favorite youth sports memory below for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Matheny Manifesto!
Former Seattle Seahawks defensive back Jordan Babineaux, author of Pivot to Win, shares pillars that young athletes can lean on to lead successful lives, and more
Olympian Alexi Pappas, author of the page-turning memoir Bravey, shares her struggles with depression and how coaches and parents can normalize discussions about mental health and be difference makers for young athletes
Former world-ranked squash player turned bestselling author Ivy Pochoda shares powerful life lessons scooped up along her youth sports journey, and how meaningful it has been to have collaborated on books with the late Kobe Bryant
Former Olympic swimmer Melinda Harrison, author of Personal Next, discusses life transitions, the value in being vulnerable, growing from failure, and more