Lessons from T-ball

I began coaching my 4 year old son’s T-ball team in February and ended up with much more than I bargained for.  To say it’s been a circus is putting it mildly.  I have a new found appreciation for teachers and coaches everywhere.  I expected many of the kids to not know how to hit, throw or catch.  However, I was not prepared to manage thirteen 4 year olds who are totally nuts.  In the beginning my goal was for the kids to have fun and learn about the game of baseball.  This quickly changed to making sure they didn’t wound each other and I didn’t lose any of them.  Before we started  I couldn’t figure out why they needed helmets since they were going to hit off a tee.  After a couple of bats to the mouth while sword fighting and errant throws to the head, it became quite clear.  It’s amazing how exhausting a one hour practice and game can be.  Thankfully, the parents and kids seem to be enjoying themselves.  Everyone says how cute it all is.  We’ve witnessed a kid run to third base instead of first after a hit, another batter chased after the ball after he hit it up the middle and they usually all pile on each other in the field on defense after every grounder.  All very funny, but I leave with a horse voice, a headache and am wiped out for the rest of the day.  Maybe I’m just not cut out for this…

Being involved with Little League for the first time did open my eyes to the power of youth sports.  The access to families and the ability to impact the community makes this very attractive for the right sponsors.  The leagues are all in need of financial support so sponsor dollars go a long way to help and are very much appreciated.  Over 20 million kids participate in organized youth sports throughout the country, which is a sizable audience when you factor in the families.  It is very much a grass roots opportunity, which by nature makes it difficult to navigate and activate against on a large scale.  However, most professional teams and universities have strong relationships in their respective markets with the local youth sports leagues and may serve as a conduit on the sponsor’s behalf.  There are usually numerous programs in place a sponsor can piggy back on such as clinics, group ticket offers, camps and field/court refurbishments.

As a sponsor you can always work directly with each youth sports organization, but if you do have an existing partnership with a local property it could be an excellent vehicle to participate.  This may also serve as an effective way to help localize a national sponsorship.  I’ve seen this firsthand with Chevrolet who does a great job of utilizing their local Arizona Dbacks and LA Galaxy team deals to support their national youth baseball and soccer initiatives.  Pizza, post game snacks, lawn care, sporting goods, sunscreen, auto, banks, home improvement and any other company targeting families will be well received.  My career as a manager may be short lived, but this experience has left a lasting impression in more ways than one.