What Youth Sports can Learn from Jose Bautista’s Bat Flip

The bat flip heard round the world. It has been the subject of countless memes, been played and replayed on sportscast highlights, and it has flooded social media. It’s even been carved onto pumpkins. Time will tell if “the bat flip” will be one of those defining moments of Jose Bautista’s career, like Babe Ruth’s “called shot” was in game three of the 1932 world series.

Photo credit: Zack Chisholm (edits: photo cropped)
George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. Photo credit: Zack Chisholm (edits: photo cropped)

It has also been the subject of intense media criticism, much of which accused Bautista of attacking the integrity of baseball. Sam Dyson, the pitcher for the Rangers who gave up the game-changing home run, insisted, “Jose needs to calm that down, just kind of respect the game a little more … [He] is a huge role model for the younger generation that’s coming up playing this game … It shouldn’t be done.”

Bautista’s official rebuff of such accusations came in the form of an eloquent article he wrote on November 9th for The Players’ Tribune titled “Are You Flipping Kidding Me?” In it, he writes:

There’s no sound in the world like the crack a baseball makes on the sweet spot of my maple Marucci. You blink on contact. The immediate roar of the crowd lifts your sights to see where the ball is going. Imagine the feeling of watching it land in the seats. How would you feel? What would you do?

There was no script. I didn’t plan it. It just happened.

I flipped my bat.

If social media is any measure of popular opinion, then it would seem that Toronto stands behind their Joey Bats and his infamous flip. And it’s one of those moments in sports history that can teach our youth a lot about sportsmanship. Helping our players develop sportsmanship and character, after all, is one of our overarching goals as an organization. As Youth Football Online aptly states, “Character development is just as relevant as learning the game … It’s of utmost importance to be respectful of your teammates and opponents.”

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Photo credit: Wayne Stadler

Anyone who loves hockey knows that it is an emotional rollercoaster of a sport. It’s not indifference that motivates our players to get out there on that ice game after game, practice after practice, and give it their all. It’s passion. Celebrating achievements—that perfect goal, that beauty pass, that incredible save—is evidence of that passion.

There is a fine line, however, between celebration and showboating, and it’s not always the easiest line to define. Even the experts don’t seem to agree on where that line exists, as the arguments on both sides of “the bat flip” show us. When we’re dealing with kids, communication is essential to helping our young athletes develop an understanding of the difference between the two.

This is a sentiment echoed by Al Adamsen, trainer for the Positive Coaching Alliance in the San Francisco Bay Area. When asked by a youth coach how to address showboating, he suggests, “[The] key to achieving your goal is communication. Communication is often thought of as a one-time event. It’s not. As John Wooden once said, ‘It’s not what you teach. It’s what you emphasize.’ This could not be more true when you’re communicating with opposing coaches, administrators, players, parents, etc.”

There are two sides to the coin here, and communication needs to be had on both the Moose and the Queen sides (pardon the nod to our Canadiana roots). First, players need to understand that showboating is not a reflection of good sportsmanship. That one’s a given. But second, and less obvious, is that players need to understand that celebration isn’t always showboating. Jose Bautista highlights this point in his article when he goes on to say that his bat flip “wasn’t out of contempt for the pitcher. It wasn’t because I don’t respect the unwritten rules of the game. I was caught up in the emotion of the moment… Those moments are spontaneous. They’re human. And they’re a whole lot of fun.”

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

When it comes to helping our children develop character in the game of hockey, communication is key. Sam Dyce’s accusation that Bautista is being a poor role model is only a justified one if we don’t help our players, at whatever level they may be in their youth sports career, understand and appreciate the proper place celebration holds in the sport of hockey.

Recognizing the appropriate level of celebration and, just as important, respecting the right of the opposing team to celebrate their own achievements—that is the mark of a mature player.

Photo credit for featured image: Keith Allison

Scheduling Ice: A Look At What Our Board Members Do

Schedules. Waiting for the hockey schedule is like waiting to open birthday presents – a lot of excited hockey players are bouncing on their blades to find out when they play … Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the posting of the schedule is pretty much the official kick-off to the season. And that’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?

Preparing the schedule is a lot harder than one might imagine. Just ask Paul Jefferson, one of our CRHL veterans. He’s been a member of the board of directors for more than thirteen years. His son has gone through the league as a player, and is now coaching one of his own teams. Yet Paul comes back year after year to volunteer his time to this fantastic organization, with no more motivation than the knowledge that “it’s for the kids.”

In the weeks leading up to the start of the season, Paul is busy at home matching up the teams and slotting them in for the entire year. “I end up putting in a lot of my free time,” he admits. “It’s gotten better over the years because I get better at it each time. You know, you get quicker, and you know what to look for. But still, it’s a real time commitment.”

There are many factors that go into building a schedule that people may not realize. For one, the Clarington Recreational Hockey League is just one of several organizations vying for the same ice time. Figure skating, power skating, speed skating, public skating, rep hockey, adult leagues, tournaments – everyone wants ice. With only so much rink space to go around, the municipality has to portion out the region’s limited facilities so that everyone gets what they need. This makes scheduling difficult for Paul, who has a finite portion of ice to work with for all of CRHL’s divisions and teams. And to ensure that teams are given the opportunity to book outside tournaments throughout the season, the schedule for the entire year has to be done at the start to allow players, coaches and parents to manager their own  commitments.

It may also surprise you to learn that Paul regularly goes to battle with the city about whether to give ice back or not … of course, we’re teasing when we say that. Understandably, the municipality does not want organizations keeping ice it doesn’t need, and is anxious to know how much ice time has been returned so that it can be redistributed. It’s Paul’s job to make sure he holds onto ice time for as long as he can (within reason) to ensure that only the right amount of ice, if any, is given back. It’s also Paul’s job to answer to the municipality when they want hard figures that he’s not yet ready to give. That’s a big ask of any volunteer, but he does it because, as he says, “It’s for the good of the league. When our credo is ‘every kid gets to play,’ we need to make sure we have the ice. We do it for the kids, first.”

At least some things remain constant. Paul is used to working with Orono and Newcastle, who are separate organizations that schedule their own practices and games, and has become accustomed to merging multiple schedules into one. Also, the younger divisions will never be on the ice in the later time slots, so he knows to work the older divisions into those spaces first to open up as many age-appropriate ones as possible. With these and other consistent factors, Paul has built up quite a refined process for putting the schedules together. Of note, it’s a process that has taken years to develop.

At the end of it all, Paul is confident in the schedules he builds. “I do make mistakes,” he admits. “Sometimes you get it done, and you don’t realize a team is missing a practice. So there is that element of human error. But if I know something’s wrong, I’ll fix it. At the end of the day I have to accept that you can’t make everyone happy, but I always aim to make as many people happy as possible.”

Paul
Paul Jefferson, Ice Scheduler, CRHL

Paul Jefferson is just one of the many dedicated volunteers at the Clarington Recreational Hockey League spending their free time to open up opportunities like local hockey for our kids. Thanks, Paul, for all you do to make sure our kids can play.