"The biggest mistake an athlete can make is to be afraid to make one." - L. Ron Hubbard
One solid theme touches all the bases in Raising an Athlete: How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport by Jack Perconte: "A common thought in circulation says that 'parents ruin it for kids.' This is true in some instances, but it does not need to be that way."
"Coaches are teachers for teams, and parents are teachers of individuals (their kids)," Perconte writes. "They are both in positions of authority and influence, and both have a life-long effect on young athletes. Well, it is true - you are a role model."
Perconte, an infielder, played in 433 games from 1980-1986 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox. Playing for the White Sox had special meaning for Perconte, because it was watching that club as a youth -- he was born in Joliet, Illinois -- that set him on a trail to the big show: "I can still picture a New York Yankee right fielder (probably Roger Maris) making a tremendous throw to home plate against the Chicago White Sox. That may have been the day my dream started."
Such personal remembrances, with short stories and accounts from other athletes, are the foundation for the book. Bullet points after each section are valuable for future reference and excellent teaching tools. Key areas include the nurturing of the athlete's abilities, communication, consistency, perspective, trust and the signs of burnout.
"Do not let others decide for them when they should stop playing," Perconte writes. "When a child does not enjoy a sport, he or she will not want to work at it."
Perconte stresses that sports should be a family affair: "Have your child get help from a knowledgeable or professional instructor. Knowledge creates confidence, which creates success and a happier player. For younger players, parents should attend the instructional sessions to learn what to work on with their sons and daughters."
A powerful section concerns a former student who was struggling in the minor leagues. The player asked, "'Jack, should I try steroids to see if it can help my arm recover and give me a chance at the major leagues again?'"
The advice Perconte gives -- and what ultimately happens professionally to the player -- makes for a personal journey that allows for the introduction of positive performance enhancement. "The first and most important natural performance enhancer is love," he writes.
There are some hilarious antidotes that add a few knuckleballs to the repertoire. Perconte has neat recollections on meeting Fernando Valenzuela for the first time, rooming with "Super Joe" Charboneau for winter ball in Mexico and being a teammate of Joe DeSa. There is also "Hackin' Hal," "Blastin' Bobby" and "Iron Gut." The festivities are captured by former MLB star pitcher Joaquin Andujar: "There is one word in America that says it all about baseball: youneverknow."
The book closes with a guide to travel teams (Chapter 10: "The Times Are a Traveling") and the trek on some rocky infields (Chapter 11: "Teaching Moments and Life Lessons"). "I hope all young athletes have the great experiences they deserve to have as they grow up playing sports," Perconte writes. "These great experiences are only possible if parents and coaches live up to their role model responsibilities.
"Remember, 'For it is what the teachers are themselves.'"
AHP Rating: 4.0 Balls
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