Mark Smartt is in his first season as the Head Coach at Troy University in 2016. He has been the Recruiting Coordinator and lead assistant coach the last 13 years at Troy, his alma mater. He was the head coach at the University of West Alabama for six seasons and this year will be his 27th season as a collegiate coach. Coach Smartt played on two NCAA Division II National Championship teams at Troy in 1986 and 1987.
As a college baseball coach, I have enjoyed the opportunity to recruit many players over the last 20+ years. Throughout my time as a coach, recruiting has changed dramatically in terms of the volume of opportunity young players have today. My generation of players simply did not have the same type of exposure that players have today. I grew up in Georgia and the first time I participated on a baseball field in the fall was my freshman year in college. We practiced and played baseball during the spring and summer months as there were no fall leagues or games available. Now, competitive amateur baseball in the south is available for all age groups most every month of the year.
The last few years I have had the unique experience of watching my son, Chase, move through the amateur baseball system. He is a freshman at Troy University as he graduated high school in 2015. I was not able to see him play often during his high school career as our schedule is quite extensive. As he got older and began to play in summer tournaments that involved high school aged players, I was able to see him play more often as our staff recruits those types of events. Through my experience as a coach, I have a good understanding of the summer teams and coaches which allowed me to help place Chase in the best playing environment for his own development. I will share with you things I believe are important for parents to understand as your son moves through the amateur ranks as a player.
The most difficult job of any parent is to evaluate the playing ability of your own child. I completely understand how difficult that can be as we all believe our own child is terrific in every way. However, it’s important to remove the parental vision and assess the ability correctly in order to place your son in the best environment. Often times it would be more productive to have an outside coach or organization make the assessment to maintain a clear vision toward success. Be careful not to lean on instructors you are paying as they must protect their business investment so their vision is often tilted toward positive information.
Once the proper evaluation is completed and known, do not make the mistake of judging the information in a positive or negative manner. It is a starting point to help move your son in the best possible direction as a player. When you begin choosing a team, you can use the evaluation to properly identify your son’s ability to the potential coach. If there’s an opportunity with a team, both the coach and your son have a great starting point to improve his ability.
Finding the right team with the right coach and environment is an essential element in the overall development of your son and his future. This is the most important role a parent must play as your experience dealing with people and situations can help guide your son’s selection. Often times you will stay with a team or organization for several years as he moves through the amateur system. This was my most important role helping my son during his younger days as a player.
Understanding the parent’s role is not difficult but embracing and implementing that role is often challenging. The role of the parent when dealing with the development of your son is to offer support and motivation to your son throughout the experience. The role does not include the parent being involved with the coaching decisions made towards your son nor does it involve openly questioning the coaching decisions that will negative influence your son and his thoughts. Coaches are NEVER 100% right when making decisions but their intent of the decision is to make the right choice. If you disagree with the decision, that’s not an issue. It only becomes an issue when the parent shares the disagreement with other parents or worse, with your son. He will always listen to you and your tone will help him shape his thoughts when dealing with any coach. Your role is his development is essential in every way but should not interfere with the coach and his methods.
As your son moves through the ranks, his ability level will be established and eventually be in position to secure his future opportunity. By allowing the process to take its natural course of time and development, the college opportunity that may be presented will fit his skill set properly and he will be in position to have success at the college level or beyond. Often times, we as parents expect certain things to happen and if they fall below expectations, we begin to question the process. For example, not every player will be able to play college baseball at the highest level or may not even play college baseball. If either is the case, it does not mean your son OR his coaches have failed in any way. The level of competition he eventually achieves will be appropriate for his ability. At the end of the day, the game of baseball helps produce quality young people through its own adversity and opportunity. Everyone involved, including the parents, will be better for allowing their son to move through the system in the proper fashion.
As I begin to coach my own son for the first time in college, I look forward to continuing his development that other great coaches have been a major part of since he’s been a young player. The only difference now for me is I will have to work extremely hard to keep my parent hat away from my coaching hat. I am confident that we will have a great experience over the next few years and I hope that you and your son can have similar positive experiences through your journey!