From the bad ideas dept.: ASA forcing coaches to take their instructional program

I know this is true in the Chicago area, and based on what I’ve heard from other coaches I think it’s universal: the ASA is now requiring at least one coach from every team to complete their ACE program if the team plans to compete in state/metro/national tournaments. Here in the Chicago area, the Metro tournament is a requirement if you’re planning on going to any of the various nationals, so if you have any ambition about playing on a bigger stage you have to go there.

I have no idea what ASA thinks they’re doing. This is an organization that is facing increasing pressure from rival sanctioning bodies such as FAST, NSA, USSSA and others. Rather than reacting like a regular company would to competitive market pressures and becoming more customer-friendly, if anything this move is making them less customer-friendly.

I wonder how many coaches are going to look at it and say “forget it, I’ll just focus on another organization?” The top programs won’t of course, but you don’t build a business solely by focusing on the captive audience. Any business, any religion, any anything where people have a choice knows you have to make what you’re offering attractive to the newbies and non-believers so you can increase your ranks. That’s marketing 101. But this move goes beyond that.

Our Mundelein Thunder organization is an ASA “shop,” so we’re planning to do it. But trying to Git R done has been a nightmare. One of my fellow coaches has been trying to get it organized. He went to the ASA site to find out what to do, and all they say is contact your local commissioner. He contacted our local commissioner (who probably has better things to do than this) and it took a while to get a response. When it finally came, it was a link to a login that requires a user name and password that wasn’t furnished. We’re still trying to find out if we have to attend a class somewhere, go online, get something in the mail, whatever.

The father of one of my pitching students lives in Wisconsin, and he said there was one class being offered for the year there. All the coaches went to somebody’s house and gathered around a small computer or TV screen to watch a DVD. Then they took the test. He said his understanding was if he missed that class (which he almost did) he was out of luck for the year. For the year! Plenty of time for him to find other nationals to attend.

But here’s the kicker. I was ACE-certified several years ago. In fact, I went through two levels of it. I would’ve done more but ASA never notified me that it was time for the next one and I just plain forgot. The training itself was so rudimentary as to be laughable. Even a first-year coach could probably pass the test without watching the video. So there really isn’t much benefit, unless they’ve changed it. You’ll learn a lot more by attending the National Sports Clinics, or the NFCA Coach’s College. As for the general (non-softball) coaching principles, you’re better off attending an ASEP class.

I’m told there is a lot of focus on the rules. Hmmmm. I wonder if the umpires are being required to take the same class? I can’t tell you how many umpires I’ve run into at ASA-sanctioned tournaments who don’t know basic ASA rules such as those for courtesy runners. Twice in 2007 I was told I couldn’t use a courtesy runner for a pitcher or catcher with less than two outs, even though the rule book clearly states you can. That’s just one example off the top of my head. There are others as well. When you argue this is the ASA rule the umpire doesn’t want to hear it, and doesn’t want to consult a rule book, even in the dugout, so you wind up getting screwed.

Now imagine ASA is going to train more coaches to know the rules. They’re just asking for trouble. Before they worry about the coaches they ought to seriously look at how they’re certifying umpires. Don’t even get me started on enforcement of pitching rules.

Bottom line is this just looks like a bad idea on many levels. It may have good intentions, but we all know what the road to Hell is paved with.

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