On April 28, 2016

Making the grade

By Dom Cioffi

I take coaching seriously. Because of this, most of the kids who play or have played on my teams probably think I’m too serious (this includes my own son).

But I look at it this way: if you’re going to play a sport and you want to improve, there’s only one way to do it. And that one way is not to just practice, but to practice correctly.

I’m also not coaching very young children who absolutely should be allowed to enjoy any sport without too much restriction. I’ve always focused on the middle school level where discipline and effort should start to be enforced.

Therefore, I tend to be fairly demanding when teaching. I do not tolerate inattentiveness and I have little patience for horseplay. The way I see it, anything other than my players’ undivided attention only wastes my time and theirs.

With that said, at the beginning of every season that I coach (both baseball and basketball), I always inform both the players and their parents of my philosophy in coaching: I’m not interested in winning; I’m interested in improving. And if you’re joining my team for any other reason other than to get better, then you’re probably on the wrong team.

I then zero-in on what deficits exist, establish a baseline to work from, and begin to prepare drills that will force improvement. My goal is to emphasize repetition to the point of little to no thought so when a game situation occurs, muscle memory kicks in and the action convenes without delay.

I carry this philosophy throughout the season, striving to make my players better both individually and as a team. And when one of them executes something that we’ve worked on, no one revels in that success more than me.

I also don’t mind anyone failing as long as they are trying 100 percent. If one of my players fails, but is still pushing himself to his full ability, then my encouragement and positivity continue unabated. But if I see anything less than 100 percent effort, I’m going to call them out.

My son knows this more than anyone.

He hates it when I tell him that he’s not putting in enough effort. But if he asks me how he’s doing and he looks to be holding back, I’m going to be honest, whether he likes what I have to say or not.

In fact, my son and I have a ritual after every contest where we converse honestly about how the game unfolded. Generally, I ask him what he thought of his and his team’s performance, and then when he’s finished, I’ll add in my observations.

When it’s my turn to talk, I make every attempt at motivating him with positive reinforcement, but if his performance was lacking in any way, I do not hold back on the constructive criticism.

I’ve always told my son, “I’m not going to lie to you about how you did because that would never help you get better.” And as long as he tells me that he wants to get better, then I’ll do everything in my power to help him—and that starts with honesty.

I often joke that when my son gets older, he can never complain to a therapist that his father wasn’t involved in his life (he may complain to a therapist that his father was too involved, but I can live with that, given the choice).

In this week’s film, “Midnight Special,” we meet another father who is intensely involved in his son’s life, but in this case, the son is in danger of being abducted by a religious cult who is convinced that the child is their savior.

Starring Kirsten Dunst, Michael Shannon and Adam Driver, “Midnight Special” toes the line between science fiction and mystery as a strange, ambiguous tale of abduction slowly unfolds, leaving the viewer in a constant state of confusion.

Made in the same vein as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Powder” but with half the effectiveness, “Midnight Special” wanted to be transfixing but ultimately lost momentum as the story became misdirected.

I really wanted to like this film, especially after the cryptic set-up. However, the improbable ending never seemed justified, given the process it took to get there.

Check this one out if you’re a fan of intellectual science fiction stories and are willing to overlook some major plot holes. Otherwise, steer clear. And if you’re going in expecting gratuitous alien scenes, think again. This is not that kind of science fiction film.

An apathetic “C+” for “Midnight Special.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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