So you are the new coach. Ok, now what?
Coaching a team seemed like a good idea, maybe even easy … until you started to think about it and dive deeper into it. All these players, parents, the draft, the practices … and these game decisions … ugh.
Maybe 3rd base coaching might not be that easy …
What were you thinking?
Rule # 1 – Relax, it will work!
You will probably even be good at it.
How can I know? Why would I think that?
Well, you are looking for information first. Websites like ours with articles like this are some of the signs that you are at the very least trying, instead of sitting on your hands, ducking your head, and relying on your Little League experiences. long ago. And because of …
Rule # 2 – You will be organized …
And yes, you will have time to do it. In fact, there is an article that I urge you to read. It’s all about how to organize yourself and your team and is titled “Plan to Succeed”.
Please complete this article before you go there (I include the link at the end of this article).
Rule # 3 – You will have fun!
Look, the more fun you have, the more fun your kids will have … and yes, it’s the opposite.
Personally, I think some of the best things about youth baseball are adults! I also think these are some of the worst things in youth baseball. I mean this because as we get older … we tend to forget how to have fun and play games. Life does just that to us. Here we try to solve problems on a baseball field like we do at work … UGH!
We are tight, our children are playing tight. We say ugly things in the canoe … well, you see the picture …
Let’s move on (this lesson affects or not).
One last thought (from someone who is privileged to be in baseball for 350 days each year) …
IT’S JUST BASEBALL! BASEBALL IS JUST A GAME!
(It turns out the best game ever!)
Rule # 4 – You are here for every player!
If you are in this game for some reason other than these kids … all of them …
GET OUT NOW! (This was paraphrased and stolen from a speech given by a friend, Gordie Gillespie, the most successful coach in college baseball history! He’s absolutely right!)
You will get more joy with this attitude than you can imagine!
Every player who doesn’t share your last name is not there for the entertainment and support of you and your son! (You probably saw it coming).
Training your own child is indeed a trick.
Hope you really enjoy it (although it may test your courage). But, I can assure you that embracing a whole team of kids can really give you a sense of just how good a coach and a person you could or can be!
Personally, I can tell you that the first influences of my young coaches have left an indelible mark on me … That’s how important you are.
Rule # 5 – Winning is important … That’s not all.
I determined something several years ago.
Take this for what it’s worth …
Few 10 year olds understand the concept of winning!
Half of the 11-year-olds understood the concept of winning!
Almost every 12 year old has understood the concept of winning!
Each? All? No. Guess I wouldn’t include all the players in a hot 9-year-old squad who roam the country vying for the many “World Series” (how many worlds are there anyway).
These teams and families have adopted a way of life. It is a language spoken at the table. They are probably more the exception than the rule anyway.
You just need to have a good understanding of the competitive nature of your league and your team.
Rule # 6 – You will be the boredom police.
Are you looking for a great way to turn a great baseball player into a soccer player? (God forbid) … PIERCE IT!
A young boy starts his day by opening his eyes with a first thought of … “Hey, THIS IS FUN TODAY!”
And we dare to bore them? Remember my comment on how we tend to want to solve problems in baseball the way we do in the office?
They are children. It’s a game … and games are fun …
It’s fun OR THEY FIND A MORE FUN GAME!
Rule # 7 – Get help from other parents.
The women are right … The men do not ask for directions. We need to be stable and have all the answers … yada, yada!
Personally, I have never had a coach come to me after a game and ask me anything about how or why I played a situation like I did! I NEVER WANT!
WHY? Because it’s baseball … and we’re guys. We played Little League (20-30 years ago). We are watching Pro Baseball on TV … UGH. What a bad idea to try to teach a group of kids to play the same way the bigger players in the game do.
So, we are not asking … and it is cheating on our children.
Besides looking for information like reading articles like this and finding videos, books etc. (have you checked our library of videos and books?) …
Why not integrate and kiss some of the parents.
Hold a parent-only meeting for 10 minutes after one of your very first practices.
Let them know who you are and how you see the season (in general).
A team mom is worth her weight in the dozen roses you’d better buy her at the end of the season.
Note the dad (s), hopefully plural, hanging around the fence during practice. Many really want you to ask for their help. They don’t want to honk so it’s up to you to ask because they can’t!
Some parents are better served as a score book keeper instead of your BP (batting practice) pitcher.
Another may be more comfortable helping you set up the canoe, rake and line up the pitch before games.
Still, others really want to be in the field to kick mushrooms or in the field.
Ultimately, I believe adults play better when they work together … and as a byproduct you will all be richer for actually developing relationships with your new friends.
PLEASE NOTE: there is one rule that I highly recommend …
You are the coach, they are the parents of the team.
A guy has the last word. You, the coach!
This is not a lobbying area, disputes are handled away from children and the action and decisions of the management (you) are final. There is no politics, just honest decisions made by you … the coach!
Note: Baseball is the best guessing game in the world!
One last important suggestion regarding communication:
Get all of your parents’ email addresses and use them for two things:
Communicate – Communicate – Communicate. Not necessarily long, just frequent.
Subscribe all of your players’ parents (and maybe the players, if they’re a little older) to our baseball tips newsletter. It’s a quick read twice a month. We don’t rent or sell their names and just want to provide our 14,680 baseball families (at last count) with additional knowledge and fun.
Of course, they can remove us easily if they want. (You can add them individually. The registration area is just below our logo on the http://www.baseballtips.com home page).
Rule # 8 – Good teams train well!
Every league is different. Some restrict practice times. Others have limited fields. Some coaches also have limited time. HAVE A PLAN!
Plan tomorrow’s practice today. Plan for next week, this week.
Planning is the key word. I don’t think an exercise should take more than 20 minutes! (OK, except BP – more on that later).
ALL AND EVERYTHING TIME!
If you keep a watch, you can spill their blood even more. More like, “OK guys, 10 more minutes, let’s get it right. Pick up the pace … Ok, 5 more minutes … Keep going” … you get the idea.
And it gets more fun!
The blood pumps, the children concentrate. Just make sure to adapt it to the age and skill level of your player.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW!
Teach something new with each practice.
Equally important, review and hone a particular skill taught in a previous practice using one of your 20 minute segments.
Quality rehearsals are vital and extremely important!
Too many coaches teach a skill and the next season they teach it again; once a year … need or not! If you think about how counterproductive this is, you’ll never do it … or never do it again.
WEAPONS – WEAPONS – WEAPONS!
There are more launch errors than field errors!
It may not sound correct and it is not my opinion … It is a fact!
Learn to throw correctly and to work the weapons with each practice.
Have them constantly thrown at or at a target.
(The exception will be when you teach one of your pitchers a new pitch.) You start by throwing at a tarp, net, or fence. The reasoning is that accuracy will not be great until a skill like new land is learned. The precision will follow proper mechanics and you can avoid unnecessary jerks with confidence.
THE LAST 10 MINUTES OF PRACTICE ARE JUST FUN!
Preferably do something that forces players to use oxygen. Leave them with their tongues hanging out. I learned this many years after I started coaching.
Many players think baseball is boring … and that’s why they quit the sport too early. They are kids … and kids want to run, play games, have competitions, run races, hit balls, etc. You know … funny stuff.
Well, the exercises can get boring if that’s all there is to it. But the exercises are really important, essential for the improvement and the success of the player and the team … or not!
But let’s not forget the fun aspect and the main reason most children play. (It’s playing ball, not working on the ball, right?)
To show creativity!
Here are some of my ideas. (Don’t limit yourself to these, understood?)
Relay races – ½ team at home and ½ at 2nd base with hats upside down. 1 single relay race. Then 1 run back, then 1 final run for all balls, running sideways (or heel-to-heel side kicks like basketball teams do … you may have better variations).
Bullet in the Trash Can – Find a Trash Barrel in the dugout or near the training ground and place it on the home plate to the side. Now take your team to a distance where most players can throw to the target at least on a bounce or two.
Now throw them a short ball where they can pretend they’re the midfield throwing the runner home. They ooh, aah and applaud the close throws (there’s always a bunch of them). I don’t know why but they really like to do this … Go figure!
Home Run Derby – Find a place where about half or more of the team can hit one over the fence and gently throw 3 for each player (the soft throw, also known as flip drills, is the exercise that our automated Wheeler Dealer machine performs automatically. can be seen on our training aids page if you still don’t know how.) Hold a second round, then a final. Maybe the player who comes in 2nd after all the homers. Watch them encourage each other.
Basketball Game – If there is a court or hoop nearby, simply produce a hidden basketball AFTER you divide them into teams. Advertise a 10 minute game. Watch them go. Totally unexpected … and a lot of fun
Water Ball Toss – Pick a hot day and have a supply of filled baseball-sized water balloons (make sure they are small balloons to keep them taut) . Pair them in rows (like you do when warming their arms) with players spaced about 6-8 feet apart and with a partner in a row having the ball.
USE 2 HANDS!
Explain to the players that in baseball, each ball you can catch with 2 hands must be caught with 2 hands. Also demonstrate how the ear fingers of both hands should be close and parallel to each other, with the hands parallel and held below the waist.
Explain that all outfielders should have soft hands. It starts when both arms are extended (elbows are not locked), then cradled towards the body as the shot below comes towards you. Water balloons will require special attention on soft hands to avoid breaking.
On order of the trainers …
The player throws from below to his partner who catches and holds the ball. His partner then throws him to his partner.
After 2-4 laps, teams with a full ball move 2 feet away.
Then 2 steps further!
Keep going until you have a winner.
Once you have a winner, the coaches produce as many additional solid balls as there are coaches, and the winning team can “blow up the coaches”. Yes, turn the coach over … and take typical precautions because boys will be boys. (Now you’re telling me that in 10 or 20 years these players won’t remind you how much fun it was ?!)
It’s not all about baseball … it’s fun!
Thanks for reading.
Good luck this season.
Now get out there and have fun!
—- Coach JP