You just finished an exhausting 20-25 game schedule with a few rainy makeup games at inopportune times. The season has had it all, including controversies between other teams, your own parents, league board members, and other headaches. Your reward for dealing with all of this and leading your team to the league championship is to coach the 11-12-year-old All Star team. Think your phone rang a lot during the season? You haven’t seen or heard anything yet. Your first duty as a coach is to inform your spouse that your long awaited vacation will have to be postponed because your league needs you. You also mention the postponement of the repair of your washing machine because, with All Stars, the laundry room is now available 24 hours a day.
Choosing your All Star League team can be an incredibly emotional time that can lead to feelings of pain that stretch beyond the season, and sometimes for years to come. Some leagues have incorporated the fact that players vote for part of the All Star team. Many leagues ask coaches to decide at a meeting hosted by the league commissioner (or player agent). The first priority is to decide how many players to draft in the team. If your league’s charter defines this number, then this is what you should follow. Otherwise, this decision must be made at this meeting. Questions need to be discussed, such as: is it required by the league’s charter that everyone play; and how much should they play? This problem can become a headache, as the replacement of players will sometimes be a distraction for the coach in charge during the match. Usually, before this meeting, the head coach has his assistant coaches assigned by the league. This can be a problem because sometimes coaches would rather take their regular season assistants rather than two other assigned head coaches they have never worked with before. I would prefer the latter even though you’re discussing strategies with two other people that you may have grown to hate over the season. During All Stars, the bench coaches who were opponents during the year always seem to get along as long as the team continues to play.
Once the coaches and the team are formed, it is imperative that the head coach (or director) organize a parent meeting. This reunion is even more important than the parent reunion of your regular season team. The meeting should be mandatory and last no more than 10 or 15 minutes. The key points the coach should emphasize with parents is that since your child is an All Star they are expected to play any position on the court (except maybe pitcher and catcher). The point is, many players have been their team’s shortstops throughout the season and are invited to play the outfield. You need to assure parents (and even gamers) that it is imperative that all nine positions are equally important. Other points to discuss should be playing time. I always told parents that I would not be popular as a coach at the end of the All Stars for all families, but that the league had told me to. ‘use my judgment whether they think it’s right or wrong. I always stress that I can only guarantee the minimum game time required and that you should take this into account if you plan to cancel vacation plans for these All Star games.
The practices should be carried out in several ways. You will probably have the batting order and field positions in your mind. I urge all coaches to mix things up in practices and try out players in different positions. There will be some unexpected minor absences and you should be ready for that as a coach.
The All Star games themselves can be one of the strongest tensions in youth sports. Neighboring leagues will be present and players will expect some nervousness. You can cut your regular warm-ups short and take the team to the field and play any kind of silly game you can think of. I’ve always used a game where I split the team in half, and with a hard ball for each team, teammates have to pass the ball to each other using only their necks. This meaningless game helps relax players, and for 11 and 12 year olds it might be the best warm-up for them.
All stars are the strengths of certain players and leagues. Aside from all the potential issues and arguments, if your All Star squad ends up having a great winning streak, there is no such thing. Going far in any tournament will take a little luck. If your team is eliminated, this is where, as a coach, you have to give them the ‘ultimate’ pep talk. Now some teams continue to play in other local tournaments which is a great way to end the season.