So You’re The New Baseball Coach
So you’re the new coach. Ok, now what?
Coaching a team sure seemed like a good idea, maybe even easy…until you started thinking and getting into it deeper. All those players, parents, the draft, practices…and those game decisions…ugh.
Maybe coaching 3rd base might not be so easy...
What were you thinking?
Rule #1 – Relax, It will work out!
You’ll probably even turn out to be good at it.
How do I know? Why would I think this?
Well, first you are searching for information. Websites like ours with articles like this are sure signs you are at the very least trying, instead of sitting on your hands, ducking your head and relying on your Little League experiences from long ago. And because of…
Rule #2 – You will be organized…
And yes, you will have the time to do it. As a matter of fact, there is an article that I strongly urge you to read. It is about how to organize your team and yourself and is titled, “Plan To Succeed.”
Please finish this article before you jump there (I’ll 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, the opposite is true.
Personally, I think that some of the best things about youth baseball are the adults! I also think they are some of the worst things about youth baseball. I mean this because as we get older…we tend to forget how to have fun and play games. Life just does that to us. Here we are trying to solve problems on a baseball field like we do at work…UGH!
We get tight, our kids play tight. We say ugly things in the dugout…well, you get the picture…
Let’s move on (This lesson either hits the mark or it doesn’t).
One final 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 just happens to be the best game ever!)
Rule #4 – You are here for every player!
If you are in this game for any reason other than those kids… every one of them…
GET OUT NOW! (This was paraphrased and stolen from a speech given by a friend, Gordie Gillespie, the winningest coach in college baseball history! He is absolutely correct!)
You will get more joy with that attitude than you can imagine!
Every player who doesn’t share your last name is not here for the entertainment and support of you and your son! (You have probably seen it happen).
Coaching your own child is a trick indeed.
I hope you will truly enjoy it (though it can test your mettle). But, I can assure you that embracing an entire team of kids can really give you an idea of how good a coach and person you might be or can be!
Personally, I can tell you that the early influences of my youth coaches are indelibly stamped on me…That’s how important you are.
Rule #5 – Winning is important…It is just not everything.
I determined something many years ago.
Take this for what it’s worth…
Few 10 year olds have a grasp of the concept of winning!
Half of the 11 year olds have a grasp of the concept of winning!
Almost all 12 year olds have a grasp of the concept of winning!
Every? All? No. I guess I wouldn’t include all players on some hot team of 9 year olds who travel the country vying for the many “World Series” out there (how many worlds are there anyway).
Those teams and families have adopted a lifestyle. It’s a language spoken at the dinner table. They are probably more the exception than the rule anyway.
You simply need to have a strong grasp of the competitive nature of your league and your team.
Rule #6 - You will be the boredom police.
Looking for a great way to turn a perfectly good baseball player into a soccer player? (God forbid)… BORE HIM!
A young boy begins his day by opening his eyes with a first thought of…”HEY, WHAT’S FUN TODAY!”
And we dare to bore them? Remember my comment on how we tend to want to solve problems in baseball as we do in the office?
They are kids. It’s a game…and games are fun…
It’s fun OR THEY FIND A GAME THAT IS MORE FUN!
Rule #7 – Ask for help from other parents.
Women are right…Men do not ask for directions. We need to be rock steady and have all the answers…yada, yada!
Personally, I have never had a coach come up to me after a game and ask me anything on how or why I played a situation the way I did! I MEAN NEVER!
WHY? Because this is baseball…and we are guys. We played Little League (20 TO 30 YEARS AGO). We watch Pro Baseball on TV…UGH. What a bad idea to try and teach a group of kids to play the same way the greatest players in the game do.
So, we don’t ask…and that cheats our kids.
Aside from reaching for information such as reading articles such as this and finding videos, books, etc (did you check out our video and book library?)…
Why not incorporate and embrace some of the parents.
Have a parents-only meeting for 10 minutes after one of your very first practices.
Let them know who you are and how you envision the season (in general).
A team mom is worth her weight in the dozen roses you had better buy her at the end of the season.
Make note of the dad(s), hopefully plural, who hang around the fence during practices. Many really want you to ask for their help. They don’t want to horn in so it’s up to you to ask because they may not!
Some parents are better served as your scorebook keeper instead of your BP (batting practice) pitcher.
Another may be most comfortable helping you set up the dugout and raking and lining the field before games.
Yet others really want to be on the field hitting fungoes or infield.
The bottom line is that I believe that adults play better when they work together…and as a byproduct, you will all be richer for actually developing relationships with your new-found friends.
WARNING: There is one rule I highly recommend…
You are the coach, they are the team's parents.
One guy has the final say so. You, the coach!
This is a no lobbying area, disputes are handled away from the kids and the action and decisions of management (you) are final. There are no politics, just honest decisions made by you…the coach!
Note: Baseball is the greatest game in the world to second-guess!
One Last Important Suggestion Regarding Communication:
Get all of your parent’s email addresses and use them for two things:
Communicate – Communicate – Communicate. Not necessarily lengthy, just frequent.
Subscribe all your player’s parents (and maybe players, if they are a bit older) to our Baseball Tips Newsletter. It is a quick read 2 times each month. We do not rent or sell their names and just want to supply our 14,680 (at last count) baseball families with some added knowledge and fun.
Of course, they can delete us easily if they so choose. (You can add them individually. The sign-up box is just below our logo on the www.baseballtips.com home page).
Rule #8 –Good Teams Practice Well!
Every league is different. Some restrict practice times. Others have limited fields. Some coaches have limited time as well. HAVE A PLAN!
Plan tomorrow's practice today. Plan next week, this week.
Planning is the operative word. I don’t think that any drill should take longer than 20 minutes! (OK, excluding BP – more on that later).
TIME ANYTHING & EVERYTHING!
If you will keep a watch, you can get their blood flowing even more. More as in, “OK guys, 10 more minutes, let's do it right. Pick up the pace…Ok, 5 more minutes…Keep it going”…you get the idea.
And it becomes more fun!
The blood is pumping, the kids are focusing. Just be sure to tailor it to your player’s age and skill level.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW!
Teach something new each practice.
As importantly, review and drill a particular skill taught in a previous practice using one of your 20 minute segments.
Quality repetitions are vital and incredibly important!
Too many coaches teach a skill and then next season, they teach it again; once a year…need it or not! If you think about how counter-productive this is, you will never do it…or do it again.
ARMS – ARMS – ARMS!
There are more throwing errors than fielding errors!
It may not sound correct and it is not my opinion…It is a fact!
Teach proper throwing and work on arms every practice.
Have them constantly throwing to or at a target.
(The exception will be when teaching one of your pitchers a new pitch.) You begin by throwing to a tarp, net or fence. The reasoning is that accuracy will not be great until a skill like a new pitch is learned. Accuracy will follow proper mechanics and you can avoid unnecessary shakes in confidence.
THE LAST 10 MINUTES OF PRACTICE IS JUST FUN!
Preferably doing something that requires players to use oxygen. Leave them with their tongues hanging out. I learned this many years after I began coaching.
Many players think baseball is boring…and that is why they leave the sport too soon. They are kids…and kids want to run, play games, have contests, run races, hit balls, etc. You know…fun stuff.
Well, drills can get boring if that’s all there is to a practice. But drills are really important, vital lifelines to improvement and success of both player and team…or not!
But let’s not forget the fun aspect and the prime reason most kids play. (It is play ball, not work ball, right?)
Here are some of my ideas. (Do not limit yourself to these, got it?)
Relay Races – ½ of team at home plate and ½ at 2nd base with hats on backwards. 1 simple relay race. Then 1 race backwards, then 1 final race for all the marbles, running sideways (or heel to heel side-kicks like basketball teams do....you may have some better variations).
Ball In The Trash Can – Find a trash barrel from the dugout or near the practice field and place it on home plate on its side. Now take your team to a distance where most all players can throw to the target at least on a bounce or two.
Now toss them a short fly ball where they can make like they are the centerfielder throwing the runner out at home. They ooh, aah and cheer on close throws (there are always a bunch of these). I have no idea why but they really like to do this…Go Figure!
Home Run Derby – Find a spot where about ½ or more of the team can hit one over the fence and soft toss 3 per each player (soft toss, also known as flip drills, is the drill our automated Wheeler Dealer machine does automatically. It can be seen on our training aids page if you are still unsure how to do this.) Have a second round, then have a finals. Maybe the player who comes in 2nd gets to go after all the homers. Watch ‘em cheer for each other.
Basketball Game – If there’s a court or a hoop nearby, simply produce a hidden basketball AFTER dividing them up into teams. Announce a 10 minute game. Watch ‘em go. Totally unexpected…and a lot of fun
Water Balloon Toss – Pick a hot day and have a supply of filled baseball-sized water balloons (make sure they are small balloons to begin with so they remain taut). Partner them off in lines (like you do when warming up their arms) with players about 6 to 8 feet apart and with a partner on one row having the balloon.
USE 2 HANDS!
Express to players that in baseball, every ball you can catch with 2 hands should be caught with 2 hands. Also, display how the pinkie fingers of both hands should be near and parallel to each other with hands being parallel and held below the waist.
Explain that all infielders must have soft hands. This begins when both arms are outstretched (elbows are not locked) and then cradled toward the body as the underhand toss comes toward you. Water balloons will require special focus on soft hands to keep from breaking.
On coaches command…
Player underhand tosses to his partner who catches and holds the balloon. His partner then tosses it back to his partner.
After 2-4 rounds, teams with a full balloon step 2 feet further apart.
Then 2 steps further apart!
Keep going until you have a winner.
Once you have a winner, coaches produce as many extra full balloons as there are coaches and the winning team gets to “blast the coaches.” Yes, turn around coach…and do use typical precautions as boys will be boys. (Now you tell me that 10 or 20 years from now those players won’t remind you of how much fun that was?!)
It’s not all about baseball…but it is all about fun!
Thanks for reading.
Best of luck this season.
Now get out there and Have Some Fun!
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About the Author
John Peter, presently aged 50 something, is a lifelong student of the
greatest game on earth.
After being asked to find a more suitable occupation at age 26, many seasons
after donning his first uni at age 7, he has transcended his skills into the
much more important role of coach and especially as an instructor! He prides
himself as never having charged any player or coach for a single lesson!
Coach John Peter