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                                   Mabelvale Youth Association  -  Mabelvale, Ar

                           

 

 

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We all like to think of ourselves as pretty capable at our day jobs, but when it comes to coaching kids in baseball or softball, lack of experience can be a source of frustration and bad feelings all around.

While it helps to have played a lot of baseball or softball yourself at some point in your life, it's not a prerequisite to being a good coach. Just like in the sport itself, coaching has certain fundamentals.

Your two biggest concerns when coaching kids at the lower levels (pre-teen) should be :

A) Make the experience fun

That means fun for the kids, and fun for you too. If everyone is having a good time, you're doing something right.

B) Teach the game

There is a multitude of books on the finer points of coaching, teaching skills, drills, etc. Take the time to read these, but first, you must know how to teach.

One rule of thumb when talking to a young player one-on-one (as simple as this sounds) is to not stand over him or her and talk down to him or her. Bend over so you're face level with him or her, or even kneel down, so he or she is even with you or a little above. It's amazing how this will prevent intimidation, and rivet his attention.

Keep in mind that your highest goal at this level is to instill a love for the game in your players, so they'll want to continue playing for years to come. Helping them to succeed at the basics of the game, so that they're better at the end of season than when they began, is more important than any number of wins.

There are three more items of prime importance to be effective as a coach, which makes for a more successful (not to be confused with winning ) team:

A) Require respect

Kids sense a pushover, and will take advantage and walk all over you. You'll get no drills done, no practices will be productive, games will be sloppy. The key is to set the ground rules right at the start, preferably in writing. Point out what you expect from your team, and what they can expect from you. And stick to it. Just like you must follow through with your threats of punishment with your own kids when they push it too far, you must be gentle but firm with a team.

B) Be prepared

Like a good scout, a good coach is prepared. That means you come to practices with a specific plan as to what you will be working on that day, right down to the drills and stations.

Always have your equipment, plenty of practice balls, as well as first aid, an ice chest with chilled soft blue ice (for bumps and bruises) and even a cooler of ice water for hot days.

For game days, have your line-up and fielding rotations figured out the night before and charted on paper. Have a few alternatives in case some kids don't show, or get hurt. There's nothing more annoying than a team taking the field with seven players as the coach scrambles madly to figure out who played three innings, who played all game yesterday, who sits, who replaces who....while everyone stands around and waits.

C) Communicate with parents

The parents can make coaching a joy or a chore. Distribute a roster with phone numbers. Assign duties, such as concession duty, work days, etc. Let them know your game and practice schedules, enforce pick-up times (you're not a babysitter), and have them voice concerns to you, not behind your back.

Keep these simple concepts in mind this coming season, and you'll do fine.

Good luck!

 

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Last modified: April 04, 2005