Don’t be THAT coach this weekend

Just a friendly reminder: If you’re coaching youth league games this weekend, it isn’t life and death. Don’t put too much pressure on the kids, or yourself for that matter.  Yes, it would be great to win, but it won’t be the end of the world if the team loses either. Focus on how well they play. Did they execute the things worked on in practice? Did they improve in some way since the last game? Tell them ahead of time that is what you’ll be looking for, not the end result, and everyone will play (and coach) much more relaxed. Set a positive example when interacting with the officials and opposing coaches. Smile. Have some fun. Win or lose, enjoy the time on the field and the weekend.

Good luck!

I can’t get my T-ball player to pay attention

This is an email we received:

Hello. I have read several of your articles and they are very helpful. I wonder if you might help me with a problem I am having. I am coaching Little League, Tee Ball, and it is very difficult to get my players to pay attention. They are 5 and 6 years old and I know they have short attention spans but I also feel like it is my job to teach them the fundamentals of baseball, like how to field a ground ball properly. But when I put them out in positions and hit balls to them most of them can’t stand still long enough to wait their turn. Any advice you have would be appreciated.”

Our response:

Thank you for your note and for volunteering to coach a team in your league. Coaching players at that age it can be very challenging, but also very rewarding. I’d recommend keeping two things in mind, the first of which will probably take care of the second. Number one, at this age, these kids don’t care about improving, about proper technique or fundamentals. They only want to have fun. So a good coach will simply make sure that every practice is a blast, but within a baseball context. A great coach will be able to actually teach fundamentals and make the kids better players, but while making practice something fun and that they look forward to. Our CoachDeck is a deck of cards containing 52 good, fundamental drills, many of which are appropriate even at the T-ball level. Each one contains a “Make it a Game” feature that turns an ordinary drill into a fun and exciting competition kids love. Take a look at Cap Buttons and Triangle Drill, for instance. Around the Horn could be modified to roll the ball instead of throwing it. These and many more are exercises you can do with your players that they’ll enjoy, but will also make them better. Kind of like sneaking vegetables onto a plate of food they love!

And the second thing to keep in mind? Your number one job this year is to make sure that every kid wants to come back and play again next season. If you accomplish nothing else, you’ve done great. And by making every practice fun and filling them with games and competition, you can be sure that not only will your players want to come back to each practice, but they’ll want to return again next year.

Again, thank you for writing and for giving your time to these kids. I promise you, you’ll be glad you did.

Does it matter where children play?

We received an update from the parent who had asked our opinion about the “jerk” who was coaching her 7 year-old son and not giving everyone equal playing time, (read the original post). We are copying her email, and then our response below. Come on, coaches. Let the little guys all play equally!

I wanted to follow-up and let you know that my husband did say something to the coach. He waited until the third game when he was given the line-up and there were kids scheduled to be on the bench for the third game in a row before three of the boys had been on the bench at all. The coach got super defensive, but my husband just told him he couldn’t be part of breaking the rules.  Given that our kid isn’t a kid who has been on the bench a lot – it was difficult to question our motives.
 
Hopefully that fixes the playing time issue. We have decided we aren’t going to say anything about the positions – honestly, I am not really sure if it matters where 7 and 8 year olds are playing as long as they get to play.
 
Thanks again for your input – nice to bounce a sticky situation off of someone who doesn’t know any of the characters.

Our response:

Thanks for the update and I’m glad your husband spoke up. One thing I would disagree with is the importance of where 7 and 8 year-olds play. There is a reason that leagues put a rule into effect about rotating kids into various positions as well. When a kid at that age is relegated to left field every game, two things happen, both of them bad: First, he’s being told in no uncertain terms the coach doesn’t think he’s any good. Next, as you know, at this age, nearly every ball hit is to the infield. Baseball is already a slow-moving and boring game to youngsters. A child playing nothing but outfield might go an entire season and only have a couple balls hit to him all year. Both of these things, (being made to feel you’re no good and being bored all game) may very well lead to children giving up baseball entirely. In my league, with 7 and 8’s we even took it another step and applied fairness to the batting order. There was one order, all season, and it picked up where it left off each new game. In other words, if at the end of the game the #4 hitter was the last batter, then next game the #5 hitter hit first and continued from there. This way every player would get the same number of at-bats throughout the year. I would encourage your husband to stand up for the little boys who are never getting the chance to play infield because it would be a real shame if this guy is the reason some don’t come back next year.

Thanks again for getting back to me and good luck with your boys’ baseball.

How can we make tryouts fair?

Its one of every youth sports parents greatest fears. The high school sports tryout. What if my son or daughter doesn’t make the team? What will happen then? And the worst thing is feeling that there is a chance the tryout might not really showcase the players who are truly most deserving. In sports such as wrestling, tennis and golf, it is more clear-cut. Beat your opponent and you win the spot. Similarly in sports such as track and field and swimming, the fastest time or the farthest throw or best jump wins. It is cut-and-dried. But in baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, football and other sports where there are few measurable components to a child’s performance, the decisions are very subjective. And this is when disappointment, resentment, anger and despair sometimes come in. What ideas do you have to make the process more fair so that there is no politics, nepotism or other factors including the coach just simply getting it wrong, when selecting a team. Send your suggestions to info@coachdeck.com. Do you have a story to tell about a tryout one of your children was involved in? Send that along as well.

Best youth baseball parks

We always hear about or see pictures of beautiful Major League, Minor League or college baseball stadiums. But we also know there are some terrific Little League, PONY, and Babe Ruth complexes out there as well. Do you have photos of your local “field of dreams” you would like to share? Send them to info@coachdeck.com and we’ll post them for all fans of youth baseball and youth baseball parks to see!

Please watch

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What do you want most from your child’s sports experience?

Some thoughts to ponder going into the weekend: We’re wondering what you would like for your child to gain from his or her youth sports experience? Is the goal to simply have fun? To learn about competition and striving to win but learning how to lose? Is it the life lessons that can be learned in sports? Lessons of perseverance, tenacity, the reward of hard work, getting up and dusting yourself off after failure? Do you wish for your child to have social interaction? Learn to be a part of a team? Are you more interested in tangible outcomes such has improving at the sport with an eye on making a high school team, playing in college or even professionally? Let us know your thoughts at info@coachdeck.com. We’d love to have your input.

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