Where Should Your Focus as a Coach Be?

By Miles Noland

“Winning is a part of the system but never trumps player development.” -Former Yankees GM Bob Watson

The statement shows the philosophy of the consistently best major league baseball team in history, the New York Yankees. The Yankees know if they focus on player development they will build a strong system, and a strong system will allow them to compete for championships on a yearly basis, via prospects coming up through the system. These prospects help them win games, or they are traded for other very talented players that plug holes where the Yankees need help at the time.

If this philosophy is good enough for the Yankees, why isn’t good enough for the youth leagues?

I have heard of so many youth baseball coaches talking about a huge summer tournament they just won, or pulling in ringers for a big summer tournament to help them win. Or the big league game that the youth baseball coach brought his best pitcher back in because they needed someone quality to work through some innings.

It takes a mature youth baseball coach that understands player development and keeping kids healthy to make decisions that are better for the player in the long run, and perhaps not as good for the team in the short term. Youth baseball coaches have to realize the huge responsibility they have in leading youth athletes, and they have to put their ego aside and do what is best for the kid. Coaches, just like the Yankees and the rest of the major league teams are doing, need to put the emphasis on player development over winning. This philosophy in youth baseball may not be as exciting or rewarding in the short term, but the reward of this focus and effort comes down the road.

The reason this emphasis on player development is occurring in the major leagues but not on the youth level is a lack of quality coaches. Youth baseball coaches are not adequately trained to be in the position they are in. People that succeed in life are more knowledgeable and take action on that knowledge more than unsuccessful people. It is the same for coaching youth baseball. IF you pride yourself on serving kids and being a good youth baseball coach, you must get coaching yourself to provide the kids the best opportunity possible to develop.

Focus on teaching kids the fundamentals and mechanics of the game, and worry less about how many games you win. Focus on keeping a kid’s arm healthy, rather than stretching him out to win a tight game. Be the mature coach and the one who truly wants the best for the kids long-term, rather than merely making yourself look better by scratching out another win.

75% of kids quit baseball by age 13. Be the youth baseball coach that encourages kids to keep playing, and use baseball to great virtues like strong character, hard work, and the ability to deal with failure.

Miles Noland operates Noland Fitness LLC. His website, www.athletehitting.com is a wealth of information for young hitters.

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