Coaching Dilemma – Athlete Dilemma

By Dean Hebert

The conflicts between club coaches and school coaches are well-known. On rare occasions the school coach also acts as the club coach for their athletes. However, far more likely the club and school systems are in competition with each other.

  • What philosophy on training prevails?
  • How are competitions treated? Is one put above the other?
  • Are training sessions cooperatively designed in the student-athletes’ best interest or is it a tug of war on what the focus will be?
  • Do one-a-day workouts become two-a-days or three-a-days as a result of coach and team demands?
  • What role do parents play? When and how should they intercede and advocate for their youth?
  • When there are opposing views – who settles them and how are they settled?
  • Is it about egos?
  • Is the athlete penalized playing time or positions if their loyalty to a team is questioned?
  • Is the athlete’s best interest being served?

Let’s just take one example of Mary Cain who lives in Bronxville NY. Not out of high school, this 16-year-old is an elite runner who sought out the highest level of coaching. She is coached by Alberto Salazar in Oregon. She no longer runs for her high school team. She has set national youth and high school records at distances from 800m to 5000m.

A talented high school soccer player who plays both club and school ball: Different coaches. Different approaches. Different training philosophies. Different priorities. Conflicting tournament schedules. The club coach clearly states the only way you will be recognized is through high level club competition. The school coach has college connections and insists on team and school loyalty. (i.e. If you don’t come to practice you don’t play.)

1. Situations are not all created equal. How many athletes are at a Mary Cain level – one. Odds are your youth athlete is not at that level. That means you will more than likely have to deal with several coaches along the way and some of them simultaneously.

2. Only 2% of high school athletes go to college on scholarship. And only .06% eventually go professional – and that only counts the major sports. If you are in an Olympic sport (like track & field) the odds are far worse.

Why do I bring this up? We have to put sports competition – and teams and coaches in the process – into perspective. This helps us deal with competing issues and contentious situations.


  • Focus on what the athlete and parents want; not what you want.
  • Have factual objective data, not your opinion, to back up your side. Whether that is how to train, what competitions are needed, what the future possibilities for the athlete are.
  • Let go of your egos. This is not about you. This about the athlete.
  • Communicate with the other coach and collaborate to make the athlete the best he or she can be. (This is rare but I’ve experienced it.)

Parents & Youth Athletes

  • Parents, focus on your youth athlete. This is not about you. It is not about the coach.
  • Keep perspective. It is not about potential. That is what dreams are about. The odds are clearly that one more team membership, tournament, practice or cross-training session will not get them to the next level.
  • Do not confuse “giving my youth every opportunity possible” with trying to “make something that isn’t there” or “giving my youth something I never had”.
  • Physical health and mental well-being should be the overriding objectives.
  • Keep open lines of communication. By high school the athlete’s wishes should carry more weight than a parents’ or coach’s in this scope.
  • Parents – ultimately you must be a voice of reason. Leave your personal feelings aside (easier said than done.) Use real data (not opinion) if you want to sway your youth in a direction. What is to be gained or lost? This is a learning opportunity for your youth about decision-making and accepting responsibility and consequences (unknown – good or bad).
  • Too much, too soon yields burned out athletes. They not only do not reach any hypothetical potential, they often walk away from the sport all together.
  • Remember that this is not a life-or-death decision.

I coach both club and high school. My perspective is that your high school years are supposed to be enjoyed. Being part of a school team is something almost every athlete looks back on fondly. You are in high school only once. It is where your friends and school-mates are. It does not have to be an either-or situation. If your club and school coaches cooperate you could have a fulfilling time with both. If not, then there is opportunity to take part in club sports when your high school sport is out-of-season. The one thing I know is that when egos and emotions are set aside and the youth athlete’s interest is served – we will have done right by them.

Dean Hebert M.Ed. MGCP is a certified mental games coach specializing in youth athletes and youth coaches. He has authored several books and hundreds of articles. He works with individuals, teams and coaches in all sports as well as performs guest speaking engagements on mental toughness. His website is

Hitting Situations and Strategy

By Doug Bernier

Situational hitting is important slice of a balanced offensive attack.  Understanding baseball situations and how to hit strategically in those situations set you up for a productive at bat, even if you don’t get a hit.

Effective situational hitting can keep pressure on the defense and push runners around to score even if the offense isn’t fully clicking.

Runner at 1st base with less than two outs (most likely 0 outs)
Potential bunt
The direction of our bunt will be towards first base

Potential hit and run
When a “hit and run” is signaled to you the hitter, it means the runner is going so your number one responsibility is to swing and make contact with the baseball no matter where it is thrown – unless it is going to bounce in front of the plate.

If the baseball is going to bounce we are betting that the catcher won’t be able to block the ball, pick it up and throw out the runner that is stealing on the pitch.

Next we want to hit a ground ball, the runner is stealing the base and we have to protect him.  If we hit the baseball in the air there is a potential for a double play, or at least the runner gets back to 1st but we make an easy out.

Ideally we would like to hit it to the opposite middle infielder.

*If right handed, hit a ground ball to the second baseman.
*If left handed, we want a ground ball to the shortstop.

We want to hit it to the off middle infielder because he likely will be the person covering the second base bag on a steal, so there will be a big hole open for you to hit through.

However, it is more important to hit it on the ground anywhere than try to for the hole and end up with a pop fly getting caught.

If the pitcher has a good sinker (especially righty on righty, or lefty on lefty) it may be difficult to put his sinker on the ground to the opposite middle infielder.

*As a righty facing a right handed sinker, it is sinking down and in to the hitter.  The bat is more likely to get under the baseball and end up with a weak pop fly to the 2nd baseman or right fielder than to bat a ground ball the other way.
*In this situation it is probably better to just turn on a sinker and hit a ground ball in the 5-6 hole (in between the shortstop and third baseman).

Hitting behind the runner
When the 1st baseman is holding on the runner at 1st base, the 2nd baseman is in double play depth which brings him a little closer to the 2nd base bag it leaves a huge hole open to the right side of the infield.

This is much easier for a left handed hitter but there are many hits to be had by hitting the baseball in the lane between the 1st and 2nd baseman.

This isn’t so much situational hitting, its more handling the bat and taking what the defense gives you.
Runner at 2nd base with 0 outs (move the runner to 3rd base with less than 2 outs)
Potential bunt situation
The direction of the bunt will be towards third base in this hitting situation.

Hit behind the runner
Hit a grounder to the right side of the runner at 2nd base (toward the 1st or 2nd baseman)

Even if the shortstop fields the baseball and has to move to his left, he will most likely just take the out at 1st base. It is too risky of a throw to make to third base, because of his momentum and that the base runner will be potentially in the way of the throw.

Hit a deep fly ball
You can move the runner up from 2nd to 3rd base by hitting a fly ball deep enough for the runner to tag up and move up a base.

The runner is more likely to tag up if you bat a fly ball to deep center or right field, it is a much further throw.

Runner at 3rd base with less than 2 outs
Potential squeeze situation
As the bunter, wait until the pitcher is about to release the baseball. Square around and just get it on the ground, in fair territory.

This bunt can even go right back to the pitcher. We are taking the out at 1st base for a run.

Infield back
Keep your sights up the middle and hit a ground ball.  Keep the baseball away from the corner infielders (especially the 3rd baseman, sometimes the 1st baseman is really deep and its ok if he has to make the play.)

This is a great situation as a hitter because they are giving you a free RBI, all you need to do is just hit a ground ball toward the middle of the field.

Infield In
In these hitting situations, you need a line drive or fly ball to the outfield so the runner can tag up and score.

Think of driving the ball rather than hitting a fly ball. More people get in trouble by trying to hit a great fly ball that they get a little loopy with their swing and they pop the baseball up in the infield, or they miss it all together.

Most people hit more fly balls to the opposite field and more ground balls to the pull side. Think of driving the baseball middle of the field to the opposite gap, this will give you a good approach for driving the runner in from third base.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins’ AAA team in Rochester, NY. Originally published at

Not serious enough, or just right?

Watching a Little League Majors game yesterday and observed a play where the runner on first took off for second with one out on a pop-fly to the second baseman. The 2B caught the ball on the edge of the grass and then threw it to first to complete the double-play to end the inning. Both the first base coach and player jogged into to the dugout together and the manager pointed at them and said, “You guys!” in a nice way. The kid laughingly said the coach told him to go. The manager jokingly asked the fans if there were any interested in becoming the new first base coach. There were jokes made about not having to come to every practice because not all of the coaches did either. The team ultimately lost the game 5-4. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.  There certainly didn’t appear to be any pressure to win. It looked like everyone on that team was just as relaxed as they could be. Is this how you believe Little League should be? Should there be more intensity or is this just right?

CoachDeck “0-2 Drill”

It should probably be re-named, “0-2 Game” but this is a terrifically-fun drill/game to do with your baseball or softball team. This drill teaches players to avoid striking out, to be able to put the ball in play with two strikes. However it also, simultaneously is a great fielding drill for the entire team. You can get this and all 52 CoachDeck baseball or softball drills in a handy and portable deck of cards you’ll use for years!

Running the best youth baseball practice

If you are coaching a Little League or other youth baseball or softball team, here is another tip to keep in mind for your next practice. Finish every practice with our 4-3-2-1 drill. They won’t like it, but it is great for conditioning, great for base running, excellent to add focus and, most importantly, fosters an environment of “investment” so that every player has put so much into practice throughout the season that they will do nearly anything to make it pay off. And here’s a sub-tip. As a positive reward, throughout practice, reward great efforts, hustle, and heads-up plays by taking one lap off 4-3-2-1. Maybe if they have a good enough practice they won’t even have to do it!

Tips for coaching youth soccer

We’ve offered some pointers this week for coaching youth baseball and softball, many of which can apply to any sport. Our tip for soccer coaches? Spend as much time as possible having young players touch the ball. Drills that involve a lot of standing around or running up and down the field while others control one ball, (a.k.a. scrimmage) do not improve players’ abilities to dribble, pass and shoot. We have some great suggestions for soccer drills you can use to encourage lots of touching and improve technique. Thanks for being a youth soccer coach!

Another tip for coaching youth baseball or softball

Continuing our sort of, “mini-series” on tips for coaching youth softball or baseball, here is our third of the week: Prepare players in advance for things that will happen at games instead of trying to coach them after. In other words, a good coach will anticipate situations that may arise once the ball is put in play and runners are on the bases rather than try to instruct when it is too late. A great way to do this is with one of the drills in our baseball or softball deck called “Live Situations.” Do this drill at each practice with your team and you’ll have yourself and the team prepared for any eventuality, which means your players will know what to do when it happens instead of being scolded for not getting it right.


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