How to Work With Umpires (Part 1)

By Dave Holt

A baseball umpire is in a no-win situation. Every close play and every close pitch are going to have one side or the other upset.

Umps are rarely ever going to measure up. Since we know we are going to be on the bad end of calls much of the time it is best to make the baseball umpire nearly irrelevant.

Do not take up the umpires as big issue. Swallow your medicine and hope you get the next one to go your way.

If the baseball coaches take their focus off the umpires then the ballplayers will follow suit. If the coaches make a big issue of the umpires and consistently belly ache on numerous plays during the games then the baseball players and the baseball parents are going to imitate the baseball coaches.

Baseball Parents and Players: Don’t Worry With the Umps

Right off the bat we are going to make sure our players and baseball parents clearly understand how they are to react to umpires calls.

They are not going to be shaking their heads, pouting, or say anything to the umpire. Me, as the coach, will take care of that. I will say something when it is appropriate to say.

I am really making the player’s job easier. The kids just have to play ball and realize I (the coach) will be the one dealing with the umpires.

Parents: your job is much easier too, you just have to make sure the kids get to and from the games and baseball practices and show your support by enjoying the game.

Mr. Umpire. What is Your Name Sir?

We will not be addressing the umpires as ‘BLUE’. This is just about the most disrespectful way to treat another professional.

We will find out the umpires names and address them by name during the ball games.

Me, as the coach will write the umpires names on my lineup card in the dugout so we all get to know the umpires by name.

At no time will we call the umpires ‘BLUE’.

SIDE NOTE: I did have one private high school baseball team address me as ‘Mr. Blue’. I’m like ‘hey, at least the coach told the kids to throw a Mr. or a ‘Sir’ in there.’

Helping the Umpires With Foul Balls

Introduce yourself and call the umpire by name…NOT ‘BLUE

Any time a baseball umpire behind the plate needs baseballs we will have a baseball player or extra coach hustle out to the homeplate umpire and ‘HAND The UMPIRE’ the baseballs between pitches.

NEVER roll or toss the baseballs to the umpire and make the ump pick them up or try to catch the baseballs.

Watch the professional baseball teams next time you are at a professional baseball game and see how the batboys run the baseballs out to the umps between pitches. Make sure your on-deck hitter shags the foul balls around the backstop area so the umpire does not have to stop the game to pick up the foul balls.

Baseball Parents Your Job is to Do Nothing

Umpire meeting to go over ground rules and exchange line up cards.

If you ask most kids what they want their parents to do during the game, they would say, “NOTHING”. What that means is you do not have to say anything.

The kids just want to know that you enjoyed watching them and you really hope they have fun.

You do not ever COACH from the stands,

YELL encouraging things to your kids when they do well,

or SAY anything to the baseball umpires. Now, that does not mean you cannot clap for your children when they do well.

The main point is that you just have to hand your child to me as the coach, stand back and let me do my job.

Next month: Coach/Umpire Checklist

After finishing his professional playing career Dave spent eleven seasons managing in the Red Sox minor league system helping to develop several major league ballplayers. After leaving the Red Sox Dave managed and recruited in the Independent Professional Baseball leagues. He has also coached collegiate wood bat and high school teams. His site, coachandplaybaseball.com is a wealth of information for baseball players and coaches of all levels.

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To Baseball Dad and Mom (Part 2)

By Dave Holt

Baseball Practice
What is the common denominator that we see in major league baseball players and their offspring? Ever notice how many sons of major league players go on to become major league baseball players? Why is this happening so often? Obviously they get some athletic genes passed on to them. The biggest factor I see is the amount of time the kids are around the game just playing catch and taking swings and watching good players play baseball.

Discussion Topics:
Does it really matter if ball players play ball on their own time?
Does it help at all to practice outside of the team functions?
Ever get mad at the coach because your kid is sitting on the bench too much?
Want to know what you can do to help your kid get better at playing baseball?
Ever take your kids to a minor league or major league baseball game? College baseball game? Cooperstown to the Hall of Fame?
I would like to help you and your children get the most out of playing youth baseball and make it enjoyable for you all. Look for the options here available to you.

The Best Scenario for Baseball Dad
The best scenario for all of us is to have you plan on dropping your player off with me and the other coaches for a couple hours for the ball game or the baseball practice plan. I am going to help my ballplayers learn how to take responsibility for their own equipment.

My ball players will be able to sustain themselves with their own drinks and refreshments. There is no need to for any parents to be loitering or hovering around the dugout area checking to see if their players are hot or thirsty. If someone has a serious injury then certainly I would welcome your assistance. Other than an injury situation you can just sit back and enjoy the pleasure of
watching your child.  I will have a brief post-game meeting with the team only and then you can have your kids back.

Playing Time, Positions and Batting Order
Playing time and playing positions are often sore subjects by baseball dad and mom. Your child will get plenty of opportunity to play and I will work them into the positions they like as the season progresses.

Discussion topics:
Is it best to focus on one position or try and play multiple positions?
How important is it to try and be a pitcher?
If your child throws lefthanded these are the positions they will be playing.
I use several variations of batting orders so do not even try to figure out my line-up card system.

Let me say this. I know how important hitting is to all my players. If you are going to play for me then you will be swing the bat

Now, this may cost us some games, well so be it. I will make sure the hitters swing the bat. Hitters will go as far as their bat takes them so we will be encouraging a very aggressive hitting approach. We will not be looking for walks. We might even swing at a few bad pitches.

Kids who do not learn to hit will quickly drop out of the game or sit the bench too much. I would rather us go down swinging the bat than looking for walks. Plus, there are not many things better in sports than hitting a baseball squarely.

Ready to Go
The ballplayers should show up ready to go with shirts tucked in, pants pulled up and hats on straight. We will hustle on and off the field. Players will take up a fast jog when taking and leaving the field or returning to the dugout after an out. We will run out all the plays. Players who do not run hard or hustle will take a time on the bench. We will find a place to go to backup a teammate on every play. Never will we throw bats or helmets. Players on the bench will have duties so there will be no time for messing around in the dugout. Players will constantly be looking for opportunities to help and support their teammates.

After finishing his professional playing career Dave spent eleven seasons managing in the Red Sox minor league system helping to develop several major league ballplayers. After leaving the Red Sox Dave managed and recruited in the Independent Professional Baseball leagues. He has also coached collegiate wood bat and high school teams. His site, coachandplaybaseball.com is a wealth of information for baseball players and coaches of all levels.

To: Baseball Dad and Mom

By Dave Holt

Baseball Dad and Baseball Mom: The baseball parent I have found is the biggest problem in youth baseball and youth sports. I think we should get everything straight and out in the open before we go any further.

From here on out the youth baseball experience is going to be all about the kids. Nothing here is going to be about you (baseball parents).

My goals for the team are to teach the kids how to play the game of baseball the right way. I will be positive with them and hope to have an encouraging, uplifting impact on the kids.

(Coaches, ask yourself):
How will your team conduct themselves in all situations?
Are you coaching to win the pennant? tournament? All-Stars?
How will you and your players and parents react with umpires? opponents?
What kind of outfit do you want others in the game to say about the way your team operates?
How will we do our business in all situations?

What is The Role of Baseball Dad and Baseball Mom?
I think the biggest role for the baseball dad (and mom) is to be a quiet, steady source of encouragement.

You know, if you ask youth baseball kids what the kids would want their parents to do during the ballgames, you know what most would say?
Is youth baseball invented for youth baseball players or the parents?
Is really loud cheering best for the baseball players?
Can coaching from the bleachers help or harm your players?
Have you ever witnessed a ballplayer getting embarrassed by actions of their parents in the bleachers?
Is watching your kids playing baseball stressful?
Have you ever wanted to stick up for your kids when something doesn’t go right for them on the field?
Is it hard to turn over your kids to the coaches for a couple hours without interjecting your two cents?

These are the type of discussion points I will go over in my message to baseball parents.

Baseball Umpires Are Not Going to Measure Up
We know this going in that the umpires will not be very good. They will call pitches too high and low strikes but we will not bellyache.
The calls usually have a way of evening out with both teams anyway. Our baseball team and parents will not be allowed to show emotion toward umpires. We will not allow complaining about the umpires, dropping our heads and moping about the umpire calls. We will address the umpires by ‘Mister Umpire’ (or the umpires real name). We never call the umpire ‘Blue’. I will take care of saying things to the umpires when appropriate.

I am really trying to help make the job of baseball dad and baseball mom easy. I am taking all the stress and worry out of the equation.

Discussion points:
Do you know what your main job is?\
Ever just sat back and tried to enjoy watching your kids play ball?
Do you know the one thing I want you to ask your kids after you watch them play?
When you try and coach your kids from the bleachers and behind the fences you probably don’t realize the damage you can cause.
Do you know what the appropriate responses should look like when applauding good play?

I just want you to know how to let the kids go for a couple hours and trust me to do all the coaching and managing.

After finishing his professional playing career Dave spent eleven seasons managing in the Red Sox minor league system helping to develop several major league ballplayers. After leaving the Red Sox Dave managed and recruited in the Independent Professional Baseball leagues. He has also coached collegiate wood bat and high school teams. His site, coachandplaybaseball.com is a wealth of information for baseball players and coaches of all levels.

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Positive Coaching vs. Negative: What Is Your Coaching Style?

By Dave Holt

Baseball coaches will have to choose between positive coaching and negative coaching.

It really boils down to which of the two communication styles you want to use coaching youth baseball.

I just do not believe everyone on the team has to be miserable in order for one to be a good coach.

Start building your own ‘Culture of Player Development’

If you use the negative coaching communication style then you will take the skills of baseball and likely become a nagger. You will find yourself as a nag, nag, nag on every mistake, error, swing and miss or any misplay or boo-boo.

Rarely if ever will baseball players measure up to your standards. You have all seen a father criticize his child constantly and rarely if ever give them praise for anything because nothing is ever good enough.

That is how some youth sports coaches choose to communicate with their entire baseball team. The players will never ‘measure up in their minds.

Importance of Good Communication Skills

Very few great baseball coaches have taken the art of communication and utilized the negative coaching approach.

Become a positive baseball teacher developing confident self-assured baseball players.

Realize the Game is Not That Easy

I think in order to use the positive coaching communication style you have to clearly understand one thing.

You have to have a deep appreciation of how difficult baseball is to play well. Baseball is a very difficult game to play.

Unless you realize the difficulty level then one is more likely to conform to negative communication styles.

The youth baseball coaches that truly ‘get-it’ and appreciate the difficult nature of performing baseball skills often gravitate to the positive coaching method.

That is why the great baseball coaches and professional baseball coaches avoid the negative coaching styles method.

Five Very Effective Communication Skills

1. Watch your tone: I watch the negative coaches yelling, screaming and shouting at their players across the field. Constantly embarrassing and belittling kids after a misplay or a swing and miss while hitting.

Even losing their ‘cool’ and having deep anger and a show of temper in their voices.

I choose the positive coaching method. I will do my coaching mainly between innings in the dugout away from the crowd.

I would rather ask questions and have the players do some critical thinking on the situation and have them explain their mindset.

Then I can reply with affirmation or minor corrections in a calm non-embarrassing light, away from the fray.

Teaching baseball is essential coaching method for positive coaching. Yelling and embarrassing ballplayers is not conducive to good learning communication.

Often volunteer youth baseball coaches have little or no background or training to teach kids. This lack of training often shows when they choose the negative coaching methods.

2. Be Aware of Your Body Language

Negative body language and facial expressions can be just as hurtful or demeaning as verbal words.

Positive coaches are careful to refrain from sending a negative headshake or waving our arms in disgust to our players.

Make a good use of communication skills by only using positive body language. After a swing and miss or a foul ball let the batter know you are pulling for them.

Give them some good body language vibes and some positive claps (along with ‘Hey, that’s the way to swing it!”)

3. Use Humor in your Communication Style

There is nothing wrong with keeping things light from time to time. Playing baseball tense and anxious inhibits baseball skills from rising.

Coaches and parents often take the game of baseball so serious they forget to enjoy the games.

Speak with a smile and it will be harder to come across as a mean coach with bad communication.

Avoid sarcasm though. One persons joke is not always funny to someone else. I had a player quit one time because I did not take enough time to listen to how bad a couple of their teammates were ‘picking on him.’ I kind of heard them but I just sort of let it go as sarcasm and having a joke.

But they were really picking on this kid day after day and I really dropped the ball by not putting a stop to the teasing. I felt sick when I finally realized how bad the situation had reached. I’m working on my lack of empathy character flaws so I do not miss this behavior in the future.

4. The Compliment Sandwich:

Tips for Effective Communication

After watching youth baseball games for a while I think that it is about 10:1 ratio. That is 10 negative statements to 1 positive encouraging line.

I have no scientific proof or data on these bad communication assumptions but I know it is pretty close.

I like to use the complement sandwich. For every negative or corrective statement ‘sandwich’ it with a couple good positive encouraging lines.“Hey Larry, that was a really good cut! You were just a little late on it. Now, get ready this time to swing it.”

Use two or three times as many positive complements and encouragement to any pessimistic, downbeat, nonconstructive, unhelpful, disproving and harmful coaching statements.

Study the pros. They aren’t always right, but baseball IS their business. Why ask a butcher how to roof your house?.

5. Avoid the Post Game Verbal Lashing

Professional teams and some college teams often avoid meeting after a loss.

Why? Simply because a coach might be too emotional after a tough loss and communicate negatively after the heat of the battle.

I am not telling you to avoid a post game meeting but you might want to be aware of your emotions.

Keep the meeting short and if you have more to say wait until the next time you get together. Parents want to get going after the game and don’t want to held up by a lecturing upset baseball coach. Remember…positive coaching! It works a whole lot better. Just try it.

Similarly, avoid the post-game analysis on the way home in the mini-van with your kids. Youth players do not want to listen to you re-hash the entire ball game and nit-pick every player and second guess undermining the baseball coaches strategies.

And do not blame the umpires either. Try it if you think it looks easy.

After finishing his professional playing career Dave spent eleven seasons managing in the Red Sox minor league system helping to develop several major league ballplayers. After leaving the Red Sox Dave managed and recruited in the Independent Professional Baseball leagues. He has also coached collegiate wood bat and high school teams. His site, coachandplaybaseball.com is a wealth of information for baseball players and coaches of all levels.

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