CoachDeck for T-Ball?

We get asked once in a while if we do a version of CoachDeck for T-Ball. We tried to make CoachDeck comprehensive so it can be used by coaches from T-Ball all the way up to high school. Some of the drills in the deck are too advanced for T-Ball, but some, such as Cap Buttons are perfect for all ages. What we hear from leagues that give these to their youngest coaches is that at the beginning of the season the coaches can use a handful of the drills but that by the end of the season they’re using many more because the players have advanced so much.  In fact, we’ve seen “very similar” versions of some of our drills online being touted by a national organization as great T-Ball drills.

Controversy in Tee Ball!

We get that everyone loves their kids and the first time through sports we don’t always understand the importance (or lack thereof) of what happens in games between five and six year-olds. Here is an example. A Little League District Facebook page posted a Tee Ball rules clarification. Reading through the comments it is clear to see what occurred and that not everyone can let it go.

Little League District:
TEE BALL RULES UPDATE: it has come to our attention that there is some confusion about some types of defensive plays in Tee Ball. The issue is a little technical, but to make a long story short…CLARIFICATION (in short): Any defensive player in possession of a ball ruled in play may attempt to legally put out any batter-runner or runner.  This is not an umpiring issue – this was a well-intentioned comment on player development by District representatives as a response to a question during the pre-tournament umpire clinic. The umpires were doing what they were told were the prevailing approved decisions, and they have been informed of the clarifications for all future games. All prior games, whether impacted or not, are final. The games were called equally for both teams. We appreciate the opportunity to learn this game of baseball in front of this community, because sometimes it is hard to keep it all straight.

Post from Individual 1, sharing with Individual 2:
those 3 outs would have counted

Individual 2 replying:
Wow!! Oh well. Now we know for next year.

Post from Individual 3:
So what does this do for the games that have already been played. Rules should have been clarified before the start of this tournament. It is unfair for teams to prepare to play and rules are not carried out across the board. I came to watch games on Saturday, and when it was time for our team to play on Sunday the rules were completely different, and the same umpires were there. This is unfair to the kids involved. This clarification had it been done BEFORE the tournament started would have made a difference in the games. It is unfair and something needs to be done. A conversation needs to be had regarding these games and implementing rules. You can’t post a clarification 2 days into a tournament and say all games are final. What are we teaching our kids if ADULTS can’t take ownership. This is a District issue that needs to be fixed soon.

Reply from Little League District:
I appreciate your statement. It was a pleasure to talk to you today, and I look forward to meeting with you soon to continue the conversation.


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.

Still more about playing time and parents

We continue to get questions sent to us about our article about parents and their kids’ playing time. Below is one received yesterday, and our response. We can only hope that the parents of this coach-pitch level boy are slightly exaggerating the behavior of this coach. We have a feeling they are not.

I just read your article on playing time and while I agree, in theory, with your point about parents not intervening regarding playing time – what do you think parents should do if a coach is really out of control?

My older two boys (15 & 12) play travel and high school baseball. My husband and I have NEVER discussed playing time with their coaches. When they were or weren’t getting playing time – we have left it to them to earn more or talk with their coach. My husband has coached for years, my brother is a high school coach, and we have fantastic friendships with our other boys current and past coaches.

My eight year old is on a team this spring with the same coach he had last year. For the first time in 10 years of having kids playing youth baseball we requested a different coach and somehow ended back with this guy. Quite frankly – he is a jerk. Yesterday was the first game and he had his kid and his kids two best friends play 6 innings in the infield while there were other kids on the team who played two in the infield and two on the bench (which is actually against league rules). Last year he let my son play short stop while his kid was taking a bathroom break and when his kid came back he pulled my 7 year old out mid-inning and said loudly enough to be heard by the audience “X sit down – X is back now and he is better than you”. He laughs at kids when they make errors. This is in an instructional/recreational (not travel) coach pitch league with a five run limit per inning where the final score is often 25-25. Nothing is at stake except the kids feelings and development.

My husband and I are trying to figure out what to do. Do you think that when an adult is behaving this badly and the kids are this young – parents should still do nothing? I am really struggling with this because while I believe kids need to learn to navigate these situations themselves – it seems that parents should protect kids from adults who are abusing their power.

I am assuming that you have gotten feedback from your article so I would love your perspective on if it is ever appropriate to say anything to the coach or even the commissioner?

Our response:

Thank you for your note and your comments. You are correct, I do get a lot of feedback from my article. Very often my advice is probably not what the parent wants to hear, because I “read between the lines” in their complaints and can tell that the reality is that the coach really isn’t being unfair, but the player is simply not deserving of playing time based on performance and/or effort, isn’t working hard enough, etc. But in these cases we’re talking about older kids than yours.

The fact that you have older sons playing, your husband coaches, and that you say you have not ever complained about playing time leads me to believe that this is an unusual and difficult situation. My article was aimed at the parents of older children. Of course, I would not say that an eight year-old should have to talk to the coach about his playing time. Especially if this guy is as big a jerk as you describe.

At that age, all kids should be rotated around to all positions. Maybe the positions shouldn’t be 100% equal in distribution, but no one should play the entire game in the infield, nor the outfield. And no player should ever sit out a second inning until everyone else has sat out his first.

So the part where I provide advice is a little tougher. I have a feeling you don’t want to be the complaining parents, that this isn’t your style. And if the coach were following the rules to a T, but was just a snide, unpleasant guy, I’d almost say you’re going to have to put up with it. However, if he is breaking the rules in terms of playing time and/or positions, it absolutely should be reported. Again, I can only take you at your word about how big a jerk this guy is, but from your description it seems unlikely that having a conversation with him will bear fruit. I would definitely report what he is doing, (the rules part) to the commissioner and I think I’d fill in the other details about his demeanor as well. You may want to ask that the commissioner not mention who reported the information so that there is less chance of retribution against your son.

Of course, the best-case outcome means that the coach will have to follow the rules to the minimum standard, which still might allow him to be unfair about rotating player around, (just not AS unfair) and it is unlikely he will stop being a jerk. So the only three options beyond this I can think of would be to see if your husband can volunteer to help as an assistant, (which this guy may not accept), or just make the best of if or, if it gets too bad, pull your son off the team.

I’m sorry that this is happening and wish I had more to offer. I hope this helps and thanks again for writing.