Keys to Coaching Youth Baseball
I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard this statement over the years. It either comes from a young person or their parent. I beg to differ with them, but it would be to no avail. The words I disagree with from the youngsters go something like this, “I don’t play baseball, it’s too slow.”
Even though I disagree, I don’t necessary believe their assessment is wrong, at least for their personality. Playing baseball probably was slow and annoying to them, but it’s not the game of baseball to blame, it’s the coaches they had. Baseball coaches have the responsibility of keeping the game moving along and exciting, so kids get captivated by playing baseball, not bored with it.
Coaches must know ways of keeping kids busy and improving. Then, kids can learn the fun of baseball without boredom setting in. The key to that is having fun filled and productive practices. Following are some keys to effective baseball practices.
- Small group instruction – break kids into groups of four or five and rotate from station to station
- Have short instructional talks instead of a couple of long ones and ask questions so kids have chance to participate
- Make skills’ work competitive as long as all have the chance of winning.
- Do not work on one thing too long but work on it each practice as needed.
- When playing games, coaches should implement the five second rule. From the time the pitcher receives the ball back form the catcher, they must pitch the next one withing five seconds. This keeps te defense on their toes without allowing their minds to wander, and their is more action too.
- Coaches should play players at a minimum of three positions during games and practices. Boredom sets in for kids having to play the same spots all the time, especailly when relgated to a position they are not fond of playing.
- Coaches should abide by the three to one rule – for every negative thing said, say three positives.
Of course, the objective of coaching youth baseball should be that of teaching the necessary baseball skills and game knowledge that advances players’ likelihood of success. It would be great if coaching youth baseball was easy and every coach led their team to a winning season and all players improved. Of course, that is not always, or usually, possible. However, the youth baseball experience for coaches and players alike should go beyond that of just striving to win and player improvement. Along with teaching the game and the age appropriate winning pursuits, youth coaches should be developing kids overall baseball interest.
Youth coaches do not have to be baseball experts, nor experts in working with youth, but they must know other ways to develop kids’ interest in baseball, as well as developing relationships, fun, and team unity. Also, these suggestions may produce kids who will love baseball for the rest of their lives.
Ways of coaching youth baseball with fun:
- Team fantasy league – Keep it simple where players keep own stats of their chosen major league players in just a couple of categories. Fantasy league lasts until the team’s season is over.
- Rainy day practice – Meet at a player’s house and have a home run derby “video game” contest or watch a fun baseball movie.
- A team of the week contest – at the first practice each week, players pick a major league team that they believe will go the longest from that day without losing, with each player required to choose a different team.
- Attend a local high school or college game with the team and encourage playersto cheer for one team, or the other, so that they get involved in the game. Coaches should point out the baseball fundamentals and good plays. After a few innings, have a team practice when an approved area is available and nearby.
- Player awards – at the end of each practice, coaches reward individuals for most improved, best effort (hustle), and most helpful player.
- Parent – son/daughter practice when coaches pick two balanced teams. A coach or kid pitches and team catchers catch, all other players just hit. Parents play defense on both sides. Parents do not bat for safety reasons or use a whiffle ball when batting. Parents may get a reminder that fielding is not as easy as it looks, too.
- Video Day – have a few parents with video cameras film a few innings of an intrasquadgame or a real game. Filming player introductions, pre, and post-game interviews are also a fun option. Have a team gathering on a rainy day to watch. Making copies for all parents will make a great keepsake.
- Players design a practice – team members decide what to practice and for how long. No regular game allowed, except for a small segment of the practice.
- The homerun trot contest – each player, who wants to, gives a home run trot, shows what they got. Players and coaches are the judges for the best home-run display.
- Autograph day – players bring a picture of themselves in baseball uniforms, and players exchange autographs with other team members and families.
- Theme day – team members are required to find and bring in a picture of a baseball related topic.
- Stump the coaches baseball trivia contest – players try to stump the coaches with baseball trivia questions. Each player gets one question. The numberof missed answers by the coaching staff determines how many times the coaches have to circle the bases.
- Phantom Infield Practice – team takes infield practice without a ball, but the team does everything they would normally do during infield practice with improvisation.
- Book Club – players read a baseball instruction book and make a report back to the team.
- Watching a baseball bloopers tape is fun and helps kids realize that everyone makes mistakes, sometimes.
Finally, awarding a small prize, like a pack of baseball cards, to the weekly winners of the mentioned ideas is good for the incentive, as all kids like rewards. Coaching youth baseball is about the ability to develop baseball interest in youth beyond their playing days. Doing that is the reward for coaches, and a job well done.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching, and parenting stories help create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte at YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.