PART 1 OF A 7-PART SERIES…
Face it, a coach is a role model to the players. Kids pick up quick on a coach who is not ready for the job. You need to communicate your expectations clearly. Lay down some simple ground rules first:
- First and foremost, when you or any coaches are speaking, everyone else listens. If player(s) talk while you are speaking, just stop talking, look at the offending player, and wait for them to stop. If this doesn’t work after a couple of times with any player, have them go sit on the sidelines by themselves for a bit and wait, and continue talking to the team. You should only have to do this a few times for the players to know that you will not permit this behavior.
- Another very important issue to discuss with your team is that there is to be absolutely no criticizing or making fun of a teammate’s mistakes. That is really true if it happens in a game or practice. This is a must. There can be no exceptions to this rule. Better players cannot be permitted to say anything negative about lesser player’s performances. Only positive comments will tolerated.
The lost art of sportsmanship must be revived by you as coach. Your players should feel excited when they make a great play, but not at the expense of the opposing player or team. I watch the Little League World Series and cringe when the winning team piles on top of each other, while the losing team stands there with some players weeping.
Act like you have won a game before.
Respect and honor the game. Your team will be on the receiving end soon enough, and you will be grateful to your opponents for not rubbing it in. You should not tolerate any intentional distraction of other team by your players. You should not tolerate any like behavior from parents. This should be in your parental letter just in case. In honor of our great game of baseball, please refrain from any exchanges with other players or coaches that are not in the spirit of the game. Remember, you are an important example to the team.
Contrary to popular belief, it is O.K. to compliment players on other teams for making a good play or hit. A quick “nice play, Short” is fine. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. It shows good sportsmanship and honors the game, which is very lacking in this day and age. Remember, just because the other team and parents may not be good sports, that doesn’t mean that your team should lower it’s standards in retaliation. This is part of being a good role model and sportsman, so do this all the time.
When you play a team that is purposely trying to distract your team, the way to take it out of play is to do your best to block them out. Your players should learn now how to do that, as when they go on in sports it becomes accepted behavior to make distractions.
In youth baseball teams that are unsportsmanlike are often encouraged to do more if they see it affects your team. That is sad, but true.
It is strongly suggested not to lose your cool or get very irritated on the bench or coaching box, when things are not going your team’s way.
BE POSITIVE! BE CALM! BE CONFIDENT!
Yes it is easier said than done, but it must be done to best of your ability. I have learned from experience that is worth it to build up rather than to tear down. Yelling out at players after a mistake will not help them to get ready for the next play. This embarrasses the player and upsets the parents. Positive comments not shouted out, will help player to forget the last play and get ready for the next one. Encourage other players to help prop up their teammates after a mistake. Remind them that all players will make errors or mistakes throughout the season, and enforce this. I have found that this helps much more than being the coach who gets upset with their players. It may seem to you to be the right way to handle mistakes, but I have learned from my own mistakes that it simply is not true.
Players don’t make mistakes on purpose. They usually make them from not being mentally ready to play at that instant. Baseball is a game of instants. Things happen quickly, and you might not get another chance that game to make up for it.
I also get myself mentally ready to coach by reminding myself before the game to stay calm no matter what. To remain patient, calm and positive. No one but a few people will even care how this game turns out. It is your responsibility as a coach to emulate this type of behavior.
After the inning is over, for the player who made the mistake the play is over anyway. Players no matter what age don’t like to shown up in front of others. Let the player sit down and come to them later in a non-confrontational manner to discuss the mistake.
When addressing a mistake, try this angle: Go over something they did right first, then work on the mistake. Let them know that you feel they are capable of performing these baseball skills. Bring up how they have done so in the past. Some players will require support from you right away, others will not. That is why you should take the time to know each player’s personality.
Coaching youth baseball should be about building up your players not tearing them down. Believe me, it has taken me years to figure this out, so that is why I feel strongly about it.
YOUR TEAM WILL TAKE ON YOUR PERSONALITY!
I used to believe that I had to appear strong in the dugout, ready to address any challenge to my team right away. I have come to believe that young players appreciate a patient steady coach who is strong in a comforting way. They do not like being shown up in front of others as I have stated before. Baseball is all about the next play anyway. When you put your team on edge about not making the next mistake instead of helping them be ready to make next play or hit, that is your team’s personality. You want your team to be able to shake off mistakes right away, so how does making a big deal out of a play already over with accomplish that?
Most players perform better when relaxed, without a coach glaring at them from the dugout. When you have to call a timeout to talk to your team, make your first comments something positive. Let then know that you believe they will make the next play. It’s all about effort; encourage effort, and results will soon follow.
ACCEPT BLAME AS A COACH
Everyone makes mistakes, even the manager or coach. Many coaches including myself for many years) don’t take the blame for any mistakes. You don’t want to take the blame for a player not executing his duties, or allow the players to make you an easy scapegoat, however, when you send a runner, or call the wrong defense, step up to the plate, as they say, and tell your team after the game, that you made a mistake. Then move on. Be an example.
HONOR THE GAME, HAVE SOME FUN!
Your players are less apt to stay down on themselves and remain upbeat when you do the same. Young players like to see that you enjoy being around them. If you don’t, you should reevaluate where you are in life, because it is an honor to have the privilege of coaching any group of youngsters about this great game.
WIN AND LOSE WITH CLASS AND DIGNITY
It truly isn’t all about winning as they say. I know that is hard for a lot of us to hear because we ARE competitors. If your team isn’t losing a game occasionally, you should play some better teams. Losing is a lesson in itself. To lose with class in a close game is a sure sign of growth, something your team will need to do to get to the next level. You may be playing that team the very next day in a tournament.
Be good sports, congratulate the winners, no whining, and guess what? MOVE ON. That’s what is great about baseball; you keep moving on. Don’t dwell, go have some fun with these young players that have been entrusted to you. And if you are doing a couple things right, they might even learn a few things along the way.
The ideals discussed here in PART 1 are just that, Ideals. We are looking for progress, not perfection. I understand we are all humans with emotions, and other imperfections. I ask you just to have an open mind and be a teacher.
Take a couple minutes before each game or practice to remind yourself to have fun and be calm. Go out and see the great game of baseball with new eyes and ears. I know you can and will.
Coming in PART 2: Do you take your coaching seriously? Maybe too seriously? Here’s some other ways to look at our great game of youth baseball. I’m sharing this with you so you can help promote this great game from a different angle; as a teacher not a drill sergeant.
On a lighter note, kids need to see you enjoying yourself being around them. Just don’t talk about a certain skill that they need to practice, show them how to practice the skill yourself, or have a coach do it, and have some fun doing it!
About The Author:
Chip Lemin has been involved in Youth Baseball for over 30 yrs as a player, manager, coach, and now a parent-coach on the travel/tournament baseball teams of his two sons who play in Northeast Ohio. Chip’s personal mission is to promote good sportsmanship and positive attitude training for players as well as coaches, managers and parents.
This series is reproduced with permission and can be obtained in original e-book form by free subscription at http://www.baseballecourse.com.
Please also visit Chip’s expert EZine Articles here for more great articles on all aspects of baseball play and coaching.