PART 2 OF A 7-PART SERIES…
LAUGH AND HAVE FUN
Do you ever just stop and laugh with your team when someone makes a silly mistake in practice? Well, you should. It is still just a game, and outside of your small circle of family and friends, no one really cares what your record is or if you lost a close game! I love to win, I think everyone does. It always feels good to play the game well and win. But we must always be able to lose also, maybe a lot if we don’t have a strong team. That is why we must have fun and laugh a little with each other to take the edge off and not get too serious. If you have a young team without many skilled players, you must keep it positive so that losses will not let players give up.
I don’t mean laughing at players to demean them, I mean to help take the edge off, and not be so serious. If we can have fun and laugh at each other in a fun way at practice we can do it in games to stay loose and focused. Kids want to have fun, and they put losses behind them alot faster than adults do. One of my son’s coaches was a very knowledgeable baseball coach, but he was too serious and critical. Thus the players did not respond to him the way he expected. He commented that the players must not like baseball, but nothing could be further from the truth. When he decided to go to another team to coach, none of the players were very upset. You see, he didn’t seem to enjoy himself around the players and they sensed that. This is not the major leagues. Kids want to win and have fun doing it.
Here’s an example: The team is working on a second base pick-off drill and the ball gets by everyone into center field. Instead of getting upset and criticizing, sometimes I will just laugh and ask in a joking way if this is the first time we ever tried this drill. Don’t be so deadly serious all the time and chill out once in a while. The team may relax a little and possibly perform better next time. More importantly, the team will see your less serious and more “human” side. After all, they are just kids playing a kid’s game.
I have learned the lighten up and the whole coaching staff will try to keep any one of us from getting too fired up about any one situation. Sometimes we just need a little reminder from other coaches to cool it, especially when we are dogging our own child, which I have been known to do. Fun to me however, is not a coach who lets the team run all over them, out of control, with no structure. Most players don’t like playing in a non-structured situation where there is not a lot of supervision.
INTERACT WITH YOUR TEAM
I like to interact with my team by telling tall tales about how good I was when I played ball. I will playfully tease them about their skills compared to mine a long time ago. I ask about some school stuff or if anyone is practicing at home. I like my staff or myself to join the kids in our stretching drills or running drills, racing the kids to let them see that we like being around them. This is also a good time to heap on plenty of praise for all their hard work. This is also a good time to ask baseball questions to see if they are learning the game. Ask them if they were watching the professional team from your area on TV and if they saw a certain play.
What I am saying is get to the level of your players from time to time, even if they haven’t been playing well. Relax them and show them that you like them and care about them no matter what. I made that mistake early in coaching days, thinking it would make them play better. Kids respond to positive input just like adults. You don’t need to act like Billy Martin with your team. They are kids wanting to win games and have fun doing it. Relax, have some fun with these youngsters and teach them this great game of baseball. Some of them will end up coaching later in life themselves. It would be good if they remembered something you taught them years before.
So far we have covered being a positive role model and a relaxed, fun role model. I know you won’t always be in a great mood at the ball yard, so that’s why it is so important to have several good coaches to help you. Keeping yourself from being overwhelmed is much easier with plenty of help: Someone on the staff will be ready to take charge and save the day. Don’t fall into the trap of having to be the only one to run the practice. Let others run your approved drills and stations. Encourage whoever gets there first to start stretching and warming up the team. Foster the idea that you have a self-motivated team willing to work. As always, tell your team that you expect them to practice at home. The less time you have to spend on the basics of throwing, catching etc., the more time you will have to scrimmage and work on advanced skills. Spend a couple of minutes and get yourself mentally prepared to have a good time with some kids playing the best game in the world… BASEBALL.
Coming in PART 3: How would you like to have a fun, effective practice that keeps everyone focused? Vary your drills and find the ones your team seems to like the best. Make sure these drills challenge them and refine their baseball skills. Your choice of drills should be getting players to work hard during practice, so they will do the same during games.
Remember that incessant yelling or criticizing during practice is really counter-productive. Most kids want to be challenged to work hard and have fun doing it. If kids seem bored with what you have going on, try something different such as a skills game to liven it up!
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.