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Teaching Baseball to Kids

Read how I fail so you don't have to.

Lots of Dads want to coach baseball. This is a great, healthy thing that I highly recommend to anyone that is even thinking about doing it. Some of the best memories I have playing baseball were on teams that my Dad coached. Being a coach is tons of fun, and can be rewarding – but I’ll be brutally honest here: If you want to be a great coach…it takes TONS of work.

I’m heading into my first season as a full-time travel coach. (this just means we aren’t playing in a recreation league- I’m not getting paid.) I challenged the players and their parents in our initial meeting last fall saying;

I’m going to hold everyone to a higher standard next year – players, parents and coaches. If I expect more out of your kids, I’m going to expect more of out all the coaches too.

I’ve taken that very seriously and have put in more time and organization into this team than I have my entire sports coaching career. Is that the answer for everyone? No – not at all. I just wanted to make sure that this team won’t fail because the coach wasn’t prepared or knowledgeable. I wanted to start day one with the type of attention to detail that I’d want my players to have on the field.

Create a Master To do list

Put the big things on this list – Insurance, Player manual, Coaching manual, Securing practice locations, Sponsorship/Fundraising plan, Jersey’s, etc. Don’t worry about getting too detailed on this list, you’re just trying to put big things down that you need to start tackling.

-Player manual: Create a manual for your players that has things like team rules, goals, next year preview, position overviews and expectations. Try to create something for parents in there too.

Quick note on parents- explain early on you will NOT discuss playing time with them. Establish your borders as early as possible. Tell them you’ll be happy to discuss what their kid needs to work on, but that playing time is a coaches decision.

Assistant Coaches

As early as you possibly can, get your assistants together and schedule 2-3 meetings. You need to go over how you’re going to teach…everything. Having coaches teach things differently is going to get frustrating for your kids. You need to talk about how things will be taught, then write down everything you decide and put it into a coaching manual afterwards. Also add coaching philosophies, how you’ll discipline players, coaching responsibilities and roles, how practices will be run, how warm-ups/infield will be run, and one I’m a stickler on – how I want score-keeping done.

Season skills spreadsheet

I’ve created a google docs folder for our coaches and in it I have several things now. One of them is something I call ‘Season skills’. For every position, I’ve got lists of skills that I want that position to practice and know how to do. I’ve got columns for when I want to teach those skills, a column for when I actually get to it, etc. This helps me plan practices – and know that I have X weeks to teach X skills before our first game, etc.

Situation bible

Every baseball coach should be working on a situations bible. Keep adding situations after you see them and what you did, or what you want to do in the future if you see that situation. What base to throw to in a situation, playing an infield in or X situation, have the outfield take away a bloop hit in a game winning situation, etc. – you get the idea. This is something you’ll build up over time, but you’ll be glad you have.

Drills bible

Just like the situation bible, start a drills bible that includes all your drills you can think of. Then when you’re planning practices you can reference this and plug things in where it makes sense. When you hear about a good drill – add it!

Practice plans

If you aren’t planning your practices, then you’re not trying. That might get people fired up, but it’s my opinion. I’ve tried things both ways, and without exception if you have a plan, you’re always going to have a more efficient, focused practice. I cut mine up in categories - Warm-ups, fundamentals, offensive skills, defensive skills, team drills, team time, extra, etc. I’m not hung up on how long I spend in each task, but I do mark how long I’d like to spend on each.

Roster

Create a roster spreadsheet with first and last names, birth-date, jersey number, jersey size, pant size, hat size, parents first and last names, both parents email and both parents phone number. You will reference this a LOT.

Stats

Here’s where I probably go overboard. I’ve got spreadsheets for Offensive stats, defensive stats, and pitching stats. I rely on accurate score-keeping to give me granular statistics. This really helps me when I’m trying to refine a batting order. You can also have a nice awards day at the end of the season and give awards for all kinds of things.

Player profiles

I’ve got pitching, hitting, and general player profiles for all my players. I want my coaches to sound off on a players skills at different points of the year to track progress and hopefully improvement. If we don’t see improvement then we can address why with historical data.

Video

I video hitting and pitching lessons/practices. This contributes to the profiles and helps me identify things I don’t see in person. Last year we solved a throwing problem for one of our players through video. It’s a good tool to use to break things down slowly and evaluate details.

The last thing I’ll add is don’t ever forget to continue learning. Good coaches are always looking to learn new things. Don’t immediately say things like ‘that’s the way I was taught’ – instead think about why you were taught that, what the underlying mechanics are to that method. Have whoever is presenting a contrary theory explain why the mechanics in the current method aren’t as good. Try to be objective here. Baseball is full of tradition and nuance, embrace that but don’t ignore hard facts or new trends either.

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