Monday, April 25, 2011

A Few Tips for New Little League Coaches

A full one and one half seasons into assistant coaching little league, and as an acutely perceptive observer of human nature, I have decided to generously pass on the lessons I have learned to you now. Keep in mind, my sons are just beginning to play baseball at a level that doesn't involve a tee. Still, maybe you are considering coaching your little one next year or maybe you want to do some practice with your kids outside of their team organized activities. For those looking for such sage advice, I have developed the following tips.

Tip #1: Separate the kids whenever possible
Children do nothing better than distract one another. This occurs at any age. If you leave a few kids on the side waiting in line to participate in the next drill, they will eventually start pushing, shoving, joking around with one another and potentially end up running around the park in an impromptu game of tag. On the other hand, if you have four kids working on batting, four kids working on grounders with you and four kids playing catch in pairs, you significantly decrease the rate at which goof-off time will consume your practice.

Tip #2: Buy a few extra tees
Even if the kids you are coaching have been beyond tee-ball for several years, there are still benefits from hitting off a tee. It gives them a chance to focus on their swing and self correct. This goes hand in hand with the first tip. If you have three or four tees set up along a fence off to the side of your field, that makes that many kids working by themselves on something productive.

Tip #3: Create basic steps for each drill
Bat up. Eye on the ball. Step toward the pitcher. That's the three things that have been told over and over to my six-year-old's advanced tee-ball (that means the coach pitches to them) team. Whenever you have a few simple steps for the kids to follow, they are more likely to remember them. Before you know it, you'll see the kids start doing all three things without having to hear them said over and over. That's when more advanced tips and coaching can begin.

Tip #4: Remind at the beginning of a drill, correct at the end
When a drill starts, remind the kids of the steps and the proper way to participate in the drill at the start of the drill. Then, let them do it and when their turn is up, let them know what they need to work on for next time. Telling kids turn after turn that they are forgetting to do something wears quickly on them. Let them succeed or fail based on their own ability to perform the steps you reminded them of, then talk to them after the drill briefly about what you want to see form them next time.

Tip #5: Have running-intensive drills prepared to use at a moment's notice
Especially with littler kids, your best efforts to keep them engaged and focused on the current activities may break down into utter chaos at any second. That's when you throw your hands up and shout, "Time to run the bases!" You can then do this for a few minutes and wear them out. Then, when you see them gasping for breath, you go back to the next drill you were planning, their rebellious spirits broken, their minds like moldable Play-D'oh, ready to be bent to your will. Mwa-ha-ha-haaaaa!

Good luck fellow little league coaches. May you exert complete control over your minions...ahem, I mean team, and may you be able to keep your sanity long enough to get through however many innings your games include while trying to tune out the critical shouts of attending parents.

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