It’s no easy task being the coach of a youth team. Whether you’ve volunteered to coach for the first time or been there before, looking to better your team, there will always be ways to improve yourself. Ultimately, there are many responsibilities when leading a team.
It’s best to simplify it, and just as you tell your players, get back to the basics yourself. You might not always know what’s best for the team, but these tips will be here to help you build a solid foundation for the team. Regardless of your experience, if you’re looking to improve, here’s how you can make this season the best possible experience for you and your players.
Set Rules at the Beginning of the Season
The first few meetings with players or parents will set the stage for your interactions for the rest of the season. It’s important to establish boundaries and rules from the start, otherwise you may encounter tough situations down the road. For parents, you should set boundaries on when they can discuss issues, otherwise you might have parents coming up to the dugout in the middle of the game asking about playing time for their kid. Tell parents that email is the best way to air any grievances or offer suggestions.
Get to Know Your Players and Their Learning Style
To coach your team to the best of your ability, you must know your players’ personalities, habits, skill sets, and even limitations. Every player reacts to feedback differently. Some need positive reinforcement, and others might need more stern feedback. An easy way to do this is by getting to know each athlete individually and scheduling activities outside of practice and games that provide bonding time. Whether you plan a team barbecue or fundraiser (among many others), spending time with your team will undoubtedly help build chemistry. Here are a few ways to build community among your team if you need a few ideas.
“Players need to know that you care, before they care what you know”
Give Players A Chance at Different Positions
Arguably, one of the most important tips here is to allow every player a chance to play each position. Kids are just beginning their involvement and development in the sport at a young age. Find out what they love and what motivates them to stay on the field. A positional rotation will help keep things fair between all players and allow them to determine which position is the best fit for them as they progress.
Structure and Prepare Practices
Ensure you keep the players engaged throughout a full practice. This can be difficult in youth sports, with shorter attention spans the younger the athletes are. A steady practice plan will keep players focused and motivated to maintain structure and avoid distractions. Remember to include competitive drills with fun at the forefront. Healthy competition is a great way to speed up development and build winning habits even at a young age. If you’re looking for a few drills to include in your plan, here are 5 of our favorites.
Build a Love of the Game
Baseball is tough, and every success is preceded by a number of failures. Some say that baseball is the only occupation where you can fail 7 out of 10 times and be considered great. In other sports, such as soccer, the spotlight is on the full team. In baseball, when you get up to hit, the spotlight is only on you. This is daunting for many young players, so it’s important for coaches to help them understand that failure is a key component of the road to success. You can still give honest feedback and hold players accountable, but remind them that every player will have setbacks while improving.
Be a Role Model
There’s no hiding that your players will feed off your energy. They pay attention to how you talk to coaches, parents, umpires, and the team. If a team sees you talking down to another individual, odds are they’ll be inclined to do the same. Remember to lead by example and treat everyone with respect at all times. Play the game the right way, and show your players a role model they want to emulate when they’re older.
Keep Things Simple
To develop players properly, it’s critical to simplify your drills to start and stick to the fundamentals. Building a proper foundation is key to any promising young career, so there’s no need to jump into highly complicated drills with any rush. A common phrase in baseball is that even the best players in the world are failing 70% of the time, so get back to the basics when things may be difficult or you don’t see a lot of success. Here are a few ideas if you’re looking for drills to implement at practice.
Use Video as a Teaching Tool
Recording and analyzing game film are now part of the process at all levels of baseball. There’s no better tool to teach in an objective way than having players see what they did wrong. There’s no hiding in the film. By recording your practices and games, your players will see everything you’re seeing, leading to valuable coaching points and lessons. Regardless of your video experience, baseball camera systems like Trace can capture teaching moments effectively. Trace goes one step further and personalizes all this footage, removing the need for coaches to spend any time editing.
Coaches have an extremely powerful role in helping players develop their talents, but coaches also shape the players into the person they become later in life. The lessons and work ethic learned in youth sports will have ongoing impacts for athletes. In short, this means that coaches have a huge power to affect the lives of kids. With power comes responsibility. Hopefully, some of these lessons above will help you with that mission.