Coaching youth sports these days is challenging. Organizing practices, managing games, motivating and teaching players, and communicating with parents can be a full time job. All of these responsibilities are likely to be top of a full time day job for most coaches. The purpose of this article is to help coaches prioritize their time and energy into the things that make the biggest impact for the players on the team, both on and off the field. This is a 3 part post. Here are the first 3 tips (out of 10).
1. Establish 3 simple rules.
Show up on time, play the game hard, and play the game right. Rule number one is obvious, and since your coaching players that depend on parents for transportation, establish the importance of this with the parents and players. Playing the game hard means running out every play, giving 100% effort no matter the score, hustling on and off the field between innings, etc. Playing the game right way is the hardest rule to learn and follow. A common violation to this rule is throwing a helmet after an out. Teach players the importance of sportsmanship and constant communicate what playing the game right means. As with any rule, be sure to establish firm, but fair consequences for violating team rules and be sure to stick to them and maintain consistency. The future employers of your players will greatly appreciate you for this.
2. Practices are for teaching and training.
A common practice plan for youth teams is to place players at all 9 positions and the coach throws batting practice. Do not be the coach that does this! While batting practice is an important part of practice, try to integrate BP into a more meaningful practice plan where the entire team is engaged. A better plan is to organize several stations with 2-4 players and each station requires the players to complete a task or meet a goal. For example, a bunting station could require each player to get 2 bunts down before meeting the goal. Try to create a fun and positive competitive atmosphere where players encourage, root for, and push each other.
If you plan to have BP, make it more competitive by playing the game “21 Outs” (or any number of outs of your choice). In this game, the defense must make 21 outs in a row without recording an error. If the defense makes an error, the number starts over at zero. This creates a more game like and competitive atmosphere, instead of a typical boring BP session.
3. Reward players.
Your overall goal as a coach is to make kids feel good, not bad. Using this strategy is a great way to motivate and encourage your players. For example, hand out a bobble head to the player of each game. If a player hits 3 HRs, he is an easy choice for player of the game, however try to take the opportunity to reward players for many different things throughout the season. Examples are best teammate, hardest worker, getting a bunt down, outstanding hustle, and the list goes on. This also helps to teach your team what it means to play the game right.
Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.
7530 Tim Ave NW Unit A
North Canton, OH 44720
What others have to say:
"My son is in Grady's VIP program and this was his first time focusing on training to be a pitcher. The program is exactly what you want, there is a movement screening, data driven approach to pitch design, mechanics, velocity , and command, along with strength training. My son has improved his velocity, command, movement and off-speed pitches but most importantly he has improved how he thinks as a pitcher and how to actually pitch, not just throw.
My biggest takeaway from the program is that Mike and his coaches care about helping my son reach his goals and support him. My advice to any parent is to sign your son up for the VIP program and make sure he follows it, you will not be sorry!" - Mike Hampu
"My first and lasting impression of Grady's Pitching School is the enthusiasm Mike and his instructors bring to EVERY lesson. They genuinely interested in your players growth and improvement. Mike isn't trying to make every pitcher throw the same way. He analyzes and experiments with each pitcher, e.g. different release points, different grips, etc. to try and maximize their individual skills. Mike's understanding of pitching and pitch design coupled with the technology is second to none. Mike truly uses the technology to enhance the players' training experience. A lot of young players don't understand or possess the self-awareness to make adjustments. The technology and Mike's analysis with your player allows them to not only see what they are doing, but to see how the adjustments immediately impact the results." -Ian Schechterman