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. Below is the 2nd part of this post and tips 4, 5, and 6 (out of 10).
4. Give Constant Feedback.
Feedback lets your players know if they are meeting your expectations as a coach. While it is not necessary that all feedback is positive, try to keep it positive as much as possible. If you are in a situation where the team lost and played poorly and you and your team are frustrated or upset, it is best to wait until the next day to give feedback. It is a good idea to take notes during the game (both good and bad) so that you can communicate and work on improving during practice or before the next game.
It is also important to know when good times to give feedback are. During practice time is the best opportunity for positive feedback. After a player strikes out is not a good opportunity for any feedback at all (unless he chucks his helmet and violates a team rule). When your team is out on defense is also not the best time for feedback. I see many teams doing a lot of coaching and yelling out instructions to players. Try to minimize this as much as possible and wait to give feedback or instructions until after the inning.
Finally, ask your players to give themselves feedback. Many times, players are harder on themselves than anyone else. By hearing their feedback, you as coach can build on that and come up with a plan to help them improve. If the player’s personal feedback is overly negative, be sure to keep your feedback positive.
5. Create a game plan, and stick to it.
Around the 4th inning of a game, it is common to hear, “Billy go to 3rd, Jack you are pitching, and Matt you are sitting this inning”. While subbing players at the last minute may be necessary, if possible try to plan substitutions ahead of time and post it for the players to see before the game. Doing this does two things. First, as a coach you are better able to fairly distribute playing time and second, your players will mentally prepared to play the position, especially when it comes to your pitchers. Planning your substitutions ahead of time helps to take the emotion out of your decision making during the game. By planning ahead, you will be more able to focus on other important aspects of the game, especially when the score is close.
Creating a pitching plan is critically important for your players. If you are able to tell your pitchers roughly when they are going to pitch that day, they will be more physically and mentally prepared and you will see better results of them. It is tough to just throw a kid onto the mound with little preparation, and by communicating your pitching plan to your team, you can reduce that significantly.
Just as it is important to communicate your game plan to players, it is also to communicate some aspects of your plan to the parents and fans. At the minimum, if you know who is pitching the next game, let the parents know. As weather impacts games, it is important to communicate time changes and cancellations in a timely fashion as well. Remind is a great service to use as you can send a message to a preset list and the message is sent out as a text message. The benefit to this vs. a group text is recipients cannot respond directly to a message sent out using Remind. Twitter is a great way to convey information to everyone, including your fans (and opponents), so you may not want to blast starting pitcher or lineup info on Twitter.
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