Sunday, September 20, 2009

How to NOT Be a Youth Baseball Coach (Part 1 of a Series)

By Frank Thompson

The one thing I will always cherish as I get older is the years I spent coaching my sons in the sport that I dearly love... baseball. Now, I am not one of those dads that get involved just to live their shortchanged childhood through their childrens' eyes. I played baseball for years and studied the game. I also, while progressing through the different age levels with my boys, understood the need to adjust and adapt to the respective age level.

Through trial and error, I did experience both good and bad things while coaching my teams. I want to share with you what NOT to do in this series to help make you a better coach.

What is number one on my list?

The top mistake coaches in youth baseball make when the coach, mentor and teach their team is that they run their practices in a manner where they do not most utilize all of their time by keeping the players active during those down times.

What do I mean?

They have the entire team go "shag" balls in the field while they pitch to them one at a time for batting practice.

Practices normally range from one to three hours for youth sports, and utilizing this method for a twelve player team can take up to two hours.

Certainly not the most effective means of practice!

I learned through the years that even though you are the coach of the team, there are generally two or three other parents who would love the opportunity to get out there and be active with their player by being involved. Simply ask them if they would like to help out in practice!
Why do you need the help?

When I ran practice, I always ran "stations" where I had every player active the entire time of practice. Some of my most effective practices in youth baseball lasted only 90 minutes because I had them so well organized.

Here's how I would structure my stations:

Station 1 - Ground ball practice on the infield with three players, one receiving the ground ball, one playing the position of first base for drill purposes and receiving the throw from across the field, and one catching the return throw at home plate for you.

Station 2 - Hand/eye batting coordination with two players in the outfield. This drill is done with a sawed off wooden broomstick and golf wiffle balls. I put the kids on their knees to hit these little balls with the little stick. The object is not how far, but how many they could hit. One player would hit, the other would shag loose balls for you.

Station 3 - Soft toss into a fence with wiffle balls with two players. Use wiffle balls to prevent injury from a ball bouncing back on the player and also to prevent damage from the ball being constantly hit into the fence and rolling up the bottom of the fence. One player hits, while the other shags.

Station 4 - Hitting live baseballs in the batting cage. Self explanatory. Use two players, one actively hitting, the other "on deck" to speed up the process.

Station 5 - Base running techniques. The remaining three would be taught and worked on perfecting stealing, leading off and sliding techniques, as the age level allows.
Coaches would need to coordinate rotations to prevent backing up of one station.
If planned out well, you will have a very productive practice.

Truth be told, the players like being more active as well, and the time flies by. As I said, some of my more productive practices lasted only 90 minutes.
Now get planning!

We will continue to discuss what NOT to do as a youth baseball coach in Part 2 of this series.
Frank Thompson has been writing articles online for over two years now. Not only does this author specialize in coaching and youth sports, but you can also check out his latest website Erie Auto Insurance which reviews and compares Erie Auto Insurance to other auto insurers.

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