Growing up, there was the constant pop of a baseball hitting a mitt, both mine and my father’s, coming from our backyard during the spring and summer. Many times we’d lay bases on the green grass as if to recreate the plays of an actual game. I can recall many a Game 7 of the World Series being won by either striking out the final batter with a high fastball or by the ever elusive walk-off grand slam.
My father coached me from T-ball up through high school, except for one year. It was a source of much frustration for him because, like most kids, I wouldn’t listen to him because he was my “dad.” I couldn’t look at him as a coach because we would talk about practice or the game at dinner or while on our way to school. But it was also one of my greatest joys being able to give him a high five on first base when I had my hit in high school.
I never knew at the time all that he put into coaching my teams and me throughout the years. I took it for granted that every summer I could count on him to coach my team. Win or lose he would be standing there at the end of the game giving us words of encouragement and advice on what we could do better the next time.
It seemed natural that I would coach my own children in baseball as they grew up. As the head of my son’s coach-pitch team, I learned quickly that it wasn’t for me — at least the head coaching part of it. I never thought back to look at everything that my dad had to do leading those many teams.
So before you sign up for coaching for any of your children’s sports teams, consider these things:
Coaching is a serious time commitment
Being a coach involves the many aspects of making sure that your team is ready for the season. You’ll have to work with your local parks and rec department or league to make sure that you have a place to practice. You are responsible for making sure you have the gear that your team needs for the season and keeping it in working order.
Organizing practices are as important as game planning. Luckily, internet videos and books are easy to find to teach you drills and how to set up practice plans.
Forming a lineup, while it seems easy, is much harder when you need to make sure everyone gets a chance to play, sometimes in every position. I recommend taking an hour or two every week to figure out lineups and positions, and how to rotate your players. One of the things that I did with my coach pitch team had the kids bat in order of their jersey number and then rotate them all through the positions throughout the game.
Managing player dynamics
Every player is different. Every player can play at a different level than the other. Some will require more coaching than others but you’ll also have ones you can count on to know what to do in given situations without constantly reminding them throughout the game. There are going to be players who want to play certain positions, and that is all they want to play. And then it will feel like the entire team wants to know the score and where they bat in the lineup.
It will become quickly apparent what every kid’s dynamic will be throughout the season. Find out what motivates each player. Some will want to know where they bat in the order every time they come in from playing in the field. Some aren’t going to say much and are going to know exactly what their job is for that given day.
It will never fail that you are going to have some parents who step up and help you coach the team. If you are lucky, you will have a set of parents who are encouraging throughout the season without being ultra-competitive or complaining that their kid isn’t getting enough playing time. Embrace these parents who want to become involved.
Have a parents meeting either before the first practice or at the first practice and set the expectations early for them. Let them know that you want them to be involved and encouraging not demeaning and rude to other parents, coaches, players, and the umpires.
Remember your kid is still a player
As a head coach, this is something that I quickly forgot. I was harder on my son than any other player on the team. Naturally, I had higher expectations for him than I did for other players, but I also forgot during that season that he was still only 6 years old. He was going to play in the dirt and not listen to what me, as a coach, had to say.
As an assistant coach, I still catch myself being this way. Our children respond best to coaching and instructions when they coming from a parent. One of the best ways to get the point across to your child is to let one of the other coaches know that you want them to be the one who talks to your child and instruct them on whatever they need to do.
These are just a few tips that I have learned throughout my time coaching my son throughout his baseball career. The thing to remember throughout the season though is, in the end,you want your kid to have fun.
Because if they have fun, you have fun.