My career before kids was that of a coach. I loved it. I miss it. But as I told the parents of the kids I was coaching when I left, “There will always be kids for me to coach, it’s only my kids once.”
Since my kids are getting older, my skills and passion of coaching have returned. The past 2 years I have coached my boys teams. I thought I’d share what I do and how you can do it to.
- Greet every child by name
This seems obvious but there are studies and science to back up the idea that saying a persons name greatly influences their relationship with you. Also, the best way to learn a kids name, is to say it over and over again. So don’t be afraid of calling them the wrong name or asking them their name the first few weeks. I sometimes call them a ridiculous name to make a connection with that child. A “hello” and high five with their name being said is a great way to having that kid buy into what you are trying to teach.
By the way, I do the same thing with my kids on the team. I say their name, high five them and ask them how their day was at school. I try to make baseball practice a separate part of theirs and my relationship. I also insist they call me the same title as all the other kids.
2. Hitting balls and the throw to 1st base
Every practice since the beginnings of baseball has started this way, don’t stop it because you think they are too little or it’s too old school! There is nothing my kids like more than watching the Big Leaguers doing what they do. And the Major League still does this for practice too.
3. Warm up
Check out our blog post here with more details and videos to show you what are some options you can do.
Warm up should last no more than 10 minutes. I use warm up as the time when practice is supposed to start until the time all the kids have arrived.
In baseball, we always finish warm up with runs around the bases. Either we are practices the sprint to 1st, the go around to second, or the sprint from third to home, we always practice base running.
4. Stations of the Basics
Hitting, Throwing, Catching and Fielding.
These are the basics for any baseball player. This should be done every single practice.
I set up 3 stations led by 3 coaches/parents with the Head Coach roving between the 3 stations.
Station 1: Throwing and Catching
Just playing catch! If you have kids who can’t catch yet, use a tennis ball. It hurts less when they get hit in the face.
Station 2: Fielding
Start with underhand ground balls straight at them. As they get proficient at this, move them from side to side. Eventually you want to be hitting it from a bat at varying speeds and making them move those feet to keep the ball between their legs.
Station 3: Hitting
I coached last season with a former professional. And he told me something I had never heard before, that you never out-grow the Tee. He said that no matter the age, hitting off a tee is always valuable. So I started incorporating that into this hitting station. Have a tee set up and let kids hit into a fence over and over again. But also have a coach tossing balls so they practice watching the ball in.
These stations should take 20-30 minutes.
Split the kids into 3 groups (I usually base it around skill level, with the best players together and the worst players together) and each group is at a station 6-8 minutes.
One of the most frustrating things I had as a professional coach watching other coaches (especially volunteers) is how infrequently they taught. There was an expectation that kids should know things. But especially if you don’t have them every season, you have no idea what they know. TEACH! Every practice.
What do you teach? Baseball, especially, has really nuanced rules and a lot of them, teach them. Here are some ideas:
- Force outs versus tag outs
- how to tag
- how to slide
- where to throw the ball
- hitting and running without looking at the ball
- The positions! Where to stand and what do you do when the ball is hit. Do it for pitcher, catcher, 1st, 2nd, etc.
- who do you back up? How to back up someone
Just so you know, there are lots of older kids who have been playing a lot of baseball that still need help learning these things.
Story: When I was in 8th grade playing softball I still didn’t know how to tag. I had been playing baseball for years at this point and as a catcher I was thrown the ball to take out the runer coming in from third. I tagged her in the chest and she jammed both of my thumbs. Why? Because no one had taught me how to tag her from the side. It was a painful lesson I learned way later than I should have. In other words, take the time to teach them things you thought they knew or they may even thing they already know.
This should take 10 minutes.
6. Work on a skill you saw them lacking in the last game/practice
After every game I would tell the kids what they did well and what they struggled on as a team. Then as coaches we would talk the same thing, what did they do well, what do we need to work on. Well make time each practice to work on that. Is it the basics that we already worked on? Then do it again!
The time on this depends on the length of your practice. If your practice is an hour you have about 10 minutes. If it’s an hour and a half spend a solid 20-30 minutes here. Feel free to break kids up here as well. Take a group to work on something and another to work on something else.
7. End it with a Game
The goal at the end of every practice is to convince the kids this is the greatest part of their week/day. Play a game that is athletic in nature but sure to make them laugh.
- Obstacle Courses
- Red Rover
- Another sport (soccer, football)
As a coach your job should be to comment on every single kid. Every kid should hear from you. Whether it’s a slight change or a exclamation of a job well done say something to every single kid.
If there are ideas you have for coaching baseball, leave them in the comments.
Here is a PDF version that can be printed out and used to organize your practice.
Send it to your assistant coaches or let them look at it before practice. Keep these together for the whole season so you can see what you have covered and what you haven’t.