During baseball season, growing up there was the constant pop of a baseball hitting the ball glove of my father and mines in the backyard of our home. Many times there would be bases laid out on the green grass as if to recreate the plays of an actual game. I can recall many Game 7s 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 starting from t-ball up through high school, except for one year. It was a source of much frustration because 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. It was also one of the greatest joys being able to give my father a high five on first base when I had my first base hit in high school ball.
During the time, I never knew everything 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 summer baseball 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 son(s) in baseball as they grow up, hopefully, to be professional ballplayers someday. As my son’s coach pitch team head coach, 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 as head coaches for our summer teams.
Before signing up to be a head coach, for any time, there are things to think about before signing up to be the head coach of your child’s ball team.
Being a head coach involves many aspects of making sure that your team is ready for the season. You have to work with the parks and rec department or league to make sure that you have a place to practice. You are responsible for making sure that you have the gear that your team needs for the season. Forming a lineup, while it seems easy, is much harder when you are trying to make sure that everyone is getting a chance to play in every position.
If you are the head coach for the team, there are many youtube videos that you can watch to learn drills to have ready during practice. I’d also recommend taking an hour or two every week to set the lineup and positions throughout the game. 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.
Every player is different. Every player can play at a different level than the other. There are going to be the ones who require more coaching and then those who you can count on to know what to do in given situations without 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 every player. Some will want to know where they bat in the order everytime 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 the parents who step in 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 and complaining that their kid isn’t getting enough playing time. Embrace the 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 rather than demeaning and rude to other parents, coaches, players, and the umpires.
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 any of the 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 when I was giving instructions.
As an assistant coach, I still catch myself being this way. Our children respond best to instructions when they aren’t coming from “dad.” One of the best ways to get the point across to them 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 are to do in that given position.
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.