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Easy Steps to Becoming a Better Youth Baseball Coach

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I have been involved with coaching youth and high school sports for over 30 years. I have coached baseball, basketball, football and soccer.

Play ball!

Play ball!

So You Want to Be a Youth Baseball Coach

Being a youth baseball coach is not as easy as it may seem. I have coached kids from five years old up to 18 years old and, like a lot of other coaches, I have learned many valuable lessons along the way. I have had the good fortune to know a lot of very successful coaches and, unfortunately, a lot of unsuccessful coaches. I realized that a lot of really good people with really good intentions get into youth baseball but they really don't have a plan of what to do once they get there. Let's face it, just because you know a little about baseball doesn't mean you will be a good baseball coach. With this in mind, I interviewed several successful youth baseball coaches and compiled a list of steps to help put any coach on the road to success.

First Things First: Team Meeting

This is the most important thing you will do heading into the baseball season. The park director or one of his/her delegates will provide you with a list of players on your team. Chances are, you may not know any of these kids or their parents so this meeting is very important. You should put a lot of time and effort into planning this meeting. Start with introductions. Introduce yourself and explain to the parents why you want to coach their kids. Give a little background about yourself. Next, if you have any assistant coaches introduce them and allow them to tell a little about themselves. If you don't have assistants this could be a good time to ask for a few volunteers. Next, allow each parent to introduce their child and themselves.

After introductions, explain to the parents what your goals are for the season. Depending on the age group you are coaching, one coaches goals may be considerably different from another. Naturally, you always want to win, but if you are coaching kids six years old and under, that shouldn't be your main goal. So when setting team goals take into account the age of the kids you are coaching.

Make sure to provide everyone with a practice and game schedule with clearly printed times and dates. Also, provide a copy of your team rules. These rules should include things like missing or being late for practice or games. Explain how you plan to provide playing time for each kid and how breaking a team rule impacts their playing time. Make sure to get two different forms of contact information from each parent. Games and practices will be canceled for reasons you can't control and you need to be able to contact everyone as quick as possible. After the meeting ends don't rush everyone out the door. Allow people to hang around and get to know each another. After all, these parents are going to spend a lot of time with each other at the ballpark for the next couple of months.

Time for practice.

Time for practice.

Practice

The number one thing in coaching youth baseball should always be that the kids are having fun. Kids will look forward to practice as long as they are having a good time. To ensure that they will have fun a coach needs to have a well thought out practice plan. You can't just show up with a bucket of balls and a few bats and expect to have a productive practice. You need to have a plan. Your plan should be discussed with your assistant coaches before practice begins. You don't need to waste practice time explaining to your coaches what you are going to do next. First of all, most teams only have access to the practice field for about 90 minutes. You don't need to waste half of that time trying to explain what you are going to do. You should have a plan and your coaches should be well informed so they can help make practice run smoother. Your plan should never include players just standing around, they should be moving from station to station in practice. No kid gets better by standing around.

Kids of all ages need to warm up before practice. This does not mean to divide up and toss the ball back and forth. Although this does loosen the arm it does nothing for warming up your entire body. The best way to warm up is to start each practice with running bases. The younger age kids really enjoy this because they think of it as a race. Work on running from home to first base and then from home to second base. To keep kids from standing around too much you can break into smaller groups. While one group works on going from home to first the other can work on going from second to third or second to home. After about ten minutes of this, the kids will be ready to move to the next phase of practice.

Kids have fun running bases

Kids have fun running bases

Throwing and catching should be the next station of the practice plan. This should be a part of any youth baseball team practice. The best way for the arm to get stronger is to throw. The best way to get better at catching a baseball is to catch a lot of balls. With the technology we have today, it should not be a problem for a coach to come up with numerous throw and catch games that can be fun. YouTube alone has many great video examples.

We've covered everything now except hitting. This is what every kid wants to do, and you should devote plenty of practice time to it. You can find all kinds of information about hitting and you should have no problem finding hitting drills to include in your practice plan (check out the video below).

Game Time

The first game of the season is finally here. You have been working hard on your practice plans and now it is time to see how it all comes together. The kids are excited, the parents are excited, and you and your coaches are excited too. Relax, everything will be fine. You've prepared the team well. The main thing is to stay positive about the game. Your players may make ten errors in a row before someone actually catches a ball. Stay positive. I have seen way too many so-called coaches just lose control at games. Kids are not having much fun if their coach is standing in the dugout criticizing everything they do. Just relax and stay positive.

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