It doesn't matter if you're coaching tee ball or coaching at the college level, you're probably the most important role model that your players have during the season. Players are going to look to you not only for guidance and instruction, but they will be watching and listening to how you react to every situation. I'm a strong believer that a coach can be one of the most influential people in a young players life. Many players and former players attribute a large portion of their success in life to the things they learned on the baseball field and from a few great coaches. We're not talking about fielding ground balls, or how to hit; we're talking about teamwork, perseverance, work ethic, having a positive attitude, to just name a few. Skills that not only helped them on the baseball field but helped them in life.
Often coaches think only of the present year; how am I going to develop the players to have a successful season. We'll get into a definition of successful in a bit, but the point here is often coaches don't realize the influence they have on their players. Coaches can help instill a love for the game that can last a lifetime. Good coaches can keep players interested in continuing to participate from year to year.
As a coach you have to decide how you want to be seen by your players and the parents of your players. What type of example do you want to provide? I hope everyone takes the responsibility of coaching very seriously. It takes a lot of hard work and effort to be a successful coach. The following paragraphs discuss some important issues that you should consider incorporating into your coaching philosophy.
Players need a patient, supportive coach that can teach and motivate in a positive way. Knowing how to be positive and having the ability to communicate with your players is more important to a successful season than knowing many aspects of the game.
Each player needs to know that you care for him as an individual and that you believe he is an important part of the team. Take time to talk to all players individually. Try to take interest in what is going on in their life outside of baseball.
Fun is essential for kids of all ages. Develop practices that let them do the things they enjoy. It's also important for you to have fun. Create an environment that is structured and varied enough for you to enjoy what your doing. If you're having fun, chances are your players will be having fun also.
Players want to improve and gain new skills. Make sure that you challenge all your players at an appropriate level to foster improvement. This may require that players focus on different skills than other players during practice.
Don't make the mistake of emphasizing results instead of effort. I've seen and heard coaches who try to motivate players by offering rewards. This could be money or candy for getting a hit or getting on base. This focus on results puts additional pressure on the player to perform. This can be especially difficult for the less skilled player. A father once told me that his son's coach offered a candy bar for each hit during the season. His son started to get nervous the night before each game and it got worse as the season went on. The father talked to his son and found out that he felt like he was letting his team down because he hadn't got a hit and was the only kid on the team to not get a candy bar. He talked to the coach and they eliminated the reward. Without the pressure of trying to achieve a results based reward, his son was able to relax and got a number of hits over the last few games.
Kids quickly pick up on a coach that is unorganized and doesn't communicate his expectations. If you don't establish certain rules and don't follow up with an appropriate punishment if the rules are broken, you will quickly lose control of your team. I always have a rule about talking when I'm talking during practice. I expect when I'm explaining something that the players will have their eyes on me and pay attention. If they interrupt or don't pay attention, I stop talking and we wait as a team for the individual to stop. If he does it again in the same practice he sits down and watches for awhile. I rarely have a player sitting on the side after the first couple of practices.
I love the quote in Mike Krzyzewski's book 'Leading With The Heart'. "When teaching, always remember this simple phrase: 'You hear, you forget. You see, you remember. You do, you understand." Often coaches try to teach players a skill by talking about it. The younger the player the less effective it will be. Give a quick explanation while you show them the skill you want them to perform. Then have them do it.
Coaches that believe winning is the everything have only one direction to take the team...down. Everyone wants to win, but when main goal is winning a really good season can be lost. If on the other hand you emphasize attitude and effort, a successful season can be had without a league championship. Winning games really will take care of itself if you prepare the team to play hard and always give their best effort.
The idea of sportsmanship seems to be lost on many youth players. The fact is, sportsmanship must be taught. If children watch professional sports then their idea of sportsmanship may be to trash talk, spike the ball in the opponents face, or to mimic some other visual statement that demonstrates their superiority. As a coach it's important that you teach the value of sportsmanship. I want my team to show joy when they make an exciting play, but not at the expense of the player on the opposing team. I want my players to always show the other team respect. Your leadership is the best way to get this across to your players. Interact with the players on the other team. Compliment them when they make a good play. Show your players that you appreciate the other team and the opportunity to play against them.