Archive for Coaching t Ball
It goes with out saying but things are much easier for you as a coach if you stay organized. I know you are a baseball coach now and all you want to do is show off your ability to teach fundamentals to your players.
Slow down, there will be plenty of time for that but…
I applaud your enthusiasm; however I hope you realize there is more to being a head coach than just coaching especially at the youth level. You will most likely find yourself handling a variety of tasks before, during and after practice and if you are not careful the entire process will become such a job that you will not want to ever set foot on a baseball field again as a coach.
It doesn’t have to be that way and becoming organized is a way to deal with the reality of coaching youth sports. I challenge you to become very good at organization and delegation from the start of your coaching experience.
Over the years I have not found too many coaches that are successful at any level unless they are very organized and learn how to delegate tasks to others.
Key Organizing Points
- Learn as much as you can ahead of the start of the season. Tap your league as a resource for learning the game.
- Know the rules as we discussed earlier.
- Once you get a list of your players from the league create a roster listing the names, ages, addresses, email addresses and contact numbers for each.
- Hold a preseason parents meeting and outline your expectations.
- Create a binder/folder and keep this information with you. I suggest you put it in your car and have it with you throughout the day. There will come a time when you need to refer to it to.
- Create an email list for use throughout the season.
- Create a practice schedule and pass out to everyone. I also us an online application called http://www.mypocketschedules.com. This application is available for the iPhone and my parents have always enjoyed having access to it. You can tell them to access it for all practice and game schedules which will keep you from having to send out a ton of reminders. Just update the schedule and tell them to check it each week. Works very well.
- Create your game line-ups ahead of the game and provide to all your coaches.
- Recruit a mom or dad to help with organizing and managing the dug out during games. This is an absolute must have at this level or you will have complete chaos going on.
- Recruit a “Team Mom” as quick as possible to help with developing a snack schedule for each game and organize a team party at the end of the season. Yes, little Tee Ball players want snacks after the game. Be specific with what you expect the “Team Mom” to do and put everything in writing to her.
- Develop a practice plan for every practice you conduct. Your plan should outline what will be covered and the time allocated to it. Spell out who is going to be helping you with the drills etc.
- Get your parents out on the field and delegate tasks to them during practice. They will be your life line with this age group and you must learn to delegate to them. You will usually be surprised at how willing parents are to help but just need you to ask them. Their kids will love having them participate so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
A word about Baseballs
There are a ton of baseballs out on the market with certification for various organizations; however at the Tee Ball level you will main be using soft core almost rubbery baseballs for safety reasons.
Your league may or may not provide you with a bucket of balls but regardless of where you get them you will need at least 24 baseballs to effectively run a practice. Don’t run out and buy hard baseballs used by older kids as that could do more harm than good. These young players are going to be afraid of the ball for the most part and getting one of them hit with a very hard leather baseball is a sure fire way to have them not wanting to play the game again. Getting hit is part of baseball and yes that will happen so prepare for it. If they get hit at this age make sure it’s with a ball designed for the Tee Ball level and that will be soft core, rubber style balls.
These balls look just like regular baseballs and are even made with leather in some cases; however they have a rubber/sponge center making them fairly soft. See the picture below for a type of ball designed for Tee Ball.
We don’t recommend a specific brand of baseball just make sure you get the ones made for Tee Ball.
In most recreational leagues today equipment is provided by the league for use at the Tee Ball level; however the quality of such equipment is not very good and usually in need of repair.
Most leagues provide a minimum amount of equipment but every situation is different so you should ask questions when you sign up to be a coach. Just know what you are getting and whether or not you will have equipment to work with.
To effectively run a team you will need the following equipment at a minimum:
- 1 Batting Tee
- 4 Batting Helmets – 1 for the hitter and 3 for a full set of base runners
- 1 Set of Throw-down Bases
- 1 Dozen Soft Core Tee Balls – soft core balls are softer than regular baseballs and should be used especially for first year Tee Ball players.
- 1 Tee Ball Bat – these bats are lightweight and designed for young kids who have not developed much strength at this point.
- 1 Set of Catcher’s Gear if your league allows for a catcher at the Tee Ball Level.
- 1 Gear Bag
- 2 Additional Batting Tees – having three tee’s will allow you to split the players up in smaller groups and work drills designed to develop fundamental hitting mechanics. You should be able to find additional tees for $10-$15 should you decide to invest in your team.
- 2 Dozen Soft Core Baseballs – less chasing of baseballs and speeds up practice and allows for multiple groups.
- 2 Dozen wiffle balls – these balls allow you to operate hitting drills without the need to chase baseballs.
- 6 Tennis Balls – used to teach throwing and catching without the fear of getting hit with a hard baseball.
- 3 to 4 Tee Ball Bats, but these days every kid has a bat so should not be an issue for you.
When you first get your equipment do an inventory and check the condition of all equipment. You will find things that need to be replaced and if your league provided the equipment get with them to replace immediately. You don’t want your kids playing with cracked helmets etc.
I would suggest you wash the batting helmets inside and out as you have no idea who used them before or where they were stored. It’s just safer to wash them before allowing them to be used. In addition I required my players to wear their baseball cap under the helmet unless it was their own. You will find a lot of kids even at the Tee Ball level will now have their own helmet and Tee Ball bat.
You need to keep up with all the equipment and working with this age group you cannot count on much help from the players. I always conducted an inventory of my equipment prior to leaving practice. Trust me, don’t ignore this step as I can assure you things can and do walk off.
You might think I know the rules of baseball and if you’ve played the game or been involved I’m sure you do but Tee Ball can be a lot different and the rules vary greatly from league to league. You need to get a copy of the rules your league plays by as soon as possible and spend 15 minutes reading and understanding them. It’s not difficult to learn and having a guide to how things will be run in a game is important to keeping things running smoothly.
Your practices should be set up and follow the rules of the game so the players get used to doing what will be expected in the games.
I’ve outlined below a few of the major differences between a Tee Ball game and regular baseball as it’s played today.
- Tee Ball games are played on smaller fields with 40-50 feet base paths.
- In true Tee Ball games there is no pitching of the ball and a batting tee is used at home plate.
- The players get 4-6 swings to put the ball in play off the batting tee.
- Most leagues don’t count outs at this level and let everyone bat. Once all players have a turn to bat sides change and the team plays defense.
- Usually have 10 players on defense. Four outfielders instead of three.
- Coaches and/or parents are allowed to position themselves in the outfield just off the infield dirt to provide direction to the players.
- Base running is usually base to base and players are not allowed to go more than 1 base at a time. This varies greatly from league to league so check your rules. I have seen leagues modify it a little and if a child hits the ball really hard past the outfielders they are allowed to take 2 bases.
- Score is rarely kept at the in Tee Ball games and is more about introducing the kids to playing the game than it is about winning it.
Note 1: When I coached at this level I did talk to my players about winning and losing and I judged winning and losing by how many outs we got compared to the other team. Usually the team that records the most outs will have kept the least amount of players from scoring.
Note 2: As I’ve stated before, it’s not winning at all cost and everyone should show good sportsmanship but I do believe you should teach your players how to win and lose games as it’s part of life. I know there are a lot of people that will not agree with me and that is completely fine with me. I’m not even saying I’m right on this, but for my children it works. Now that they are older they are very competitive but win and lose games showing great sportsmanship and I’ve never had a problem with either of them on this. You as the coach can decide how that fits into your philosophy.
After you have read and understand the rules share them with your parents so they can be involved. Some will appreciate you keeping them informed. You will find that by providing the parents the rules it will keep those parents that think they know baseball from going sideways when their son isn’t allowed to take multiple bases when he hits the ball, should that be a rule of your league.
If you have any questions regarding the rules of your league you should bring them up to a league commissioner or player agent immediately. They will be more than happy to help you understand everything. Engaging them will show them how much interest you have in learning the game so don’t be embarrassed to ask your questions.
You will need to plan practice times and find a location to practice. Here are some great ideas to help you get started.
You will discover some leagues will schedule practice fields and practice times for all teams; however others will require you to locate a field for practice.
Obviously its best if the league provides a field and schedules the practice for you but should you have to find a location it should be fairly easy for you to do at the Tee Ball level. Really any open field will do and all you need is some drop down bases to make it work. You can purchase drop down bases at a local sporting goods store and a set shouldn’t cost you more than $10 – $12. Some leagues provide them as part of their equipment package.
If you have to find a field like I did when I coached Tee Ball I would go to my local elementary school and find an open field to play in. I set up the drop down bases at the distances we played at and walked the field to ensure there are no holes that could injure a player.
Here are a few ideas for locating fields:
- Behind or around local schools
- Local churches usually have open space that could be used
- Go to a city or county park and locate a spot away from everyone as much as possible
- Open spaces in your neighborhood
Over the next several days I’ll provide you with the guidelines you need to start a successful team and get them to the practice field where they can perform their best.
To be a good coach there is a little more to it than just teaching baseball. Sure that’s the reason you volunteered your time but if you really want to be a memorable coach you will pay close attention to this section and get organized from the very beginning.
What I’m about to show you has worked for me when I coached Tee Ball and I’m sure it will work for you. I will also tell you that by following the information provided in this section you will standout amongst your coaching peers and create memorable moments for your players and their parents.
I challenge you right now to get engaged in coaching. Don’t look at it as this is only Tee Ball. I’m not saying go over the top, just be highly engaged and organized in everything you do. The players, parents and league will notice.
Contacting your local league
League support can vary greatly from location to location and organization to organization so you need to find out what you have from the vary beginning. I suggest once you register your child for participation and you volunteer to coach make contact with league officials or an administrator.
You are going to need to get some details on how things are run so I suggest you ask the following questions. In most cases the league will be very helpful especially to new coaches as trust me they need your help.
While this might not answer all of your questions here are the ones I feel are most important and you should know the answers to at a minimum.
- Where do practices take place and does the league schedule practice time?
- If no, do I have to find practice fields?
- Will I have an assistant coach or will I have to recruit a parent?
- How many players are on each team?
- Will the team have to do fundraising?
- When do games start and where are they played?
- What type of equipment does the league provide?
- Is there insurance and am I covered under the policy as a coach?
- What rules do we play by?
This should get you started in the right direction but I’m sure you have more questions so just ask them. The bottom line is you should get answers to all the questions you have and if you don’t then I suggest you find a new league plan and coach in. From my experience it would be very rare for a league to not want to give you all the answers to your questions.
Value of Versatility
So what is versatility you ask?
Versatility in baseball is a player that can be used to play a number of positions for their team. In addition to playing positions being a switch hitter makes you more versatile especially as the player gets older.
Coaches love baseball players like this. It gives them many options when creating line-ups or making changes during the game.
I’ve coached a number of teams, some young kids, some much older and I can tell you I always look for players that give me more options as a coach. Sure, I want speed and power but I also want versatility.
I encourage parents, coaches and players to develop versatility. Coaches, you need to develop young players at different positions. Parents you need to encourage your child to ask their coach to play more than just their favorite position. Coaches want like what I’m about to say, but if you have a coach at the 11U or less age group that doesn’t give you the opportunity to develop at 3 or more positions then you need to find a new coach. Even older team coaches should still focus on developing players at 2 positions.
Coaches, this is not about you winning the league championship. I know you will do more for kids if you come in 2nd or 3rd in your league but develop players at many positions. You will give those players more options when they get older and are playing high school, college or pro ball. You as a youth league coach can make a difference on these young players by giving them options to play many positions. Get over yourself, stop trying to win the championship at all costs and develop players.
Don’t get me wrong, winning is great and every young child loves to win. You should still teach your players how to win games but focus on player development. I’ve one my fair share of games over the years and we have always been competitive but I can assure you my teams have always required kids to play as many as 4 positions even at older levels. Notice I said required. I require them to move around to some extent. Here are my guidelines:
6 years old and under – players play every position on the field as long as they can protect themselves and not create a safety concern.
7 – 11 years old – players should develop at 4 positions minimum. Outfield, Middle Infield, Catcher, First Base. Some combination that works for your players.
11 years old and older – players are now learning a primary fielding position. All players should learn to play a back-up position but I prefer to back-up positions if possible. Pitching is separate from this. You might have a 1st baseman that can play catcher, outfield and then pitch as needed.
I’m sure there are many additional thoughts on this but the plan above works for me. It’s proven to provide players good development opportunities on the baseball diamond.
So what will this do for you as a player?
- Coaches will look to you for more playing time because of your ability to successfully play multiple positions.
- Give you an edge to make higher level teams because of the options you give the coach. Even with less talent than others.
- Sets you apart from the majority of older players.
- It’s fun to play multiple positions.
Parents, help your kids become more versatile. Find a new team if your coach doesn’t support that.
Coaches, develop players at multiple positions regardless of age.
Players, you need to have fun and start learning new positions. It will give you more opportunities in the years to come.
Good luck and may all your baseball dreams come true.