Each season, one of the issues youth baseball leagues deal with is the recruitment of new volunteer coaches or managers. Children get older and parents who coach move with them, thus opening up spots for new coaches. League officials are then faced with the quandary of providing a good experience for the children who register.
Often, the reputation of the league, at least a good portion of it, is determined by the coaching. A good experience might include: having fun, whether in practice or during a game; learning the basics; having productive practices; gaining experience; positive peer pressure and learning to compete. Yes, there's more that can be mentioned, but the expectations of parents and kids generally revolve around how they perceive the overall experience. Is our coach as good as theirs? Why don't we do what they do? Are we having fun? Does my child look forward to going to practice and games? Is my child learning the basics and building a foundation on which to improve?
Taking the Plunge
Don't think for a moment that all the things mentioned above, and more, don't factor into the decision of a parent when deciding whether or not to volunteer as a coach. As if the time commitment isn't enough, what about all the scrutiny they'll face during a season. Let's assume for a moment that the majority of the time coaches interact with their players is in a practice environment. (Regularly scheduled practice times, extra batting, pre-game warm-ups, taking infield, etc.) With this in mind, many volunteer coaches, unless they come from a strong baseball background, are concerned with things like: what should I do in practice, how do we prepare for a game and teaching fundamentals of mechanics, not to mention strategy. Oh yeah?all this on top of a full-time job and/or other children also involved in other sports or activities.
Helping New Coaches
Here are some things that leagues can do to help their recruiting efforts for coaches: How about offering some coaching clinics, by soliciting the support of high school coaches or college coaches in the area. This helps, but sometimes a one-time clinic is too much information for rookie coaches or there's not enough time to cover a season's worth of ideas. Short of taking even more time out of your schedule to research books on baseball and read them, or spending hours on the internet, what other tools can be offered to help coaches structure and organize practices on a moments notice, after a long, hard day at work?
Keeping practices fun and keeping the kids engaged throughout the entire practice, to accomplish the goals of the league, parents and players, can be a challenge. There are tools you can throw in your bag or keep handy for quick reference. One such example of a coaching tool reminds me of "flash-cards" to which we can all relate. Coachdeck is one such tool, which contains a collection of 52 drills, presented in a playing card format. On each card is a brief, easy-to-read explanation of what the drill accomplishes as well as an illustration depicting how the drill is organized. It's a great quick reference tool coaches can leave in their team bag, or keep in the glove-box of their car. Regardless, this type of tool is simple and effective and can help leagues in their recruiting of new coaches.
At the end of the day, if the coaches are "allowed to play their cards right," a rewarding experience will be had by all. Here are three drills (of 52) offered.
- Around the horn?with a twist - helps teach players to focus on catching, transferring and throwing the ball in a hurry, to any base on the field.
- Base Running contest (great to end practice) – teaches player to round bags and touch bags in the correct spot, when running bases.
- Teamwork relays – teaches players how to properly cut balls thrown into the infield from the outfield when trying to get base runners out at any base.