- Dec 6, 2016
Please write a coaching book.The absolute worst outcome from youth sports is kids walking away from an activity that is, at its core, supposed to be fun as a result of bad adult behavior. As such, I feel for some of you in this thread.
Instead of sharing some horror stories from my dozen years coaching farm up through U19 travel baseball - though I am happy to do that - I will relate what I have learned.
1. As many others have stated - the main goal is for kids to have fun and learn to love the sport. Objective 1A is for the kids to improve their skills.
2. Regarding winning, being competitive is very important and misunderstood. Most kids tend to be naturally competitive so even when we weren't keeping score, such as at farm or in scrimmages, the kids were.
In my experience, being competitive (not winning per se but being in games), even if you don't win, is inextricably intertwined with the kids having a good time. Programs that emphasize skills development and ignore being competitive tend to turn the kids off. Teams that aren't up to competing will often be beaten in a demoralizing fashion - even if you aren't about winning in youth sports, its the main goal of the vast majority of your competition. Love of a sport cannot blossom if you are a proverbial doormat.
As a side note, even though kids value the ability to compete, they tend to forget tough losses or even amazing wins much faster than parents and coaches. I marvel at that - its pretty remarkable.
3. The best youth baseball coaches I've seen balance all the above while allowing their players to fail. They will never chastise a kid for striking out or making an error, especially a physical one. They also reward/incentivize hustle and a good attitude. At the high school level, it makes all the difference for a kid if they don't feel like one bad AB will bury them for the balance of the season. Also, good coaches don't really "coach" in games as the message is more often than not lost.
4. As others have noted upthread, in LL I will only draft kids that receive high attitude marks from their previous coaches. If the choice is between a toolsy kid with a poor attitude or a middling one with a great attitude, the latter gets my pick every time. One of the biggest fallacies of coaching is that you can "coach up" athletes. There is never enough time to do everything you want to do and if you have to work with a kid/family that is a problem that creates an even bigger time suck. More importantly, all the kids tend to have a good time when everyone is pulling in the same direction whereas one bad apple can ruin an entire team.
5. Parents are, on balance, very unrealistic about evaluating their kids skills. Any league or program that wants to focus on the kids does all it can to minimize parental involvement in how teams are run, line-ups are made etc. For-profit travel teams are a nightmare because they can and do fall victim to pay-to-play situations where mom/dad writes extra checks to get their kid more reps at a position. Obviously, parent-coaches are a problem in this regard, more so in rec leagues where families are stuck with these people.
6. Lastly, in most little leagues where they have playoffs, every team makes it to the post-season. This means that there is no excuse not to give kids multiple chances to pitch or play whatever position they want to try provided there are no safety or health issues. We will even check back with kids who have stated they don't want to pitch to, at least, get them an inning or two. If coaches don't do this, especially early in the season, they are failing at their main job which is point number one above.
Sorry for the TL/DR but I care about making sure kids love baseball & sports so they continue to play until the sport tells them they can no longer continue. And even then, hopefully they pass on their love of the game to the next generation.
The nut bags I see when I'm reffing all need to read it.