Coaching All-stars-Get the most from the best
You have been a good coach for the whole season. Your team finished in first place, and now you have been selected to coach the All-star team. Congratulations you are coaching All-stars. Along with this honor comes the responsibility of organizing a new group of young players and their parents. Good Luck!
You are probably in a groove working with your team. They know you and your expectations. At the same time, you are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Time for everybody to get out of their comfort zone. There are changes when you coach All-stars. First, you don’t understand the quirks of your players as well as you would like. Second, you don’t know their parents as well as you need to.
Most important first step… expectations
The first thing you will need to address is the expectations. The parents are going to want their child to be the star playing short batting third hitting the game-winning walk-off grand slam. You will need to address the need for the team to be a team and not a group of individuals. One goal, one mission, one mindset is what will make their child’s All-star experience a success.
Have a parents meeting and encourage them to sign an agreement that includes the phrase, “I will support my child.” It should also include that they will not yell direction to the players from the stands. Most of all positive encouragement goes a lot further than extra help. Make sure that everyone understands that coaches coach, players play, and parents cheer. You might also want to discuss a twenty-four-hour rule for conversations about game decisions.
Now we will dig into coaching the team. There is an interesting dynamic in All-stars. All the players are usually pretty good at some part of the game. Your team is made up of the best players from several different teams.
Most of your players can probably pitch. Likewise, most of your players are going to be able to play anywhere on the field. However, most of them probably spent the majority of the season and maybe their playing career in a position in the middle of the field, short, second or center. You probably have one or two kids who are primarily catchers maybe one or two that are only first basemen. The team might even have a player or two that are pitchers and hopefully can play another position without hurting the team too much.
The coaches are going to have to find out who is going to play where. Who your starters are and who your bench players are going to be. Then you have to get the players and the parents to agree with your decisions. Sit players down and discuss their role. Then address the parents the same way. Knowing what your plan is ahead of time makes your decisions easier to understand. Remember that a great coach is a great communicator.
Selling the “BUY IN” step one
That leads us to the “BUY IN” process. Getting parents and players to believe that you know what you are doing and what you are doing is in the best interest of the team.
The easiest way to do this is going to be a two-phase system. The first part is to set a team goal. “We are going to strive to be the best players we can be,” is a team goal. “We are going to develop friendships and teach each other our strengths,” is a goal.
WINNING is NOT a goal.
Winning is something that happens when you WORK to achieve a common goal. As a coach, you should never be mention winning to parents or players. Working toward a goal is what all conversations should revolve around.
Selling the “BUY IN” step two
The second part of the system is going to be group ownership. Using words like “WE” and “OUR” you will encourage everyone to participate in the achievement of the common goal. “MY” and “YOU” are separatist words that make the players and coaches feel like an individual. We have a short amount of time to get this group of players to bond and become one unit working together. You need every trick in the book.
Being an All-star is not about ability. The difference between the last player on your bench and the next five kids that didn’t make the team is probably more mental than physical. All-stars is a mindset. Team players make All-star teams because they worked withing the framework of their team to improve both their strengths and weaknesses.
Who are you coaching?
Now that you have addressed the parents and players mentally you will need to start working on the physical part of baseball. You have to figure out who is playing where and when. It is time to identify your players.
During your first session together, you are going to want to quickly and discreetly figure out your lineups. You need to access players physical and mental tools. The following practice plan will give you an opportunity to accomplish this.
Coaching All-stars Practice plan
First Practice: All-stars
Infield: Whole team
Four stations- first base, second base, third base, shortstop
Each player will field a ball at each position making a throw to first base. After their turn, each player will rotate to the next position. 1B to 2B, 2B to SS, SS to 3B, and 3B to 1B sprinting behind home plate to get there. Give all players a number in order (index card in pocket). Numbers allow you to know at the end of the session which made a mistake mentally following directions. This drill will test physical ability as well as ability to listen and process instructions.
Outfield: Whole team
Two stations- LF & RF
Group in LF fields balls (fly balls and ground balls) then makes throws to 3B. Group in RF fields balls and throws to 2B. Switch groups every ball. Players should sprint along outfield fence to change groups. All players have consecutive numbers so you can see if anyone has made a mental error following directions.
Make an “A” and “B” team based on performance during individual drills.
Team “B” takes positions. Use extra players as runners. Run situational defense for six to nine outs. Have a coach hitting with a soft toss to get a better feel for players ability to move on pitch and range in the field.
Replace team “B” with team “A.” Run the drill again.
Accessing your team this way will give you an idea of how your initial thoughts translate to gameplay. Running team “B” first will also show you who your front runners are and who your scrappy players are. Some kids will give up some if they are not picked to play shortstop first. You need to access your team’s mental makeup as well as physical all the time.
The whole team does situational base running drill. Tell the team to run three different situations and split them into three groups. In addition, do not address the team again until the all three tasks are complete.
See if players can remember what comes next without coach intervention.
Here is a link to the all-star practice plan PDF so you can print it easily.
Now you have an idea of what your team is, who makes up the team and what their strengths and weaknesses are. You are going to want to give each of the players something to work on a simple drill that will help them improve a weakness at home.
During future practices, you are going to want to run a “dynamic” warm-up session followed by individual drills then team drills. Finish each practice with a two to three round BP.
The drills you use to work on player development are going to be determined by your player’s strengths and weaknesses. You should always work on weaknesses first then end with strengths. Weakness first gives more time to work on problems. Working on strengths last builds confidence. Alway try to finish sessions doing something that allows players to succeed.
Coaches don’t spend enough time working on situational baseball. I know this because there is never sufficient time to work on situational baseball. Teaching everything you should do in every situation takes a lifetime. Spend as much time as you can working on situational defense.
Running “4 on 4 on 4” games during practice is an excellent way to work on situations. If you don’t know the game, you put four players on each offensive team. One team will hit. The other two teams field while a coach pitches. The teams will rotate every 3 to 6 outs. You can also do the scenario you used in your first practice.
Pitching and defense are going to make your team more successful than hitting. Therefore, work on pitching and defense first, so you reinforce the concept then work on offense.
You will want to start and end each practice with a psychology session. Pre-practice you want to state your long term team goal and a short-term team goal. Doing this will get every player on your team on the same page making for a targeted practice session. During your post-practice addressing of the team, you will want to leave them with a message that keeps the focus on what the long term goal is and bring their attention to the next step in the process.
Be sure that you don’t move on to the next phase in the process until your team has shown proficiency in the current step.
Let’s recap. First, create a “WE” environment for your players and parents. Second, make sure to workout your team with precision and excellence toward a common goal. Finally, run your All-star team like it is an organization and not a one-month dream team. If you do these three things, you and your team will have success, fun and make lifelong friendships.