Youth Baseball Coaching Philosophy
There will be two parts to the philosophy section. The first is how you coach players to play on the field. This first part will be choosing between an offensive or defensive strategy. The other side is how do you deal with players and parents expectations.
There are two ways to think about this either your plan is to score a lot or don’t let the other team score at all.
If you have a team that is strong offensively then your strategy is put the best hitting lineup together and try to score a lot of runs. You will then defensively do your best to slow the other team down. The negative to this approach is that a good pitcher may limit your offense and if your defense isn’t good enough to shut down the other team you may have a hard time keeping up. The positive side is everyone loves to hit and score runs. You will have a happy team when they hit.
If you have a strong defensive team, you will want to put your best 3 or 4 hitters together and hope that they can scratch out some runs. My high school coach used to describe his dream offensive inning like this. Bunt and get on first. Steal second and third or get sacrificed in from second with the next two outs. I can’t tell you how many times that happened for us it was incredible. Then all we had to do was play defense no errors no mental mistakes win the game 1- 0.
Systems that fit your strategy
A lot of youth leagues now are going to full roster batting orders, and this makes things a little more complicated. I have found it best to spread out your good hitters between the weaker ones, and hopefully one or two of the weaker ones will get hits or walks to keep the lineup moving.
I always preach to my players the “Put it on the next guy approach.” If you do your job, your teammate then can do his. If you try to do his job too, you probably won’t do either one very well.
Every baseball player has expectations. I like to give my players an assignment before we even practice. When I call them to let them know they are on my team and when our first practice is I ask them to write down three things they would like to do during this baseball season. It could be anything from I would like to win the Little League World Series to I want to make friends. The point isn’t what they want to do as much as it is for you to understand the expectations that each player has for their year.
I found out later on that it was a good idea to get the parents to do the same thing. It helps you to understand and manage the team better. Especially when you find out that little Timmy wants to get through the year hanging out with his friends and not get hit by a pitch while dad thinks, Jimmy should bat leadoff hit .500 or better and have a couple of dingers. That scenario is going to lead to a conversation with dad after the 2nd practice.
Knowing your entire team players and parents is going to help you be the best coach you can be. Talk with them.
Helping your players understand that baseball is a hard game makes things easier. Explaining that a good Major League hitter fails 7 out of 10 times he tries to get a hit is usually a good place to start.
I like to explain to my kids that I never get upset at failure. The only thing a player can do to upset me is to stop trying. I have missed a ground ball before, everyone has. I have struck out before, everyone has. The only people in this world that haven’t failed are the ones who never attempted. Failure to try is the leading cause of failure.
Always encourage another chance. If you have a player, who is not doing good during a particular drill give them another chance. If at all possible end the drill when that player gets it right. You can always go back to the drill later for the other members of the team. The positive message is going to last a lifetime for that one player.
I have often said that the worst part of youth sports is the parents. You can’t get rid of them. I’ve tried. My favorite parents are the ones that come over and say, “Coach what time does practice end?” then leave, and you don’t see them again until they pick their child up.
Parents are useful though if you can use their passion properly. There are a lot of things going on at practice. Have them help even if it is just straightening up in between drills while you explain what is going to happen next.
Communicate with them. Most of the parents want to be involved that is why they are such pains. They may not know baseball, but I bet there are a couple of adults that have the time to help you organize roster sheets or pass out uniforms maybe even help deal with the time-consuming fundraisers.
You will have that parent or maybe even a couple that just doesn’t get it. You know the ones. Living vicariously through their children because they didn’t get all they wanted out of their childhood. They are my favorites.
This parent is dedicated and passionate. If you can get this parent to understand a couple of things they will become your greatest asset. First, you have to get them to understand that their child’s interests are first and foremost your biggest concern. Second, you need them to know just what their child’s interests are. This parent will bring water to practice help clean up the dugout and even keep score or pitch count for you. They are trying to be a kid again. Let them participate in a positive way.
Coaches in the crowd
The worst parent you will ever have to deal with is ME. I am the guy that sits quietly in the back of the stands or beyond the outfield wall and watches. Critiquing your every move because I have been you. I have coached T-ball and I coached every level up to college baseball.
What could be going through my mind while I am watching you? I will tell you what I am thinking. Why is it that a coach with such an incredible resource at his disposal hasn’t asked me a single question?
When I first started coaching, I asked my dad a million questions. He coached me for the first six years that I played baseball. He had a lot of answers. Everybody knows something asking questions allows us to find out what it is and see if it can help us. My grandfather told me when I was four years old ask a question every day, and you will learn something new. The day you stop learning is the day you die.
Coaching philosophy for youth baseball
- Be Positive – even when you have to correct something be positive when you do it. “Almost got it. One more try!”
- Know what your message is. Don’t try to make this up on the fly. Plan to plan. Execute the plan. Then revise the plan.
- Parents are an asset. Don’t fight them give them what they want and what you need let them help.
- Keep everything you share with the players Simple.
- THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT. ALWAYS EXPECT MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU WILL GET. If you set a level of expectation for your team or a player they will meet it. Don’t limit their growth with your expectations.
My first time as an assistant coach with a middle school baseball team the coach hit one ground ball to each infielder and had them throw it to first then started hitting balls to the outfield.
I asked why they didn’t turn any double plays and he said, “They can’t do that at this level.” I called four kids that I had been coaching since T-ball into the infield and had them turning double plays. I told the coach the same thing I just stated above.
Remember that failure is a necessity for success. Players fail all the time. It is O.K. for you to make a mistake as a coach too. Just be sure to learn from it.
Thank you for your interest.