First time baseball coach

Saints Rest

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The two awesome coaches that my son has had the good fortune of having for the last two years are moving on (taking their kids to one of those high-priced programs), so into the breach step I.

It will be a 10U rec-league team playing under Cal Ripken Baseball aegis.

I have two assistant coaches lined up:
  • One played high school ball and is the dad of one of the weaker kids on the team. He's a young dad (probably about 32 or so) and has bought all sorts of training devices to help his son that he happily shares with the other kids.
  • The other is my next-door neighbor who played D-1 catcher at Iona. One of his teammates was Jason Motte who went on to be a closer for the Cards. He doesn't have any kids but he has mentored my son a bunch.
I never played baseball past 7th grade, so I'm relying on those two to do the bulk of the coaching, while I deal with the managerial side -- dealing with the league, parents, etc.

I have learned a lot watching my son's former coaches through a lot of practices and games. Their teams went about 50-10 over four seasons and I honestly put the bulk of that on their coaching. That said, there were some methods they used that I said to myself at the time "That's not what I would do." I've also learned a lot form this forum and other online sources about good drills and techniques.

The overarching themes for me going into this year are:
  • Keep it fun for all the kids, not just the stars. Praise over criticism. And when criticism is needed, keep it constructive.
  • Keep practices moving by breaking into the smallest groups possible for any given drill. IOW, limit the standing around doing nothing time.
  • Teach the fundamentals of the basic skills first and foremost.
  • Then teach the fundamentals of situational baseball (e.g. backing up a base, relay throws, base running).
  • Try to get kids playing different positions as much as possible. My gut tells me that at this age, the only positions that need to have skilled players exclusively during games are 1B, P, and C.
I'd love to hear from those of you who have been down this road. Both about the general concepts and the specific drills.

Thanks
 

PortageeExpress

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  • Try to get kids playing different positions as much as possible. My gut tells me that at this age, the only positions that need to have skilled players exclusively during games are 1B, P, and C.
At that age, the throw from 3B will be challenging for a few of the kids on the team, so that may be another limitation.

In the OF, in addition to teaching cutoffs, I always told them that when in doubt to just throw the ball in to 2B. That seemed to prevent the panic that can set in and lead to a kid holding the ball and trying to decide what to do with it.
 

wiffleballhero

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In the simulacrum
Keep practices moving by breaking into the smallest groups possible for any given drill. IOW, limit the standing around doing nothing time.
This.

I've not coached baseball -- but I come from a long line of baseball coaches! -- but other coaching with kids underscores how vital this is.

I'd sort of "scout" your resources-- the field, the available equipment, the other parents who can wield a fungo or throw a strike -- and try to set up a situation where no kids are waiting in line ever and ideally nobody is getting fielding practice dependent on another kid putting the ball in play during their batting practice. Either isolate batting practice to a cage or get some tennis balls so the spray of batting practice can just be ignored and you can do all the other stuff on the field also. Good luck! Sounds like fun. I'm sort of envious.
 

Cumberland Blues

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Your 5 bullet points indicate you already have a pretty firm grasp on how to go about this. I coached my kid's teams from t-ball all the way through his first year of Babe Ruth ball...the U10 age group was my favorite by far - have fun.

I'll just reinforce the "kids play everywhere" thing. And re P/C/1B - make it a goal that any kid who wants to play those positions - even if they are not capable now - will be able to get through an inning or two w/o catastrophe by seasons end (my favorite memories are of kids who could barely throw the ball 46 feet in March getting through an inning or two on the mound in June). I would get lots of crap from parents about not playing my "best" lineup - but when they got to the next level, every kid knew what they were supposed to do at each position - and what to expect their teammates at the other postions to do. I'd even let lefties play SS/2B/3B (and had a lefty catcher's mitt in my gear bag) - just so they would have the chance to do it, knowing they are 1B/OF once on the big field.
 

fiskful of dollars

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Longtime player, longtime coach. These are great posts and it looks like you’re set up for a fantastic season. Love your approach and agree with the additional suggestions. Never did the infield lefty thing ( except 1b of course, but that’s an inspired idea I wish I would have incorporated).

For U10 (as much as I hate to suggest a NYY policy) NO beards or mustaches!
Have fun! Wishing you an amazing season. I’m jealous.
 

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Don’t forget to remind the parents about acceptable behavior. You will need their buy-in.

My experience was that parents were the biggest challenge.
 

Doug Beerabelli

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Definitely small groups, as others have stated.

One thing I did was even out ABs by having a set batting order, and then moving kids up on spot every game, with top kid going to bottom next game. I let parents know we'd do a more strategic lineup for the playoffs. It would actually surprise other teams on occasion on days when our best hitters were batting 9-12. Strategery!!!
 

Matty005

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I am biased here (but his record and amount of players who adored playing for him are not), but my father was the greatest junior baseball coach I've ever seen. He coached long before and long after both my brother and I started and stopped playing. The two things he stressed the most (one was already covered):

1. Breaking up into small groups and stations. Such a better way to run a practice. I coach high school tennis right by the baseball field, and the Varsity team's practice consists of one player taking BP and everyone else shagging. Two hours of this. Ridiculous.

2. HIT. SWINGS. HIT. So many times at that level, ENTIRE practices are spent on 1st and 3rd drills and no one swings a bat. Every practice you should be hitting. And hitting a lot.

And he also loved doing infield situations. Runner on first and second, 1 out, what do I do if the ball comes to me? Such a great way to gain real time EXPERIENCE in practice!

Best of luck to you!
 

AlNipper49

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End every practice by going halfway out to the outfield and having a home run contest. You will never have a single kid miss a single practice.
 

santadevil

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End every practice by going halfway out to the outfield and having a home run contest. You will never have a single kid miss a single practice.
Great idea. My little one will be starting this year, so he's still a touch to small for this
But once he's older, I'm going to incorporate this
 

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The previous coaches did a lot of these things you have suggested (I'll list the ones I thought worked) below. But (IMHO), the biggest place they missed was BP involved 10-12 kids in the field waiting on kids to put balls in play, most of which ended up going to SS, 2B, 1B or P.

Some drills they did that I really liked and will try to incorporate:
  • Situational practice. Coach 1 hitting the ball out of his hand; coach 2 floating around the field giving direction. Half the team in the field (which usually means only 1 or 2 OF) and the other half serving as base-runners. Coach 1 would announce the situation: Coach 2 would instruct the defense.
  • BP would involve the on-deck or in-the-hole player to hit off the tee.
  • Relay drill relay race. Divide the team into groups of 4, in a line about 15-20 yards apart. Kid 1 throws to Kid 2 who relays to Kid 3 who relays to Kid 4. But the skill being developed was catching the ball with the body turned parallel to the line so the catching shoulder is pointing at the next kid (the one he's about to throw to) and the throwing shoulder is toward the kid throwing it in. That way the kid never needs to turn his body during the exchange.
  • Various fielding drills where the kid runs to the position where he has just thrown it. (E.g. SS throws to 1B, then runs to get in line to be the next 1Bman. -- many variations of this)
  • 2 strike competition: Each kid comes to the plate with 2 strikes on him. Coach is pitching. If kid swings and misses. He's out of the completion and grabs his glove to shag. If he makes and contact, he "stays alive" and goes to the end of the hitting line. Repeat until one winner.
  • "Home Run Contest" -- sounds like a variation of what Nip suggested. Again, coach pitching. Kid must hit it to the OF grass in the air, so stay alive. Fail and he grabs his glove to shag. If he "homers", he goes to the end of the hitting line. Repeat until one winner.
 

Cumberland Blues

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One thing I did was even out ABs by having a set batting order, and then moving kids up on spot every game, with top kid going to bottom next game.
Yeah, I did something like this...I had a set order - but whoever was on-deck when the game ended hit leadoff the next game - and then I just moved the rest of the lineup accordingly.
 

tonyandpals

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Good solid list and ideas here. I would just emphasize the small groups, just to increase reps. If you can break out into three stations, IF / OF / CAGE, that seems to go well. I found (last year) the range of skill sets in 10U is wide. I had kids who could not throw properly, or catch a ball consistently. So for the warm-up where we would throw along the foul line, I tried to keep it where kids of similar abilities were working with each-other. Then the coaches could have some time to step in with the ones who were still at the lower end and assist with playing catch...not fetch.

Curious, what were some of the things from here:

That said, there were some methods they used that I said to myself at the time "That's not what I would do."
 

Granite Sox

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I am biased here (but his record and amount of players who adored playing for him are not), but my father was the greatest junior baseball coach I've ever seen. He coached long before and long after both my brother and I started and stopped playing. The two things he stressed the most (one was already covered):

1. Breaking up into small groups and stations. Such a better way to run a practice. I coach high school tennis right by the baseball field, and the Varsity team's practice consists of one player taking BP and everyone else shagging. Two hours of this. Ridiculous.

2. HIT. SWINGS. HIT. So many times at that level, ENTIRE practices are spent on 1st and 3rd drills and no one swings a bat. Every practice you should be hitting. And hitting a lot.

And he also loved doing infield situations. Runner on first and second, 1 out, what do I do if the ball comes to me? Such a great way to gain real time EXPERIENCE in practice!

Best of luck to you!
Disclaimer: I coached our town's All-Star Little League team in a Fairfield County/Westchester County summer league many years back, as well as the regular Little League team. So a little older than your young'uns, but I think a lot of similar principles.

Variations of many of the ideas in here that I love:
  • If you have coaching help, break up practice into smaller groups. 15-20 minutes per small group segment
  • We would work on hitting, fielding, situational baseball, and baserunning (inc. races; kids love racing each other) every practice.
  • Pitchers would also have their own schedules; also helps your catchers practice what is a very specialized position, even at that age
  • I would put 5-6 different drills from each of the categories above on index cards. That way you have pre-planned variety, and can just hand one of the cards to the assistants and say: do THAT. Simplifies everything, and a lot of your practices will be scripted out in advance
  • I agree with the "play kids everywhere" philosophy. In fact, I used to ask kids to be flexible to play both infield and outfield. That way they'll learn how the game pieces together better. (If you want to get super crafty, I used to put the weaker kids at SS, 3B, and LF but only when I had a kid who could throw hard on the mound. Minimizes exposure, but lets everyone play the "glory" positions every once in a while. Most parents had a realistic view of their kid's ability, and the Dads of some of the weaker players used to thank me for letting their kid play SS for a few innings. Don't know if you have that luxury.)
  • I used to use sawed off broomsticks and golf ball-sized wiffle balls to promote hand-eye coordination (modified stickball); the object wasn't to swing from your ass and clobber the ball, but rather to create a smooth swing that creates contact. Maybe too tricky with your age group, but trhe broomsticks are light and kids won't struggle to swing like they might with heavier bats. Again, putting the ball in play at that age = excitement.
  • I was big on footwork, whether it was hitting, infielding, or outfielding. Kids don't associate getting a proper base set up so that the throws and swings follow. So there are lots of fun drills and ways to promote good footwork
  • I was also big on catching with two hands. In fact, I bought 5-6 fielding paddles and would run one segment each practice where the kids could only field the ball with a paddle. Great for teaching "soft hand" fundamentals. Here's a link to an example of what I'm talking about: SKLZ Softhands Baseball Fielding Trainer - A32-623 | Anthem Sports (anthem-sports.com) . Kids would feel challenged at first, but once they understand the fundamentals (knee-bend, foot separation, hands out front, draw ball into paddle and cover with hand), they really want to field the ball cleanly and turned it into a little competition
Don’t forget to remind the parents about acceptable behavior. You will need their buy-in.

My experience was that parents were the biggest challenge.
This... a million times this. I would have the usual coaches meeting, but letting the parents know about The Process helps them support how you're trying to develop each of their kids while keeping it fun.

One last thing that I got a lot of unexpected mileage out of was nicknames. A lot of kids don't have a lot of history with baseball or knowledge about the game, so I started some of the first practices with 5-10 of history about some of the games greats, especially those with cool or funny nicknames. So as not to go too crazy, talking about Mookie and where his nickname came from... Big Papi, etc. got them excited. Then I would fold in some of the real weird old-timers (Three Finger Brown, Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth) and talk about their nickname origins, and within a week or so every kid on the team wanted their own nickname. Hard to explain, but it helped them bond as they only started to refer to each other by their chosen nickname. For whatever it's worth...

When I talk to some of the guys to this day, they all remember a) their nickname, b) the broomsticks, and c) the paddles
 

Saints Rest

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Good solid list and ideas here. I would just emphasize the small groups, just to increase reps. If you can break out into three stations, IF / OF / CAGE, that seems to go well. I found (last year) the range of skill sets in 10U is wide. I had kids who could not throw properly, or catch a ball consistently. So for the warm-up where we would throw along the foul line, I tried to keep it where kids of similar abilities were working with each-other. Then the coaches could have some time to step in with the ones who were still at the lower end and assist with playing catch...not fetch.

Curious, what were some of the things from here:
The main one was when ten kids would be in the field, with one or two batting with little variation on positions so most of the kids, especially in the OF, went about an hour without seeing a single ball.

but I also didn’t like that they stacked the batting order, pretty much from best to worst, same order every game. Besides from meaning that the best kids got more ABs because they were top Of the order, it also meant that even when a kid in the bottom half got on base, he invariably stayed at first as there was no one to advance him. My son often batted 6th and he was pretty much the last kid who would reliably make contact. So he spent a lot of innings stranded at first.

The last thing was that the weaker fielders were pretty much relegated to OF. Even in blowouts.
 

leftfieldlegacy

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The fact that you have two coaches who can throw consistent strikes in batting practice not to mention a former D1 catcher who can teach proper throwing mechanics puts you head and shoulders above other teams in your league. All of the drills that have been suggested here will be so much more productive because of your coaches. This leaves you free to actually manage the team. I think you're set up for a great season.
 

AlNipper49

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Is the idea that the kids bat from the outside grass somewhere? Trying to hit it out of the park?
Yup. We stand approximately where the center fielder would stand during the game, though depending on your team I think that you’d have a pretty good idea of where to stand to make sure that the kids who should hit it out will and that you’ll get an underdog or two hitting one out now and again.
 

AlNipper49

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At this age I think the biggest issues are:

1. situational fielding.
2. Base running
3. Pitch selection

at practice we almost never focus on hitting. The first half of practice (or maybe 1/3rd) is rotational and 2 of the 4 stations are usually some kind of hitting. The middle is almost always 100% ‘what do you do?’ - base running and fielding. The last is usually some form of simulated game type thing that is structured about situational running and fielding. For example we’ll have 4 kids hitting but out of those four we’ll usually put somewhere on the base paths to simulate what to do in certain situations. We usually start off by giving the kids three swings against a kid then three against a coach, the last pitch from the coach you run no matter what.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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You are on the right path. I would say before the kids get on the big field (U13 and above mostly), job number one is to cultivate fun, a love of the game and to teach the very basics. How you do that is up to you and there are a lot of great suggestions in this forum.

One thing to consider is how these kids will view this experience a decade from now or when they are your age - my goal has always been to cultivate an environment where even the kid who hates sports and is only playing to placate someone else has a chance at having a good time. The vast majority of kids who are playing youth baseball will never play in high school and even fewer beyond that. It would suck if they miss out on the opportunity to become, at least, a fan of the sport and all the great lessons it teaches.
 

Cumberland Blues

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One last thing that I got a lot of unexpected mileage out of was nicknames.
Yeah - this. One year I had three kids named Jackson...the one who played hockey I called Skates....the one who's family were (otherwise very nice people but) Yankee fans was Reggie...I didn't know the third kid before this season and he picked his own nickname...."Ultramosh" - I still have no idea what that means, but the other teams all backed up a step when they heard the whole bench yelling for a dude named Ultramosh. Of course they all moved back in once they saw the kid swing, but it was all good. And the kid I called Reggie - good athlete but was not really into baseball (he's astud on the soccer pitch - and a pretty good point guard too), that was his last year playing baseball, everybody still calls him Reggie. Folks who met the kid after that season think that's his name.
 

BroodsSexton

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You are on the right path. I would say before the kids get on the big field (U13 and above mostly), job number one is to cultivate fun, a love of the game and to teach the very basics. How you do that is up to you and there are a lot of great suggestions in this forum.

One thing to consider is how these kids will view this experience a decade from now or when they are your age - my goal has always been to cultivate an environment where even the kid who hates sports and is only playing to placate someone else has a chance at having a good time. The vast majority of kids who are playing youth baseball will never play in high school and even fewer beyond that. It would suck if they miss out on the opportunity to become, at least, a fan of the sport and all the great lessons it teaches.
At 10U, my son was getting a lot of bench time on a “select” team, with an old-school coach. It burned me—even if I was willing to accept he was not as developed as some of the other kids. But to his credit, he found a way to have fun and stuck with it (including some amazing videos of him standing on the bench, dancing, mid-game). Now, in high school, he’s one of the best players on his team—physically and mentally. There’s a lesson in there somewhere (and it’s not “bury the kid on the bench”...).
 
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DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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At 10U, my son was getting a lot of bench time on a “select” team, with an old-school coach. It burned me—even if I was willing to accept he was not as developed as some of the other kids. But to his credit, he found a way to have fun and stuck with it (including some amazing videos of him standing on the bench, dancing, mid-game). Now, in high school, he’s one of the best players on his team—physically and mentally. There’s a lesson in there somewhere (and it’s not “bury the kid on the bench”...).
I have coached from farm up to U19 and in my experience, success early in youth baseball does not necessarily translate to success later on, especially as kids transition on to the bigger fields. I have found stories like your son's (credit to him and his parents for sticking with it...and yes, plenty of parents let the kids take the easy way out) to be very common.

My take away is that all of the variables such as individual physical and skills development makes evaluating young athletes, especially before high school, really difficult. As such, the three goals for our Juniors LL teams are always fun, learning skills and competing. Unfortunately many people who coach do it for the competition versus instruction.
 

Just a bit outside

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One thing I always did when I was coaching that age was teach the players how to be hit by a pitch. I used wiffleballs and taught them how to turn and take a pitch in the back of the arm or the back. Many kids are afraid of getting hit and open up to the ball while trying to back away from the pitch. If you can teach a kid to stay in the box you can teach them how to hit.
 

Cumberland Blues

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Yeah - that's good re the HBP. We used tennis balls - but anything they can get plunked with a bunch of times w/o getting hurt until they just instinctively turn the right way will work.
 

Leather

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As someone who started coaching 10U kids last year (and will probably do again) there are apps out there that allow you to enter kids names, the number of innings, restrict certain positions (e.g. if one kid pitched last game and you don't want him/her to pitch again this week), and the app will assign positions more-or-less randomly but with minimal overlap. Here's one: https://freebaseballlineups.com/lineups.html

It was a nice time saver, rather than having to figure out before every game "No, Joey can't play short in the 3rd because he played it in the 1st, but Adrian was on the bench already so I'll have to move him to OF but that would be 3 innings in a row in the OF...AAHAHAHHHAH!"

Also, pitching: some kids will be ok. Some will not be. It can be painful to watch from the sideline, and balancing the "give kids a chance" with "don't want to embarrass them" with a touch of "want it to be fun for the other kids, too" can be tough. I believe most leagues have a rule that says something along the lines of "when walks + HBP = 6, replace" or the like. I always made a visit to the mound when a kid was struggling. I tried to make it as nonchalant as possible, and typically I wouldn't even talk about his mechanics or anything (except for the standard "aim for the catcher's head, not his glove, and it will get there," o rscrape a mark for his front foot to land on if he was landing funny). I usually just did a kind of Bull Durham thing where I'd ask him how he felt, if he was having fun, and then maybe something completely off-topic to keep him loose. Like "Hey, what's your favorite movie?" or "What's your favorite subject at school?" Sometimes I'd even just say "I'm just giving you a breather. Doing great. Nice day, huh?" Didn't take long, maybe 40 seconds, but it lowered the temp and slowed things down for a kid who felt like everyone was staring at him. And I did it so often that it wasn't anything unusual or to be embarrassed about.

Honest to god, most times it resulted in some improvement, and I had a couple of parents tell me that they appreciated that I seemed to pay attention to their kids when they were struggling. And by the end of the season, all but maybe 1 or 2 kids wanted to pitch, as opposed to maybe half the team at the start.

Also, encourage your kids to cheer their team. That sort of thing starts with the coach and can make a big difference in team morale. 8-10 year olds want to shoot the bull on the bench and talk to their friends; making them cheer and be supportive keeps them focused and builds them as a team. I'm always surprised how many coaches seem to ignore or forget to do that. My proudest moments aren't the wins, it was when the whole bench was chanting a struggling teammate's name in a key spot to try to lift him up.
 
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sodenj5

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Honest to god, most times it resulted in some improvement, and I had a couple of parents tell me that they appreciated that I seemed to pay attention to their kids when they were struggling. And by the end of the season, all but maybe 1 or 2 kids wanted to pitch, as opposed to maybe half the team at the start.

Also, encourage your kids to cheer their team. That sort of thing starts with the coach and can make a big difference in team morale. 8-10 year olds want to shoot the bull on the bench and talk to their friends; making them cheer and be supportive keeps them focused and builds them as a team. I'm always surprised how many coaches seem to ignore or forget to do that. My proudest moments aren't the wins, it was when the whole bench was chanting a struggling teammate's name in a key spot to try to lift him up.
You sound like a good coach, man. Kids should be having fun. Baseball should be an outlet for them to be outside and be with their friends and get away from their iPads for a while.

Cheering and banter in the dugout is stuff they’ll remember more than if they played LF or 2B on a Saturday in May when they were 8.
 

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You sound like a good coach, man. Kids should be having fun. Baseball should be an outlet for them to be outside and be with their friends and get away from their iPads for a while.

Cheering and banter in the dugout is stuff they’ll remember more than if they played LF or 2B on a Saturday in May when they were 8.
Thanks! I could certainly use some tips in how to run drills and other important elements of coaching.
 

ManhattanRedSox

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Thanks for this thread. My son is 9. Played on an 8U select (?) team last year, and is on the same 9U team this year. He pitched, primarily, last year, as he was one of the few kids who were athletically inclined enough to (A) throw from ~45' to the catcher and (B) actually throw strikes more often than not.

Now, at 8U, this made him Pedro Martinez like (the 1999 version, not the NYM version ). I suspect a return to the mean this season for him, however, 3 practices into this year, his coaches are on him talking about his arm slot, and how he needs to throw more overhand than he currently is. Hi arm slot, if you were his catcher, would appear about halfway between 10 and 11 o'clock, as he delivers.

I know the only way to end a bad habit is to break it, but, in that process, I don't want to break his confidence, or, his interest in the game.

I guess my question is, those with experiences as coaches of youth baseball, is the arm slot more important than just throwing strikes? I would have thought the emphasis would be on strikes - it's not like he's throwing 89mph curve balls.
 

LoweTek

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One thing I always did when I was coaching that age was teach the players how to be hit by a pitch. I used wiffleballs and taught them how to turn and take a pitch in the back of the arm or the back. Many kids are afraid of getting hit and open up to the ball while trying to back away from the pitch. If you can teach a kid to stay in the box you can teach them how to hit.
I used tennis balls for this. Important to teach, every other week if you can.
 

LoweTek

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I did 10U for at least 8 to 10 seasons. Never had a kid in the program. First practice I would always tell them:

You will not leave this team without knowing how to throw correctly​
You will not leave this team without knowing how to run the bases correctly​
Pitchers: you will not leave this team without knowing mechanical fundamentals of pitching​
Catchers: you will not leave this team without knowing the fundamentals of blocking​
Infielders: you will not leave this team without knowing how to field the ball correctly​
Outfielders: you will not leave this team without knowing how to catch a fly ball correctly and where to throw the baseball when it comes to you​
Hitters: you will understand the basics of "ready-load-go" and how to make adjustments when you are struggling​
Sometimes it might seem a little boring but you will remember these lessons if you decide to continue to play at higher age levels​
Everyone you will have the most fun you have ever had playing on a baseball team​
Does all that sound good guys??​
They always cheer when I'm done.
 

BaseballJones

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I coached youth baseball for about a dozen years. I miss it. This thread brings a smile to my face, but also a little bit of sadness. They were great times. Enjoy it, all of you still in it.
 

Doug Beerabelli

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Agreed, Baseball Jones. I coached my son since he was 5, and was an assistant on our local travel team from 8u-14u, where 6 of the kids played on the team every year, and many for multiple years. My son switched to golf full time the last two years (wth rec hoops thrown in), and between that and COVID shutdowns, hasn't played baseball since Fall of 2019. It was an absolute grind for 9 out of 12 months most years, with the usual BS, but I truly loved those players and that experience. He's also grown 3/4 of a foot since his last baseball foray - I hope he'll decide to play again, even just for fun.

I get to play lots of golf with my son, but I can't really watch him play in competition. I miss watching him play baseball; I miss coaching just a tiny bit less than that.
 

Don Buddin's GS

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I coached softball for my 2 daughters when they were that age. As someone alluded to above, the throw from 3rd to 1st can be problematic, so first thing to do is identify who can make that throw most consistently. That's your 3B. Next who can catch the ball the best? That's your 1B. Who is the best athlete? That's your SS.

Always tried to break players up into stations: IF, OF, BP to keep them moving and involved.

Last thing I told them before the first pitch: "Play hard and have fun."
 

BroodsSexton

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I coached softball for my 2 daughters when they were that age. As someone alluded to above, the throw from 3rd to 1st can be problematic, so first thing to do is identify who can make that throw most consistently. That's your 3B. Next who can catch the ball the best? That's your 1B. Who is the best athlete? That's your SS.

Always tried to break players up into stations: IF, OF, BP to keep them moving and involved.

Last thing I told them before the first pitch: "Play hard and have fun."
Yeah, don’t do this at 10U. Instead, teach the kids to throw, and teach them it’s ok to throw the ball on a bounce if they need to. And let all the kids get some reps in the infield, even if they aren’t your “most athletic” 10-year-old.
 

AlNipper49

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I have another thing that seems to work for us - we make sure that we play hard rock / psyche up music during practice. We had our last practice before Opening Night (Tuesday!) today and the kids mentioned that their favorite part of practice was the music.
 

Just a bit outside

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I have another thing that seems to work for us - we make sure that we play hard rock / psyche up music during practice. We had our last practice before Opening Night (Tuesday!) today and the kids mentioned that their favorite part of practice was the music.
We had a a parent volunteer and put together walk up music one year. The kids loved it.
 

Saints Rest

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We had "tryouts" yesterday once they discovered that they really had enough players to form three teams. This meant that the two teams that have warred it out over the last 4-6 seasons for town/region dominance needed to be split up, to create a third team.

Fortunately, I I watched all the tryouts, but none of it mattered. I picked the kids I knew. And then got one of the three no-shows at random. So my team is 7 kids returning form the "championship team" last fall, plus two new kids, one of whom is my son's best friends.

I feel pretty good about our team, compared to the other two. We have 5 kids who pitched last season (although one of them, my son, has PTSD from getting hit right in the mouth in the championship game last fall which knocked three of his teeth loose). We have one catcher (probably the best catcher in town) and one SS (the best SS by far).

The biggest challenge is going to be one kid, returning from last season, who is unbelievably scared of the ball when batting (he's OK in the field, not great, but not terrified). Last season, he got hit when batting, not directly, but via a carom off his bat that smacked him in the jaw/cheek. I'm not sure how we can bring him around. His dad is one of my assistants, and he is a bit hard-core. OTOH, my other assistant, (the one who played D-1 college) has set his #1 goal for the season as "having Tyler put one ball in play over the course of the season" (last season, Tyler had 25 PA and never once put a ball in play (finished with 18 K's, 5 BBs, and 2 HBP).

We have a plan to get everyone into each position in the field at least once. Plus a plan to rotate the batting order so everyone gets a chance to bat in each slot over the course of the season.

Question for the group: With 5-6 good hitters, and 3 novices, is it better to alternate the high OBP guys with the low ones, or to cluster? My gut tells me that clustering is better for winning games, but alternating might be better for giving more kids the opportunity to bat with kids in scoring position, and to be on the bases when there's a better chance to get knocked in. Last season, our top 6 or 7 hitters regularly got on base; the bottom 6 did not. The top 4 scored roughly 2/3 of their times on base; the next 2 scored about 50% of the time; the rest rarely scored. My son batted 6th or 7th usually which meant that he was generally the last decent hitter. He got on base 16 times out of 27, but only scored 4 times. OTOH, we went 9-1-1 and won the regional championship.
 

AlNipper49

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Clustering is definitely better. We tried both and it sounds kind of crude to say, but the kids who tend to KO usually feel better when they don’t KO alone.
The funny thing is that as the season has progressed they’ve taken on a it of personality of their own.
 

EddieYost

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Clustering becomes problematic when your trying to catch up at the of the game, and the wrong part of the lineup is coming up

So I tended to scatter the weaker hitters throughout the lineup. I think it’s easier for those kids to give up if they are in the obvious weak part of the order.

Conversely it’s sometimes easier to get a kid excited about hitting if he’s in the middle of a rally and his teammates are cheering him on.
 

notmannysfault

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Nip, how old have you become since our last drinking expedition, that you might use the abbreviation for knockout when you are talking about a strikeout?

The Nip I knew in 2003 would not have ever used the abbreviation KO to describe a baseball event.

Maybe I am just drinking less than I used to? Or you are drinking more? Nah, that's not going to end up being true. You're probably just losing your mental faculties to old age ;):p

Btw, I'm coaching again too. My younger (11) is a baseball freak, and freak of nature, and roped me back into it when his AAU org needed an extra body. It's not all fun, but I'm using my baseball muscles again, and baseball brain. I started coaching little league in 1995 with college buddies, and quit for a few years in 2016 or so when my older son expressed an interest to retire... Then along came son number two.

The amount of pain caused by throwing bp and hitting fungos for 2-3 hours at age 45 literally exceeds any guess I would have made in my 30s by a factor of....Infinity (or thereabouts) :(
 
Last edited:
Jun 2, 2016
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The prior coaches had a thing where every practice and every game would end with a team-wide catchphrase to end a team huddle. One season was "Play like a Champion," once it was "Go the extra mile."

Anyone have any good ideas?
My two favorite words while coaching any sport are effort and attitude. You can talk about either or both with any drill you do and tie them back to game situations. I usually end practices with an example of each from that day.
 

LoweTek

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The prior coaches had a thing where every practice and every game would end with a team-wide catchphrase to end a team huddle. One season was "Play like a Champion," once it was "Go the extra mile."

Anyone have any good ideas?
"TEAM!" or "EVERYONE CONTRIBUTES!" or "EVERYONE MAKES A DIFFERENCE!"

At the end of the day, none of these kids is likely to advance to even High School level ball much less any higher. Always remember, the best favor you can do for them is to teach them skills that will carry them further in other walks of life. It's the entire point of most rec baseball IMO.

I coached and managed rec baseball, none of my own kids on my team ever, for roughly 25 seasons (Spring & Fall), every level except T-Ball, 18U to 8U.

To answer your first query, definitely sprinkle the weaker kids in, carefully. Parents notice and the kids notice. To do otherwise disappoints both and invites parent PITA problems.

Do end of season awards at a pizza joint or something. I usually gave the winners a new pearl game ball in a souvenir ball cube: MVP, Most Improved and Most coachable. The latter two far more important the first, especially the latter. I've had one kid win both Improved and Coachable. It set a huge life lesson example for the kids.

Oh and I always gave a game ball after every game. I let the kids do the nominating and coaches would have the ultimate decision. When they nominate a teammate, always ask them to explain why and require a good answer. Generates a ton of teammate good will.
 

OCST

Sunny von Bulow
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I’m coaching 12U softball. Second time out. Lots of great stuff in here.

How often do youze practice? Ours is a rec league and most teams practice 1/wk. We have to find our own practice space/time in a public park because there aren’t enough field time slots to let teams practice on a field. LT I would love to give that speech but I honestly don’t know if I have the time to instill all that especially with girls who got the most part don’t know the game well: