First time baseball coach

Plantiers Wart

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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?
Pick a different kid every time and let them choose. “All for one”, etc. you’ll be surprised that one or more will strike a chord.
 

Dick Pole Upside

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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?
How about, to carry forward a SoSH legend, "WIN IT FOR ___!" Let each kid pick someone important to them (Dad, Mom, Granny, Officer O'Reilly, Principal Anderson...) and they can rally around him/her.
 

Saints Rest

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So we're three games in (10U).

First game was a loss to the team who traditionally beats up on everybody, mainly because they have the best hitter in the area. Lost 16-0 when aforementioned hitter went 3 for 4, with three HR and 9 RBI. Our team was clearly pressing, and got discouraged/gave up once that kid hit his second HR blowing open the game in the 4th.

Turned it around in the next two games against two teams from the next town over who just didn't have much to offer. Won 11-1 and 10-2.

Here's my current issue. I have really three tiers of kids:
  1. The three kids who play on the town travel team, plus my son and one other kid. They know their stuff and are pretty good all-round players, capable of playing any position and making smart decisions whether in the field or on the bases. Can all hit.
  2. Two kids who want to get better but are less athletically inclined than the top-tier and/or have less experience than the top tier. I don't really worry about them, and we are tying to get them more experience playing more positions around the diamond.
  3. Four kids who are some mix of inexperienced, unskilled, unmotivated, scattered, and/or scared. Some times, they strike out. OK, that happens to everyone, but these kids tend to not know that three strikes means your'e out and you go sit down. Similarly, they don't know that 4 balls, means take your base. One of the kids got hit by pitch yesterday and had no idea he could take a base. This is the group I want to see get better, but how to do so?
For example, yesterday, we had a man on third and one of these Tier 3 kids at the plate (RHH). Wild pitch and our kid on 3rd takes off. Batter stands unmoving in batters box. Close play at the plate. Runner called out for batter interference. So we take the kid aside afterwards, and explain what happened and what he has to do differently. We reiterate this to all the team. Sure enough, next time this kid comes up, same situation set up. I'm coaching 1st so I call down to him "if there's a wild pitch, you have to get out of the way." Wild pitch happens, and the kid steps about 6" back from his stance. So I tell him again "you need to get all the way out of the way, like back to the fence." Next wild pitch, he moves about 2'. Sigh.

Same kid, different game. He's playing RF. Soft liner hit about 3' to his left. He sticks the glove up and it deflects off his glove. He picks it up and tries to throw it to first (we've had practice drills where OFers practice hitting the cutoff man and how their first play is always toward second). Then he sees the first baseman yelling and pointing to throw it to second, so he promptly fires it over the 2B cutoff man, over the SS, and somewhere between the 3B bag and LF. When he comes to the sideline, his grandfather says to him "I thought you were going to catch that, it was hit right to you." Kid answers "It wasn't hit right to me, it was out here" (and indicates a spot about 6" beyond his glove).

Same kid last night. One of our batters walks. Kid isn't in the on deck circle. Kid isn't on the bench. Kid is was down the line talking to his parents with his sweatshirt on. Everyone yelling to him to bat. "Huh? What?" "You're up, grab your bat, let's go!" He wanders over to his spot on the bench to get his helmet. Strolls up to get his bat. Walks up to the plate. All of him in encapsulated in one 30 second block: Unaware of the situation, unmotivated to hustle, unconcerned about the rest of the team.

Another kid is super-afraid of the ball, whether at bat or in the field. I spent some time with him in the field, telling him how his glove was his shield and he could protect himself by using the glove to protect himself. Great progress is made. He starts calling his glove "his magic shield." Before the game on Monday during BP, I remind him of that. He says "but I don't have my glove when I bat." So I tell him his bat is his lightsaber like Luke Skywalker deflecting those robotic dart/bolts during "New Hope." So he says very uncertainly "May the Force Be With Me." In that game, he makes contact to put the ball in play for the first time in 28 PAs (over two seasons). A grounder to the pitcher. He manages to get to first safely. Much rejoicing all around! I give him the game ball after the game. He's sky-high. Game last night, he's staying in the box, not stepping out on every pitch. Taking (for him) aggressive swings. Strikes out. Walks. Third time up, softest pitcher on the mound. And he's back to stepping out every time.

Third kid was a late addition to the team. Made it to one practice before the first game. Asks me in the middle of this game (the blowout loss), "When am I pitching?" (This less an hour after he says during throwing warmups, playing catch "Im not good at aiming.") Every inning, he comes up to me and asks "Am I up?" (We have a lineup card on the fence showing the batting order.). So we get word from one of the assistant coaches who is friends with his mom about the lineup card and about following the lead of the older players. Still he comes up to me or one of the coaches every time to ask when he is batting, where he is playing. Last night pre-game, he tells us "I can hit with either hand." So I tell him if he wants, he can bat lefty his first time up and then bat righty the next time. He never switches. Lots of talk, no self-awareness.

We have a game again tomorrow, and we've asked these bottom tier 4 to come early for some extra work. But I'm not sure how to get across to them all the rules and nuances of baseball, not to mention the norms of things like look at the lineup card to see when you are batting.
 

Saints Rest

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Update: We lost our game last night, 4-2.
  • Their first run scored because our third baseman didn't tag out their kid stealing third even though our catcher gunned him out by about 10'.
  • Their final run scored when our other catcher skipped a throw by the SS (probably a catchable play), but the second baseman hadn't gotten into the right position to back up the throw, and the RCF (we play 4 OF in this league) simply stood watching as the ball scooted past him. By the time the second baseman chased it down, the runner had made it all the way around to score. Backing up second base on steals was something we drilled for two practices in a row.
  • We gave away another out when one of our runners stole second on a passed ball, but then he overran the bag and got tagged out.
I understand that they are 9 and 10, and that some of them haven't played much baseball. But how can I teach them all these things???

I was chatting with the ump in the next half-inning after our kid got tagged out at 2B while I warmed up our pitcher, and we discussed the fact that kids don't watch baseball much any more, so they don't see the games being played. This made me wonder if playing baseball video games would help to team the basic principles of the game.

Otherwise, I am all ears for any advice on dealing with all these things.

PS: the third baseman was one of the middle tier kids (see post above this one), who I thought knew the game better. My sense with him is that he doesn't trust himself at all on the field. He can hit really well in practice, but in the game, he's either frozen at the plate, taking good pitches as called strikes or swinging late, or having decided to swing at anything, will swing at pitches over his head. Similarly, at one point yesterday, he was catching and a ball got away from him. He bounded over to pick it up and looked to third (there was a runner at 2nd). Then he hesitated, hesitated, and finally threw. The runner beat the throw by about half a step. If he had thrown it on first impulse, he gets him.
 

BroodsSexton

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@Saints Rest
First, accept the team for what and who they are. That doesn’t mean they won’t and can’t improve, but honestly, the fact that you have a recognizable game going at 10U with balls in play and outs being made in the field is a blessing. It sounds like you’re doing that, and connecting with the kids who need more help, which is awesome. Love the Star Wars kid.

I’d do situational drills in practice. Put the kids in different scenarios, ask them where the play is. Teach the kids that part of the game — when in the field — is thinking when the batter comes up about where the ball is going if it comes to them. Tick through the plays in their heads. I’d quiz the runners as to what they’re looking for, and the fielders where they go on a line drive, grounder, pop, etc. Then put the ball in play.

I’d come up with a code word that means “think through where the ball is going, and respond to me when you’ve checked it down.” Train them to respond to that word in practice. Then, in the game, you can use that code word call and response to players: “Johnny—Dinner time?” “Ready to eat, coach!” They only respond after they’ve thought through “grounder, line drive, fly.”

But honestly, it sounds like you’re doing great. They’re 10 years old—expect engagement but also lots of dumb mistakes and even a kid picking dandelions once in a while. It’s not going to look like a game of 16-year-olds much less pros.
 

Saints Rest

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First, accept the team for what and who they are. That doesn’t mean they won’t and can’t improve, but honestly, the fact that you have a recognizable game going at 10U with balls in play and outs being made in the field is a blessing. It sounds like you’re doing that, and connecting with the kids who need more help, which is awesome. Love the Star Wars kid.

I’d do situational drills in practice. Put the kids in different scenarios, ask them where the play is. Teach the kids that part of the game — when in the field — is thinking when the batter comes up about where the ball is going if it comes to them. Tick through the plays in their heads. I’d quiz the runners as to what they’re looking for, and the fielders where they go on a line drive, grounder, pop, etc. Then put the ball in play.

I’d come up with a code word that means “think through where the ball is going, and respond to me when you’ve checked it down.” Train them to respond to that word in practice. Then, in the game, you can use that code word call and response to players: “Johnny—Dinner time?” “Ready to eat, coach!” They only respond after they’ve thought through “grounder, line drive, fly.”

But honestly, it sounds like you’re doing great. They’re 10 years old—expect engagement but also lots of dumb mistakes and even a kid picking dandelions once in a while. It’s not going to look like a game of 16-year-olds much less pros.
We are having a practice tomorrow to do exactly that. It's only 8 of our 11 players, as the 3 who play travel ball are all playing a doubleheader for that team.

Our main concern as coaches, more broadly speaking, is that it’s like we have two teams: one team that needs to learn how to play/understand the game. And the other that needs to be coached at a higher level and the big challenge is working with each without making the other group feel like they are getting short-changed.
 

Cumberland Blues

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I was chatting with the ump in the next half-inning after our kid got tagged out at 2B while I warmed up our pitcher, and we discussed the fact that kids don't watch baseball much any more, so they don't see the games being played. This made me wonder if playing baseball video games would help to team the basic principles of the game.
When I coached young kids - was a level below u-10 that I did this but should be fine there too - I explicitly asked the parents to watch a few innings of a game on TV with their kids just so that they could get a feel for how things are supposed to work. Because every team has 3-4 kids who are baseball junkies and know this stuff, and the rest of 'em have no idea because they've never watched a game. And others here have mentioned this as well...but yeah, my kid knew all the rules mostly because he spent too much time playing backyard baseball on a hand-me-down gameboy when he was little.
 

LoweTek

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I had 10U, mostly as head coach/manager, for quite a few seasons (Spring and Fall full seasons here in Florida). I would always pick a concept for exra work every practice and reinforce in the next pre-game talk: force outs, tagging up, getting out of the way when there's a runner on third and a passed ball or wild pitch, where outfielders should go with the ball, etc. But the one question I asked the group all the time was, "What is the most valuable thing in baseball whether you are hitting or in the field?"

I would pick a kid and have him explain the answer and what he could personally do to preserve their value. By season's end I made it a personal goal and team goal to make sure every kid could answer the question with at least a decent portion of accuracy.

The answer: outs.

Try it. Lots of lessons can emerge from this simple exercise.
 

Saints Rest

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I had 10U, mostly as head coach/manager, for quite a few seasons (Spring and Fall full seasons here in Florida). I would always pick a concept for exra work every practice and reinforce in the next pre-game talk: force outs, tagging up, getting out of the way when there's a runner on third and a passed ball or wild pitch, where outfielders should go with the ball, etc. But the one question I asked the group all the time was, "What is the most valuable thing in baseball whether you are hitting or in the field?"

I would pick a kid and have him explain the answer and what he could personally do to preserve their value. By season's end I made it a personal goal and team goal to make sure every kid could answer the question with at least a decent portion of accuracy.

The answer: outs.

Try it. Lots of lessons can emerge from this simple exercise.
I think I would have gotten it wrong. (Would have said “runs.” Do I need to turn in my SOSH membership?)
 

LoweTek

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I think I would have gotten it wrong. (Would have said “runs.” Do I need to turn in my SOSH membership?)
Just an opinion my friend. Keep up the good work. My counter would be: can't get runs of you can't minimize outs. Can't stop runs if you can't maximize outs. It's mostly for the teaching opportunities the question inevitably presents.
 

ctsoxfan5

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This thread has a lot of great info in it - thank you to all who have participated. I'm coaching a team of 9-11 year olds. As others have said above, it's a wide range of skills (and wide range of interest in baseball).

One issue that I'd love any suggestions on relates more to the mental aspect of the game: there are a couple of kids on the team who make a mistake or two and just spiral downward and can't get past it to move on to the next play. If they make an error in the field, you can see that they're mad at themselves and then it leads to more errors because they're still thinking about the last play. Or if they're pitching and walk a couple of batters, they're mentally done and then start walking every batter. Even though they were pitching fine before that and they are a good pitcher generally.

I know that they're only 9 or 10 and this is a tough thing to do at that age (or any age). I've tried talking to them about forgetting about the last play and focusing on the next one; how they can make up for it next time, etc.

This is not a crazy competitive league. Every team makes the playoffs and the playoffs are a random draw, so our regular season record doesn't matter. So making an error isn't the end of the world (and happens to all of them at some point at this age!). All of our coaches are very supportive and none are out there yelling at the kid who made an error or is struggling on the mound.

It's tough to see a kid falling apart on the mound or in the field when you know they have the physical ability to do it, but they can't get past a minor mistake they made on a prior play.

Maybe this is obvious, but this happens with the kids who love baseball and are very intense about it. With one of the kids less interested in baseball, they almost don't care if they make an error because it doesn't mean as much to them - which is fine. But this is happening to the kids who are more serious about it.

(Note: my own kid is one of these kids, which is why it's so hard me to watch it happen. He's generally one of the better players on the team. But I can see him just shutting down out on the mound or on the field if things start going sideways. And there are 1-2 others like this as well.)

Any thoughts/suggestions are welcome. Thank you!
 

Saints Rest

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We use a variety of techniques to get the kids past the inevitable failures that baseball brings. Some work one-on-one, some work better as a team.
  • "Turn the page." What's done is done. Focus on what's ahead.
  • "Ball it up and throw it away." We mimic balling up a piece of paper and throwing it over our shoulders.
  • "Babe Ruth hit more home runs than anyone for a long time; he also struck out more than anyone."
  • "Baseball is hard. If you can succeed 3 times in 10 tries, you are an all-star. If you can succeed 4 times in 10, you are a Hall of Famer."
 

LoweTek

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When it comes to errors and mistakes even with the younger kids I differentiate between mental and physical errors. We spend a lot of time in practice on what to do with the baseball if it comes to you (mental error). And offensively (not) looking at strike three (mental error most of the time, IMO). I actually ask the kids if they ever heard the expression "pair of shoes," which I love. Of course none of them has ever heard of it. But the message is received clearly when I tell the story. Thanks, Eck!

I strongly emphasize striking out happens to all hitters but I'd rather see them go down swinging. "Anything close with two strikes... can't get a hit if you don't swing." I note a lot of young kids who lack confidence hitting will look for walks. I like walks in general and emphasize OBP but there is a difference when a kid gets a lot of Ks looking and a kid who knows his strike zone.

Within the game, we generally call out to a player who gets upset something like, "We need you to make another play out there... forget the last play. Gotta let it go!"

If they really get upset crying back in the dugout, etc. I take them aside and try to calm them down.

I try to head off a lot of this at the very beginning of the season with a "baseball is hard" speech. One of my favorites is, "It's really hard to be good at baseball. Getting good at baseball will be one of the hardest things you will ever do." This does help.
 

Doug Beerabelli

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Maybe this is a bit off these days, but I’ve seen suggestions to discuss the idea of moving on from an error or a tough outing by flushing the mistake down the toilet, and then using the visual cue of the toilet flushing motion as an affirmation gesture. IOW, say something to the player or get the player’s attention after an error, coach does the flushing gesture, and the player in the field makes the same gesture to confirm the message is received. I think this was a Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) suggestion, and or in the Double Goal Coach book.

I also liked to suggest to kids to “fail aggressively.”
Basically make an error act of commission, not omission. Applies to batting too.