Part 2 - Step Up to the Plate:
So there you are, sitting in the stands watching your kid’s very first practice. You’re new at this, getting to know the other parents, and getting to know the coach. The coach looks like they got their hands full herding 12 kids around from drill to drill. Suddenly … you’re overcome with the urge to step in and help out. “Nah, I don’t know anything about this, I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes”, you say to yourself. Now granted, there are some coaches who may not want help, but most are hoping and praying that a parent takes them aside after practice and utters those magical words … “Coach – is there anything I can help out with?” The next thing you know, you got a new hat and have discovered what few know, that coaching youth sports is one of the best experiences around. The “bug” has found you.
We’re going to take this blog slow, and start at the “beginner” level for both the player and a coach, and assume that you have no clue what you just volunteered for. For this, there are many resources you can go to. YouTube is a great source, filled with all types of coaching videos for all ages. Your local library or the intranet is another great source, filled with books and advice from other coaches. You can also lean on the coaches who are coaching at a higher age group in your league, because not too long ago they were in the same shoes you’re wearing now. But the most important tool that you have is the fact that YOU are a parent, and the role of a parent is very similar to that of a coach. Your mission is to guide these kids through the next few hours and have them come out on the end knowing more about and having a lot more fun than when they started. Pretty simple if you think about it … right?
The very first thing you should cover, which surprisingly gets overlooked a lot, is the rules of the game. These kids are 5-6 years old, so the batters may not even know WHY they are running to first base and the fielders may not know WHY they are trying to stop the kid from doing so. You will save yourself a lot of future headaches and really open some eyes if you take some time out of the first few practices to just go over the reason we actually play this game. Walk the kids around to each and every defensive position and explain the job they have at that position. Explain to the batters, exactly why they are in the batter’s box, why they are trying to hit the ball coming at them, and why in the world are they now have to run after hitting the ball. Don’t rush to teach the “crow hop” or to start yelling “run through the bag!” Once they learn the basics how’s/why’s of the game, the fundamentals become a lot easier to teach.
One thing to keep in mind throughout all of this though is, these kids are still 5-6 years old and you’re going to see a lot of different and unique personalities. While some will be there listening intently, you’re going to have a few who are drawing pictures in the dirt, and a few who are trying to get their hats or gloves down off of the dugout roof because they just threw them up there. This is where your experience as a PARENT comes into play. For the next 2 hours, these are all YOUR kids, and you need to find what buttons to push to hold their interest, and to have them walk off that field knowing something about the game that they didn’t know 2 hours before. It’s not always an easy thing to pull off but when you do, it makes you start counting the days until the next practice.
Please bookmark this blog and remember to tune back in to just read or offer your opinion. We’ll cover any topic about coaching youth baseball and/or softball, and will offer some advice for the brand new coach to the vet. We want to hear YOUR opinions, advice and/or experiences, both good and bad, with coaching. Follow us on Twitter @nhaasports