Even if you make a living as a coach of youth baseball, we know you’re not in it just for the money. You love baseball so much, that if we put a microscope over your blood cells, we’d find tiny baseballs and bats, peanuts, popcorn, crackerjacks, sports drinks, mitts, and chalk running through your veins. Taking a giant group of distracted, growing adolescents and turning them into a baseball team seems like a Herculean task. You have to be the right kind of crazy to be a youth baseball coach. A lot of people who like baseball also tend to like a good puzzle, and the challenges and triumphs of working with youth is unquestionably worth the hard won rewards.
A coach must wear many hats when running a team: most importantly, including the hats of Role Model, Mentor, and Motivator. None of your hats are worth a dime unless you instill trust and respect in your team. Every player, as they age, will hit different stages at different times. A coach who can earn TRUST from each kid will have the best chance at building a hard-working and successful team.
Here are some tips for how to connect with youth players during their baseball path and forge a foundation of trust.
What are players and parents saying, and what are they not saying? Give everyone a chance to say what they think and show interest in ideas other than your own. It should be expected that not everyone’s going to share your opinion, so you’ll need to be respectful of that. You want to be able to share ideas, thoughts, and concerns constructively and peacefully. When people see that you are a listener, they feel heard, and this makes them feel at ease, which is another trust builder!
The tiniest movement of a player’s foot can make a huge difference in their hitting abilities.You’ve got to be looking out for these kinds of little things with every player, and you’ve also got to keep a keen awareness on your players’lives outside the game. Do you have players who have little to no parental support? Are there players on your team who are struggling with grades? Is it finals week and your entire team is exhausted and in need of a little fun? Or has the team been slacking and it’s time for tough love? Take the time to observe and understand your players.
Make sure the team understands your vision for the season. Lay down your rules the first day of practice, and make sure both parents and players know the expectations and regulations of your program. Be absolutely transparent and answer all questions honestly and to the best of your ability. From day one, this sets a standard for the team that invites all parties to act in a respectful and professional way. These boundaries may seem strict at first, but everyone will learn to rely on them throughout the year.
Your word is your bond. Keeping commitments and following through with the promises you make is one of the biggest ways you can show trust to each player and the team. Demonstrate how strong your word is, and you’ll show your team that you are a reliable coach, one who will be there for them now and in the future. Let them know that they matter. This also means that you can’t be a fair weather coach, you’ve got to see problems through and find a resolution. Ignoring problems will only make them fester or blow up in your face. Losing your temper or giving in to improper conduct and blowing a gasket doesn’t instill trust, it erodes it. Prove that you’re there to help players and parents find solutions that are the best for the team and for the game.
A wise coach will always put the players and the team first, even if parents and kids think otherwise. When a coach does not play favorites, parents can’t get jealous, and kids won’t get discouraged and feel left out. But it’s absolutely crucial for a coach to hold that line. Show players what it’s like to be on a solid team where everyone is appreciated and gets a fair chance to do their best.
RESPECT THE PLAYERS
This is the biggest one. You’ve got to show the kids that you care about them, and that you are there to help them do their best. Champion their efforts, reward hard work, give them shout-outs, compliments and encouragement. If they’re having a bad luck streak, help them through it. If you switch them during a game, show them that they’ll be back on the field again soon. Let your team know they are the best in the world whether they win or lose!
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME!