The great thing about coaching high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors is their level of intellectual capability. There is more back and forth in conversations and they are interested in different ideas and perspectives. They’ll understand why you put them through drills and make them work hard. The cliques they were into just a year or two ago aren’t as important to them any longer and most players who are still with it are serious about baseball.
They’ll sometimes have the annoying habit of using their newly found intellectual skills to try and poke holes in arguments during practice. They will also be interested in trying out different styles and personality traits like “tough guy” or “bored to tears” in order to find themselves. While baseball is an emotional game, the full gamut of personal emotions can’t get in the way of skills and drills. Pitching and throwing for ages 15 and up is to refine their skills and prepare them to eventually become the independent learners.
Pitching Refinement, Off-Speed Pitches, and Breaking Pitches
Continue with mastering breaking and off speed pitches. Eyes on form, make sure nobody is doing moves they’ll regret later or are unsafe for their throwing arms. They know a lot of this stuff already, so within safe limits, observe if they can discover some of the consequences of poor form for themselves.
Pickoff mechanics are as important as they ever were, and some teens will really enjoy the stealth and smarts of successful pickoff strategies.
Keep the Momentum Up
Keep hounding them on generating momentum toward the target and following the throw. Some of these kids will be taller and stronger than you. Occasionally their physical feats will really wow you and make you proud. Make sure you take off your “Evaluation Cap” every now and then and catch ‘em being good.
Make Them Accountable and Focused
Throw for accuracy. Throw for accountability. It’s said that you can watch opposing teams warm up before a game and be able to tell which team will win: the team that plays catch together. Most game-time errors are from poor throwing, not poor fielding. Put fielders on the clock during practice to create the urgency that exists during a real game.
Teenagers are wild emotional creatures in search of truth and freedom, but some searches can take teens down the wrong roads. These are athletes, but they’re also kids, and part of being a great coach means you care about them to call a parent if you see red flags. Try to provide baseball to them as a means to succeed and stay focused.
A good tool to use for this age group is “Pitcher’s Report Card“. Establish a common understanding on what to work on next and work together towards the same goals.