Charles Phoenix may be a lawyer, but his first love is baseball. He has coached Cal Ripken, Little League, and travel baseball teams for years, but he would be the first to tell you that coaching little league isn’t the easiest thing to do. He would also be the first to tell you that coaching is definitely one of the most rewarding things you will ever do, which is why he has coached and served in various administrative roles for his local baseball and softball leagues. If you are thinking about coaching, Charles Phoenix recommends the following:
Learn the Rules and Regulations of Your League: In order to successfully manage your team, you will need to know the rules of your league regarding pitch counts, equipment, and more. Be sure to ask the league for an official rulebook if you don’t receive one and catch up on it throughout the season, so you can pass it along to your team.
Develop Practice Plans: After you have your team and you have introduced yourself, you should start to develop team practice plans. One of the most important parts of coaching is being organized. Be sure to structure your practice to include time for fundamentals as well as more fun-filled activities to keep your players’ attention. In addition to that, be sure to include time for water breaks for the safety of everyone involved. Do not over-practice – you are better to end practice early to keep the kids wanting more. If possible, keep practices to 1 or 1.5 hours as many days as you can.
Consider Having a Parents’ Meeting: If you are new to coaching, you will learn very quickly that parents will play a major role throughout the season. Many parents want to be kept abreast of everything that is going on, so it can’t hurt to hold a parents’ meeting in the beginning of the season to introduce yourself to parents and tell them about your experience and coaching philosophy. At the very least, a parents’ meeting will be a good time for you to answer questions and get to know them.
Remember to Have Fun: Youth baseball and softball is a developmental game. They are supposed to be competitive, but they should be fun as well. Remember to make fun a priority and be sure your players know that too. Charles Phoenix says, “People love doing things that are fun, so keep it fun.” Phoenix also warns, “Never make it about the results. It should always be about form, process, and hustle.” For example, a common call you hear from well-intentioned coaches is “Throw strikes!” Of course the 9-year old is trying to throw strikes. It isn’t helpful to holler out to the mound making a nervous kid feel pressure. Instead, holler out, “You look great out there, Bobby, way to keep at it!” Doing so will keep the pressure off players. Meanwhile, praise the player for a good follow-thru, nice extension, or whatever else it is you are emphasizing with the player. In the end, every child wants to please, so give them the chance to please the adoring crowd and acknowledge their development..