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Coaching kids’ baseball: A quick how-to guide
Although I never played baseball past high school, I claim to know enough about the game to pass onto my son and other kids. We can have the knowledge even without possessing the physical ability to play professionally, and we adults can prepare youth for the rigors of even high school sports and beyond. Proper coaching in the youth leagues can build kids' interest in the game, therefore allowing them the desire to improve physically. On the other hand, poor coaching can deter a youngster's ability and interest.
First and foremost, remember that we are dealing with kids—not tiny adults. I have witnessed many coaches (usually fathers) of eight-year-olds acting as professional scouts and expecting the kids to play with Major League talent, skill, and mentality. We cannot expect a kid that young to load, set, and fire when he still has trouble putting that bat on the ball. We need to begin the drills slowly at practice and gradually work up to game speed. I have seen pee-wee coaches try to teach their pitchers to "hit the black" when the kids have just learned how to throw the ball to the catcher. I have also seen coaches yell at the kids for not turning the double play, call the kids names when they strike out, and make them run extra laps after the game for missing the ball. I mean young kids!
My brother, who also did not play past high school, became the best Little League coach I have ever seen. He took a team of eight-year-olds, most of whom had not played before, and made them league champions. When the other coaches asked him how he got the kids to play so well, he explained that while they all tried to get their kids to play like the pros, he just let the kids play. When his kids made mistakes, he encouraged them to "get the next one" without allowing teammates or anyone else to criticize the kids. He then taught and worked with the kids at the next practice session.
My son's current coaches (of which I am one) work in a similar manner. We encourage and teach the fundamentals, and we let all kids participate at practice. I have witnessed coaches make the newer kids run bases and fetch balls while working with only the all-stars. We transform the drills into games and allow the kids to have fun! We may lose some games at the beginning of the season, but we show the kids what they did well and what they need to improve. As the season progresses, we practice, we improve, and we begin to win. Most importantly, we teach the kids to win and lose with dignity and class. When the kids and their parents request us again the next season, then we know that we have done a fine job.
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