on all batting cages!
on all batting cages!
Coaches are you ready for the upcoming spring training season? Coaches come in all shapes and sizes and temperaments. I'm more interested in those that coach the younger players, ages 8-12. You have a critical job and can influence the future of the game in an immense way. And you probably can't imagine how important your job is to these young minds and bodies. Take it very seriously. Let me relate a story of my own coaching experience with 11-12 year olds, when my son was that age. As I recall we had all shapes and sizes on our team. Some had no previous baseball experience and some had quite a bit and at that age were pretty talented. Being part of Babe Ruth (now Cal Ripken) we had specific rules. Every player had to play both defensively and offensively. This was a very good rule. At this age and even younger, it is important that kids learn how to play the game and to develop the skills. Some of them could not throw very well or very accurately and many of them could not hit. I had a few simple goals for our players:
As it turned out we achieved every goal. However, some players scored their hit only during the last game of the season! Back then we had a fund raiser where each kid sold tickets for our local farm team (a Single A, short summer season team) and our local Babe Ruth league got a portion of the proceeds. One kid on our team, whose mother was our team mom, was quite the salesman. He sold so many tickets that our entire team won “lunch with the Team” at the stadium. While not the “best” (whatever that means at that age) player on the team, he had a great time and really enjoyed himself. He had a good attitude and worked hard. As I recall he was able to choose a very nice prize with his “earnings”, an MLB jacket.
As it turned out he was one of the kids who finally got his hit during the last game of the season. Everyone was as excited as was he. I was ecstatic for him and the smile on his face when he accomplished this goal was all the payment I needed.
There was another kid on our team who was extremely pleasant. He just had one of those bubbly attitudes, kind of an infectious smile. But he was very overweight and slow. Nevertheless he continued to try and work hard. We kept encouraging him and he too got his hit during the last game.
Every one of the kids on our team went on to play baseball the next year. Then I lost track of the “kid” until several years later. He had shot up around a foot or so and lost all his baby fat and “looked” like he could have been a pretty good player. I hardly recognized him. I saw his mother in a store and asked about him, how he was doing, etc. It was not a happy encounter. I asked about baseball and she said, he came out the next year and was excited about the upcoming season. However the new coach had already made up his mind that he would never be any good because he was so overweight and slow. He got discouraged and never played baseball again. But because of one coach who had already “picked” the winners and losers, who would succeed and who wouldn’t, there was a lost opportunity. I learned that he had gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd and had been in trouble.
Coaches be very careful how you treat these young players. You can’t predict how they will turn out when they are that young. You have an excellent opportunity for good here. Teach them the skills they need. Help them understand the game. Teach them to respect the game. Encourage them. When they are older, a lot older, then you can see if they will make it to the next level. But if we want this game to grow and be enjoyed they way we enjoy it we need fans who understand the game and appreciate the hard work.
So, be patient, be an encourager, teach them the skills they need for their level. Teach them to have fun. Lead by example. You have fun, and be enthusiastic. It will catch on and you can pass on a valuable lesson to these young players.