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Top 10 Tips for New Youth Baseball Coaches
Tip #1: Establish a Learning Environment
It's critical at the start of a practice to establish a learning environment. Get players on one knee and do not talk to them unless you see eye contact. Practice this at your first practice. Here's a video on how to do it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIkqSqvhhVU. Keep all speeches to 30 seconds or less if at all possible.
Tip #2: Get Parents Involved
Many coaches are reluctant to ask parents for help. Even if parents don't know a lot about baseball ask for their involvement in every practice. There are lots of drills on coachingyouthbaseball.com that show things that can be done with a parent who knows nothing about the game. Remember, parents can be part of the solution or part of the problem -- encourage them to help you at practice and suddenly they are part of the solution.
Tip #3: Plan your practice
Practice time must be viewed as precious. You have to have a field, you have to get all the players to show up and for most teams you are lucky to get two practices a week. Standing around while everyone waits on you to decide what to do next is a real waste of this precious resource. Plan every minute of the practice. Do the work to know who is coming to practice. Teamsnap.com will track RSVP's for every practice. Get parents and assistants to RSVP. Plan every station, every drill and make it so every minute is planned. Give a copy of the plan to parents at the start so they know you have a plan. This is some extra work and coachingyouthbaseball.com has some sample practice plans, but it will pay off.
Tip #4: Fixing Mechanics takes LOTS of quality reps
Telling a kid, "Do it like this" is fine but remember if a thing is in muscle memory the psychologists tell us it takes NINE HUNDRED REPS to change. If you can generate 100 good swings in practice for each player you'll see improvements after 9 practices. So be patient and work hard at generating quality reps.
Tip #5: Video players
Players often think their body is doing one thing when in fact it isn't. Showing players a video can often raise awareness that they are in fact doing what you say they are doing.
Tip #6: Move players around a LOT
Some coaches will stick a kid in the outfield for the whole year. This simply doesn't teach the player that much (unless they are at a higher level where kids are hitting a lot). Get them time in the infield and don't worry so much about winning. Remember the year end trophy is often worth about $5.
Tip #7: Care about Strength and Conditioning
Parents are often shocked to hear their kid who runs around a LOT is really in poor shape. With the advent of video games many kids really lack strong core muscles which are the key to transferring power in a throw and hitting. Adding a strength and conditioning station to every practice can make a real difference. Core strength exercises at every practice are strongly encouraged.
Tip #8: Do not publicly argue with umps
Teach kids respect for the game and respect for umps. Most umps at the youth levels make mistakes. Its part of the game. So don't teach the kids to sit around and blame the umps all the time. If you have a problem with a call, talk about it quietly with the ump between innings.
Tip #9: Remember the width of home plate
Home plate in major leagues -- 17", home plate in college 17", high school -- 17", little league -- 17". So the plate is the same width but players are smaller. This means that the outside corner is gonna look SUPER outside. Get players to get as close to the plate as possible and take away that low and outside strike.
Tip #10: Get pitchers out of games if they aren't throwing strikes
Many new coaches are reluctant to pull a pitcher for fear of slowing down the game or annoying the pitcher. If the pitcher isn't throwing strikes, take them out and do not apologize. This saves all the other people on the field from having to watch grass grow as pitch after pitch sails over the backstop.