You may be the best leader and motivator on this planet, but things don’t always run according to your plans. As a coach, you may have been in a situation that you go out to the field to start a practice. For whatever reason, all 12 players are in the same mind set of not listening to you and are acting wild. In school sports, you have some recourse with playing time. In recreational sports, especially in t-ball, this can be very disheartening. There are some things that you can do to alleviate this type situation and you will look like the coach you want to be.
I have to relate a personal story that happened to me a few years back. My baseball team finished wrapping up the league championship and did well in the county tournament. My ego was totally inflated. I volunteered in June to coach my son’s Fall basketball team figuring, “ I was the expert youth sports coach.” I spent that summer researching youth basketball and creating plays, techniques and great philosophies. We started practicing in October for a November opening game. My eight-year old team was grasping everything I was trying to teach them. Offensive plays, defensive plays, out of bound plays etc. I felt great! This was my chance to win back to back championships in two different sports. We got on the court opening night and right after the tip off, it was mayhem with the players running around like crazy not doing anything we went over. And when I instructed them during the time out, they all nodded but, on the court, it was chaos.
I learned a ton that first basketball game and season. I was so keen on winning a championship to fill my own ego, I lost focus on the importance of fundamentals for eight-year olds such as dribbling and passing. It was a rude awakening. Now back to t-ball.
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When you have days that you are trying to run a practice and the kids are so full of energy, it is almost counter productive to even try and teach a baseball skill. Here are a few ideas that worked for me. Most worked and I was almost always able to carry out a positive practice from t-ball up to 15 & 16 year olds.
1. Recognize It Is One of Those High Energy, No Listen Days.
Don’t deny it, recognize it and deal with it. If your t-ball season has 10 games and you have between 20-25 practices (my formula when the season starts has always been 2 practices for 1 game) if you have 2 or 3 of these days it’s not awful. Keep in mind always be prepared and have an alternate plan.
2. Utilize Their Energy Running
I love to determine at the beginning of practice how the team is looking. If they are really jumpy during warm-ups, have the players take more than their regular one lap around the field and have them do two or three. It is always better if you, the coach, can do it with them. It’s a great look for you, the team and for the parents who are watching practice.
3. Games Or Drills With A Baseball Theme
I have spoken about this a lot and in my book T-Ball Drills. I go into depth about how important it is giving young t-ball players a game they recognize and put a baseball theme into it. A team that is kind of wild will respond to a game or drill they are familiar with. Whether it is a relay race, Red Light-Green Light-1-2-3 or another game, kids love to play games they know. Put a glove and a ball in it with these games. In a relay race each has a glove and passes a ball to the next in line. In red-light, green-light, they have to tag the “caller” with their glove holding a ball.
4. Other Games Or Drills
It is not a law because you are coaching t-ball that every game has to involve baseball. Change it up. I have always maintained that as t-ball coaches we are part baseball coaches and part physical education instructors. Approaching it this way will yield more success. I can almost guarantee it.
5. Involve The Parents
If it is one of those days, don’t hesitate to approach your parents who may be sitting in their car on their cell phone or talking to each other. There is nothing wrong and your are not showing any type of weakness saying:
“Ms. Arnold, if you can please come on out on the field. I need some extra help today.”
This technique is very effective and many times the most wild of the kids, will act totally different when one or both of their parents are on the field.
6. Station Drills In Small Groups
You may have planned a practice when you wanted to take the whole team into the outfield and teach them how to slide. Well your plans suddenly have changed. When the team is really wild, using station drills in small groups works well. Remember spend the time to have your master list of drills before the season starts. Don’t wait until you are in a position where you must change things up and you aren’t prepared.
Part of being a youth coach is to be prepared for anything. I’ve seen coaches show up at a field with their team 5 minutes after another team showed up and they cancelled practice. Be flexible! I learned how to run a few parking lot practices when this happened to me. And you know what, the kids loved it! Just remember in a parking lot practice safety is always a priority and there are certain drills that cannot be done.
When you do have one of those days when I guess, rambunctious is the word to describe the team, if you are prepared you will always have an agenda in your head. I always wrote my practices on an index card. For a 45-60 minute t-ball practice, I would have anywhere from 4-6 drills. But on the bottom of the index card, I always had 1-2 extra alternate drills to use incase something did not work.
We are in the greatest position in the world being a t-ball coach. We are helping to determine how players will feel about baseball and softball. Use this opportunity correctly. Come to practice with enthusiasm and with a prepared written out practice plan. But always have an alternate plan in case you have one of those few times when the entire team seems to go by the beat of their own drummer. Being prepared, flexible and having enthusiasm are the best assets to have as a youth baseball or softball coach!
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