When a parent becomes a t-ball coach, mostly it is usually the first time they dip their toe coaching a youth sports team. Some will take to it right away; others will struggle as to what needs to be done. Here are ten things all new t-ball coaches should do from an organizational standpoint. Of course this is subjective and if you ask twenty experienced coaches for their lists of ten, all would be different. It is an imperfect science. Here’s mine:
1) Parents’ Meeting
One of the best things I ever started was having a parents’ meeting before the team ever steps foot on the field. Keep in mind that not only might this be the first experience for the coach, but for many of the parents, this is their first taste of youth sports. If you write down your own thoughts as to what you would want to hear as a parent of a player, then plan to have a 15-20 minute meeting at the beginning of the season with your parents, you’ll be in a good spot to have a smooth year. Believe it or not, there are parental complaints even at the t-ball level. Nothing will cut 100% of parental complaints, but a parents’ meeting will help. A number of years ago, when I was doing my coach’s clinic around the country, I asked for feedback. The negative comments were that I spent too much time covering the parents’ meeting. About a year later, I got a note from a coach that he wished he had listened more about the parents’ meeting, because the parents of his players were impossible to deal with that year. For t-ball, you can cover your practice philosophy and how often and long your practices will be. Also you can cover equipment and what glove you or the league recommends. A big thing during the t-ball season is snacks after games. You can prep your parents about everyone’s snack responsibility and that a schedule will be forthcoming. Here’s some advice from someone who has had dozens of parents’ meetings in multiple sports, “Cover aspects according to the age of the players." For example, at the t-ball level hopefully, fan behavior is not at the top of the agenda, but as you move up with older kids, this is a topic that must be addressed.
2) Coaching Philosophy
Believe it or not, your own coaching philosophy will start with the first team you coach, be it t-ball or a 15-year old travel baseball team. Develop your own coaching philosophy. We all have had coaches we looked up to growing up, and want to copy their way. Be smart and take bits and pieces from these past coaches but develop your own way of coaching and of being a leader. It may take a while but if you work at it, you’ll be fine.
3) Get Contact Information
Before the Internet and smart phones we used to have something called phone chains. Today it is much easier to maintain contact with the team through the internet, group messaging etc. Make sure your contact list includes: work numbers. home numbers, cell numbers and e-mails of each cild’s parent or guardian. You will have players from broken homes and different situations and you must keep both parents apprised of everything going on equally. And just as important, make sure they have your contact information. A good idea for first time coaches is to have an answering machine if you have a land line in your house.
4) Get All Medical Information
This is a must. Players will have different medical issues and as manager you must know what they are. Keep it private but be aware of each player’s situations. I always mention at the parents’ meeting, “ I want each player to have an updated eye test and hearing test.” This isn’t as important in t-ball but it has paid dividends for me over the years.
Go to www.TBallAmerica.com click "Register Now" and view the FREE promo.
5) Team Parent
This was more important years ago before the internet and today’s communication accessibility. But I still think a team parent is essential. Having someone to help coordinate: uniform handout, keeping the snack schedule, knowing the weather situation for practices and games, plus other administrative chores, is well worth it with the right person. Ask for a volunteer at the parents’ meeting and you’ll have more than enough people.
6) Assistant Coaches
At the parents’ meeting I tell all parents that they are all assistant coaches. In t-ball kids will pick up any baseball bat they see and start swinging it. And with throwing drills at the t-ball level, balls can fly around like missiles. This is why you need as many parents as possible on the field during practice to make sure there is safe, ample space between the players.
7) Establish Goals
It is never too early to have goals for even t-ball teams. Improving skills and having fun should be on the top of your list of goals. After t-ball, I always establish goals for my team. Not just team goals but individual goals. You don’t have to go crazy with this but just a few minutes before the season, giving your team goals can get extra motivation from them. This is a great habit to get into when coaching any youth sport at any age.
8) Team Newsletter
Don’t laugh! I started this five years into my coaching career and it was a big hit. I continued it every year forward. This is especially popular t-ball teams. Some caveats: No more than three newsletters a season is sufficient. Don’t make each newsletter more than one page. You, the coach writes a rough copy and mention every player for something positive in each newsletter. Don’t make it an e-mail, always do a hard copy. Parents will send them to grandparents in Florida and Arizona and they will be bringing the newsletter to their clubhouse, pools and dinner to show off to their friends. At the parents’ meeting ask for a volunteer to be in charge and I guarantee you’ll have more than one person.
9) Be Pro-Active With Complaints
Like I mentioned, there are minimal complaints in t-ball, but you can have some. When I first started coaching, it wasn’t that I wanted to avoid complaints or confrontation with parents, I always hoped potential issues would go away by themselves. Boy was I wrong! I learned to be aggressive if you sense something is wrong. I began to call specific parents and would say, “Mr. Lewis, the t-ball season is moving along well, but I get the feeling you have something on your mind and you may want to talk about it.” And then just be quiet and listen. I found that this worked much better than doing nothing. Remember communication is the key to almost everything. With regard to t-ball, I’ve actually had parents keeping track of every inning their child was in the infield, only to approach me with their written thesis of complaints. Don’t be afraid of complaints. Try to put out any fires before they get bigger.
10) Be Flexible
Flexibility is the key to becoming a good coach in any sport. You want to have your own coaching philosophy but being flexible will translate into more success. If something in your practices is not working, change it up and try to do it differently.
These are my ten. One extra is to utilize all the material available on t-ball in your own local library and on the internet. If you are starting out as a new coach, you’ll change a little with each season especially the first couple of years. Just make sure you develop your own philosophy and make sure you incorporate fun into the season no matter what age group you are coaching. Play Ball!