How to Coach Little League
Coaching little league is a great pastime. After becoming a little league coach, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the league’s rule and regulations as outlined in the league handbook. Communicate clearly with your team and their family. Organize practices to correct weaknesses and enhance the strengths you see in your team. Finally, demonstrate good sportsmanship on and off the field, and treat your players fairly by allowing everyone a chance to play.
Contact your local league.The first step in becoming a Little League coach is to volunteer for the job. There will probably be a formal application process and an interview, though each local league is different. The league’s manager and other officers will consider you for the position if one is available.
- If you have substantial knowledge of baseball rules and strategies, or prior coaching experience, you are more likely to be considered for the position.
Collect information on all players.Before the season starts, or early in the season, you should receive a contact sheet from the league with information about all the kids on your team. In some cases, you might need to provide parents with this sheet yourself. This sheet should have each player’s full name, address, their parents’ phone numbers and addresses (if the parents live apart from their child).
- This sheet (or a secondary sheet) should also include detailed medical information, such as allergies, blood type, and any other relevant medical information.
- Some leagues might require you to collect additional information. Consult your league handbook to ensure you have all the necessary information on your players.
Contact all the parents.As soon as you have phone numbers for all the players on your team, call their parents and introduce yourself. Explain to the parents what the league’s general rules are and what your expectations for the team are.
- During this call, you might also want to speak to the player briefly about how you’re looking forward to seeing them on the field. There’s no need for an extended conversation, however, since you’ll have lots of time with the players during games and practice.
Get to know your league’s handbook.Every little league is a bit different. Obtain your league’s handbook and read it several times so you can familiarize yourself with the league’s rules, policies, and regulations.
- Keep this rulebook handbook close during games and practice so you can reference it if necessary.
Communicating With Your Team and Their Families
Keep your directions simple.Some little league coaches offer complicated and confusing directions. However, at its core, baseball is about catching, hitting, and throwing the ball. Keep your directions and guidance simple by employing that terminology.
- For instance, instead of saying, “I want to see a double when they get bases loaded,” you might say, “I want you to hit the ball, run to first base, and then run to second base."
- Using clear and straightforward directions, you can gradually teach more complex plays as your players master the simpler ones.
Offer players appropriate encouragement.All your players are different. Get to know each player on your team as an individual. This will allow you to identify when and how you should push your players to improve their performance.
- Some players, for instance, might respond best to an aggressive delivery such as, “Come on, step it up!”
- Other players might respond best to a more gentle and comforting suggestion like, “You’re doing great, but I want you to work a little harder out there.”
Offer constructive criticism.Nothing is worse for the kids than a coach who yells after every error. If you see a player doing something wrong consistently, pull them aside and explain what they are doing wrong. If necessary, work with them to adjust their technique.
Speak with parents regularly.Let all the parents know when the games are, when they need to bring snacks to practice, when they need to pay equipment fees, and any other information that they might need to know. Use a variety of methods to keep parents in the loop.
Discipline your players fairly.Disciplinary issues are likely addressed in your league handbook. Consult this guidebook in the event you need to discipline your players. Hold all your players to the same disciplinary standard and, when necessary, apply disciplinary actions equally. In most cases, a verbal warning is enough to correct a player's foul attitude or misbehavior.
- Let your players know at the outset of the season that they should demonstrate a positive attitude. Inform them of the consequences of poor discipline.
- During practice, warn any troublemakers that they will be running laps or performing pushups if they continue to cause problems.
- During games, warn any troublemakers that they will be removed from play if they continue to cause problems.
Demonstrating the Right Attitude
Coach with confidence.If you demonstrate confidence in your skills and abilities, your team will feel confident, too. The best way to coach little league with confidence is to gain experience coaching little league or another sport.
- If you don’t have coaching experience, you can build confidence by reflecting on your prior successes in business, academia, or another field in which you excel.
- Carefully study your team’s ability level and identify how you can improve it. Keep an eye on each player's batting technique, pitching ability, and hand-eye coordination.
- Use your knowledge of each player to maximize the team's strength. For instance, do not put your player with the strongest arm as an outfielder. Play them as a pitcher instead.
Provide an example to your players.Do not scream and shout at umpires or disrespect the opposing team, even if the game has already ended. This will only encourage the kids in your league to do likewise.
Teach good sportsmanship.As coach, your players will be looking to you to demonstrate good sportsmanship. Take the lead in shaking hands with the opposing coach when the game is concluded and insist that your players line up to shake hands with their opponents after the game – no matter the outcome.
- Remind your team that winning isn't everything. Whether your team wins or loses, the most important thing should be to have fun.
Treat your players fairly.Some little league coaches give weaker players less time on the field or less attention than the more skilled players. However, in the interests of fairness, you should give everyone on your team equal attention and allow everyone to play.
- Some leagues might have rules regarding how long or how often each player can be on the field. Consult your league’s guidebook for more information.
- Do not bench players just because they are not playing well.
Practice regularly.As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Schedule practice at a regular time at least twice each week. Practice provides your team with the opportunity to not only practice their skills but to bond and build trust with each other.
- Practice should not last more than two hours.
- With regular practice, you will be able to see your team improve immensely.
Plan your practices ahead of time.By planning out exactly what you want your team to work on during practice sessions, you won’t have to think up something for them to work on when they show up. Doing so could make your team and their parents think you’re disorganized and lacking in capability.
- Select only a few skills to work on in each practice session. Focus primarily on fundamentals like hitting, catching, base running, and throwing.
- Reserve some time for advanced skills like run downs, situational defense, and so on.
- Spend the last 30 minutes doing something that your team wants to work on like errors, run, and hits.
Vary your practice activities.If you focus on any one activity for more than 20-30 minutes, you will lose the attention of many kids. You can forestall this somewhat by encouraging your players to focus by saying things like, “Keep your head in the game!” but over too long a period, even the most attentive player will tire of the same exercise. Move your practice sessions along to prevent the players from getting bored.
Run scrimmages.Scrimmages are short practice games. Depending how many players you have on your team, you should be able to divide your team into two roughly equal squads (six on six, for instance). Designate one team the “at-bat” team and the other the “on-field” team. After the on-field team scores three outs, let the players switch sides. This will allow your team to practice under more game-like conditions.
Consulting With Other League Officials
Enlist an assistant coach.Additional or assistant coaches are crucial to coaching little league successfully. Another coach will be able to bring a second set of eyes to your team, identify strengths and weaknesses that you might not, and prevent the kids from getting into trouble. Your league might assign a second or third coach to your team, or you might wish to request one from the league manager.
- With the help of assistant coaches, you can run several practice sessions at once. For instance, while you work on outfield drills, you might have another coach working on pitching and catching, and another coach working on infield drills.
Maintain proper safety.Meet with your league’s safety officer. The safety officer will recommend what sort of equipment you’re required to have on hand. You should always have a first aid kit equipped with ice packs, band-aids, and so on. You should also have your payers’ medical information sheets available in case they become necessary.
- Before each game or practice, walk the field, looking for safety liabilities. For instance, if you see broken bottles, glass, or sharp objects on the field, remove them to prevent injury.
- Do not allow games to continue in excessively inclement weather.
Ensure your team has the right equipment.At the start of each season, consult with your league’s equipment manager. Your players will probably bring their own gloves and bats. They might also provide their own shin guards, mouth guards, and other safety equipment. The league will probably provide batting helmets and baseballs.
- Additionally, consult with parents directly or via email to help them choose the right sort of cleats for their children, if necessary.
QuestionThere is a coach for another team who heckles not only the other team players, but the parents and grandparents as well. He also swears at his players and argues with the umpire and other coaches. What can I do about this guy?Top AnswererTalking directly to this coach about his behavior might help. Otherwise, suggest to the league or to the parents of that team that they replace the coach. It would help if you could suggest a specific -- and appropriate -- replacement.Thanks!
- Make prizes for them at the end of the season, such as Silver Slugger, the Cy Young Award, and the Most Valuable Player. Let the kids vote for who they think should win.
- At the end of a season, throw a party for the team, regardless of the final record.
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