To succeed on the diamond, a baseball team needs to have structure. As a coach, it’s important to keep your players focused on their goals, especially deep in the postseason. However, it’s important to remember who you’re coaching. No matter the talent and athleticism, kids are, well, kids.
It’s important to find balance when coaching youth baseball. Being diligent and structured with game plans while also allowing for free time can seem daunting at times. Use these Pro Tips from some of PONY Baseball’s best to find out how they keep rhythm with their squads.
GIVE AND TAKE
Managing a travel baseball team can invoke a sense of understanding between player and coach. Tournament after tournament you’ve developed your coaching techniques around how your roster responds to different circumstances. It’s your managerial duty to identify when your team needs a break.
“In a travel team program, usually [it] comes down to a six-day tournament, and that’s the manager’s job to keep the team fresh,” United Kingdom manager Warren Furst says. “These are 14- and 13-year-olds, so they need their free time as well; we’re aware of that.”
Furst notes that one key way he establishes free time for his roster is by laying out the schedule before a tournament. During the lulls between games or breaks between contests, this can be a great time to let kids be kids. When they return to the field, they can feel recharged and ready to enjoy their in-game success.
Another quality way to keep youthfulness in coaching youth baseball is to establish team bonding events away from the field. This can keep your players engaged with one another, building friendships and connections. Additionally, these baseball alternatives can eliminate some of the stress that might be present on the diamond.
“We let the kids know that, since it’s a long process, it’s not all about baseball,” Hagerstown, Maryland, manager Dave Barr says. “We like to get together and we like to do things outside of just playing baseball. Whether that be go to the driving range, go bowling, go to play putt-putt, go to a movie. Just an overall good experience for them.”
BONUS PRO TIP: If you’re managing a travel baseball team and are on the road for tournaments, it can double as a learning experience. Exploring each city or town can be great ways to expand your players’ knowledge of the world around them.
REMEMBER YOUR ROLE
While ensuring team success and making time for fun is important, it’s pivotal you remember your role as manager. To find the balance between fun and fundamentals, you need to define what your duty is as a youth baseball manager. You cannot be authoritative, demanding focus 100 percent of the time. Also, you cannot be lackadaisical and allow for zero attention toward baseball. Teaching the value in working hard and making time for recovery can be a great message to pass along.
“That is a fine line that you have to walk. Yes, they’re kids, and you want them to enjoy the moment, be silly a little bit, but I think it is very important for things to be structured,” Simi Valley, California, manager Ken Gill says. “My belief is that we’re mentors. We’re mentoring young men and women to become, you know, better human beings along the way.”
Keeping a multilayered schedule can keep your players refreshed and can lead to better returns on the baseball field. Take the advice from these PONY Baseball managers and add some variety to your game.
Managing schedules isn’t your only duty as coach. Use these coaching techniques from the PONY League World Series to learn how to manage rosters during tournament play.