I’ve seen it many times in my life… many times on the baseball diamond. I’ve seen coaches who think they have it all figured out, and most likely are antsy about making their ‘Super team’. They will look a kid in the eye and tell them that ‘those mistakes’ he made in the field will get him a place on the bench. Meanwhile, kids from age 7 to 12 years old are growing in this game. These are the ‘Growing years’ where kids need to be taught to work hard, practice harder and learn the fundamentals of the game. That’s right, the key word there is fundamentals, not ‘hit the showers, you’re through’. It’s those young years for these kids that you, the coach can really and truly blossom a player, or send him packing with no confidence and a new desire to quit the game. Many coaches choose to not mold, not develop because it’s easier. It’s disgusting and it’s not the way I approach it. In this day and age where youth baseball attendance has dropped, it happens too often, but we can change it.
Winners are not born, they are made. As a coach, you hold a very powerful tool. You are that player’s guide, their mentor… the one that will boost their confidence in the darkest of games, the motivator when those horrible errors happen on the field. And you allow them to shine through practice and character building in a short baseball season as well. It’s you that can make a kid fall in love with the game by giving them opportunity and figuring out how a less talented player can find his way. Once you figure that out, that kid needs to run with it, believing in themselves and working toward getting better as a player. Over time, that player will gain confidence, because that guide needs to always be there, making sure if they fall, they get back up and try it again. The job of the coach is exhausting, but when that player shines after weeks of practice and positive motivation, it’s worth it… especially when that kid’s smiling from ear to ear running into the dugout or standing on base after their glimpse of greatness becomes reality. That’s when a coach truly becomes a coach. That’s when a player falls in love with baseball.
A player needs a voice to not humiliate, but to push them. Once a player finds their niche’, there truly is no stopping them. There’s a desire to get better… a fire in their belly, and you would hope that as that player grows older, their new coaches at new levels will too guide them. While the field is bigger and the rules may change, the game is the same… and so should the style of coaching to some degree. That motivating. That inspiration and push to get kids better. Sure, discipline should always be present. But as they grow, hammering home teamwork skills, leadership, working hard and communication may now be more prevalent as you reach a bigger field. But that’s because the player is more mature and can handle new attributes.
But that molding, that guidance should always be present. Always. That is what is most important as a coach. If you are out there with 12 players, say 10 or 12 years old, and you’re telling them 4 may not see a lot of playing time… I ask you… Why are you coaching?
If you offer tryouts looking for the best 12 you have and they make the team… it is your DUTY as a coach to play those 12. They made it! There’s no filler! Play them all, somehow, some way. Why? Because this isn’t the major leagues. There are no pinch hitters, pinch runners and bench players that don’t play when it comes to little kids. These are kids eager to learn and hungry to play this game. And if they are sitting on the bench while you play your ‘Stud 9’… they’re not learning, and you’re not coaching. You’re trophy shopping.
Kids need to be molded starting the first time they step out on the field. Kids need to be taught all the time. Kids need to learn the game and understand every single piece of it. From being ready to play at any moment as a sub, to understanding pitch count, to prep stepping, to paying attention on every pitch… to understanding plays, to getting a secondary lead… to even learning to lose so they can use that loss to grow and eventually win. All of it needs to be taught if you’re their coach.
And if you’re not teaching it, it is my opinion that you don’t belong there. Because I have news for you; the greatest coaches I’ve witnessed didn’t always win championships. What they did win was the hearts and minds of those kids… and they taught their players that alittle push could make a little game turn into their big passion.
That’s the game I love. That’s the way to coach. Keep the kids in the game…
Don’t let them walk away because you just didn’t care to make them a better player. It just ain’t right.
–Rob Monaco, Father, Coach and Baseball Commissioner