Advice for my first coaching experience?


#1

A high school in my area is in desperate need of a coach. I’m supposed to call the school’s athletic directer today and talk details, but it looks like I’ve got the job.
I’m going to need some serious help. This is going to be the first time I’ve coached anything. Luckily, the team has been utterly terrible for the past decade and a half, so it would be impossible for me to make things worse. It seems like a great situation to begin a coaching career.

Coach Baker, I’m typing in your direction. What I need is book recommendations, tactics, strategies and maybe just moral support. I’m very confident about coaching the pitchers, that’s the least of my concerns. It’s the rest of the team I’m worried about.

Also, suggestions on practice schedules (What to do during practice) and depth charts would really help. For example, how many pitchers should a small high school team carry?
This website has never steered me wrong and I’m a way way better pitcher than I would be without LTP. Now I need coaching advice. I know very little right now but I know I can help this team win.

My sincere appreciation for anyone who takes time out their busy schedules to help.
C. Sam C.


#2

I would recommend picking up Practice Perfect Baseball, edited by Bob Bennett and is a an American Baseball Coaches Association book. It’s a good starting place.


#3

I’m going to approach the basics here, just to start. I’ll add more later.

Honesty is one of the greatest qualities that you can bring to any endeavor, so my first recommendation would to be honest with yourself and those that you’re about to coach. As for myself, I’ve only had very limited coaching experience with this age group, so my advice will be strictly from the hip. (there’s the honesty thing, on my part)

1.) Don’t bring anything to the field that you have no knowledge of. Position specific disciplines are just that - specific. For example, a knowledgeable first baseman has the skills to keep most high traffic plays in check. On the other hand, if a player doesn’t have the slightest idea of what high traffic plays are, don’t press the issue. And above all, don’t rent a video or go on the web and try and introduce yourself on the cheap. There will be exceptions to everything that you try to learn from scratch, and when an exception happens, and you don’t have the answer - your credibility takes a nose dive. So, stay within your limits of experience, matched with your own personality.

2.) Let kids play the game - not you. Youngster learn quick and at light speed when they’re not forced. Let the game be just that - a game. Support their every move, right or wrong, it’s ok, we’ll work things out. Heck, that’s what their there for. Find the youngsters that seem most comfortable on the field - for specific positions. I would suggest letting the youngsters work this out. Kids will always gravitate to what’s best for them and what they find most palatable. If a youngster doesn’t want to handle baseballs hit directly at him, taking a bad bounce and getting nailed in the chops - he’ll tell you so, just be careful to pickup his body posture and his demeanor. Why? Because more often than not, he won’t come right out and tell you, he’ll act it out somehow.

3.) Keep a reasonable balance with how youngsters interact. Kids know each other better than any adult - coach or not. They also have a certain pecking order. This pecking order can be centered around a leader and his crowd, or, strongest take advantage of the weakest. Don’t let the last one be the way of things. And on that note, you’re not there to right-the-wrongs of this world, nor are you there to see that justice is metered out with people dealing with each other. But, you are the voice and standard of authority, of what’s expected, the way things are - we do not have a conversation here. So, to keep your team’s interaction simple and straight forward while under your responsibility, I suggest keeping them busy. Here’s what I suggest:

Personal property is the direct responsibility of the owner. Don’t bring anything to the club, on the bench, in the dugout that you don’t want stolen or damaged. Gloves, bats, hats, batting gloves and helmets, pine tar rags, bat weights, water coolers, drinking jugs and bottles, eye black,
gum, seeds, towels, jackets, equipment bags, and so on - are no one’s responsibility but who owns it.
Assign a permanent scorekeeper. Don’t get somebody’s girlfriend. Flirting can lead to trouble. Find someone who knows how to keep score, give them $20 for the season, and be done with it. I would not suggest a parent, rather a boy at school that no one knows that well, has the time, can use the money, and that gets along, is best.
Assign a Team Manager from the school’s population. Give this individual $20 for the season and be done with it. This manager will notify players of all game schedules and locations, changes to schedules and locations, keep track of equipment inventory and the status of its condition, and will help you keep track of academic eligibility issues. A classmate not related to anyone of the team is a good choice. With respect to academic eligibility issues, this person should be trustworthy enough to be the go between for you, taking player eligibility advice from student counselors, academic advisors, or other school administrators, to your attention. However, some schools have a policy mandate that handles things a lot different. But, in any event, you’re going to need a pipeline that informs you of who you have to work with and who you don’t. I suggest getting this ironed out beforehand. Know what you’re up against.
With respect to equipment inventory - some of the most beneficial things that a Team Manager can provide for you, is loss reduction due to theft, and supplies that run low. When your club is the home team and you’re responsible for bases and baseballs, the last thing that you want to do
is forget them. This person can also be a lifesaver when it comes time for issuing and collecting uniforms. A reminder in the halls to turn in uniforms can save you a driver around town collecting them. Also, a good handle on uniforms can avoid the fee collected at the beginning of the year that some youngsters and their families can’t afford. But then again, you’ve got to know the people that your dealing with before making a decision like that.
A Team Manager can also help you collect birth certificates, evidence of shot records, parent and student waivers, and other documentation. This Team Manager can also help you schedule picture taking for player/student ID’s if necessary. The Team Manager can also be the holder of player/student ID’s prior to game time for any pre-game review by umpires or others.
Assign someone on your roster to be responsible for batting orders. There’s nothing more aggravating than to hear… “ who’s on deck?” When that player is up to bat or on base, let that player designate a backup. This backup must be a player - not the Scorekeeper, and not your
Team Manager.
Get your first aid kit together early. Your Team Manager should be aware of the required items if specified by a local, state or other governing body.
If your club has common equipment like bats, helmets and so on, assign someone on your player’s roster to keep track of this equipment on the field. Keep this equipment near the bench or dugout, out of the way, and in good order. Have this player also gather baseballs from the field after the fielders tossed the balls around prior to a batter starting a new inning.

Other things to consider are:

Bring a simple iron garden rake with you to recondition the pitcher’s mound after every inning of play that your pitcher has to work off of. A simple item - yes, but one that will save you aggravation later on.
Review your insurance policy (car) and see if you have coverage for transporting others. Some automobile insurance policies have restrictions on using your vehicle as a transporter.
Find out if there are any reimbursement policies that you should follow.
Assign two players on your club’s roster to handle player difficulties with umpires. These should be two of the strongest player personalities on your club. Be there yourself only if all else fails.
During ground rules at home plate, bring out your catcher or catchers. Get them into the game mood early.
If your short of pitchers, don’t be too concerned, nor be too tight with your game plan. A simple pitch selection, allowing the batter(s) to ground and fly themselves out can relieve a lot of pressure.

In addition, if you let the kids play the game, just as if they were in their own neighborhood, they’ll surprise you. Let them take charge, at first. See how they handle themselves. Pass out authority to “run” things in the infield to your catcher, but don’t be afraid to let another fielder who seems stronger - do so. And never find fault with a youngster who muffs it. There are reasons both on and off the field that you might not be aware of. Life can be cruel enough without extra help on the matter.

Let the strongest personality on your club’s roster start off as Third Base Coach. Then the second strongest personality in line as First Base Coach. Let these two make up signs that the others will follow.

Keep a check on parents early. They’re there to watch - not insult umpires. Now I know you’re a rookie at this, but if you stand your ground and act like a head coach, you’ll be respected and called by one of the most respected titles in all sports … SKIPPER.

And last but not least - this is your first year as a Head Coach. Let the players teach you what it takes to handle the wheel. Then, as you progress, pick up a few pointers from videos, on the web, books, and this group. You can then put your observations to work with the theoretical. Suggestions can then be dovetailed with what you know and have had experience with. You’ll also appreciate the raw materials that you have to work with better, the politics and people issues that surface from time to time, and your own personality. And with respect to that last item - personality, you’re going to change some. A bit for the better, a bit for the worse. Take stock of yourself early, keep both feet on the ground, don’t picture yourself as a Major League Coach - not yet anyway. And always remember … it’s only a game … it’s only a game … it’s only a game.

You may find volunteers that have, or want to, help you. These men can be very helpful, on the one hand, but on the other hand, they can actually take your authority away. Be mindful of “I’ll handle this!”, and other such actions that can subordinate your efforts big time. In the other direction, be careful not to be a control freak. Again, learn by watching the kids play.

A final note- I personally like Jim Beam. :drunkard:

My sincere best wishes …Skipper.

Coach B.


#4

WOW! You know, I wasn’t quite sure if I’d be able to do this until I read your reply. A lot of what you said about the kids figuring stuff out on their own was what I had in mind but I wasn’t sure if it was the right approach.

That was some extremely practical, extremely helpful information. After I read your reply, I felt confident, inspired and ready to coach these guys.

I’m sure we’ll be in touch and like I said, the team has been awful forever so there’s very little that can go wrong and not much is going to be expected of me.

Thanks, that was some awesome advice.


#5

Atta boy, Skipper. You’ve done it again. I’ll be patiently waiting for Part II !!! CSamuel, you’ll be an awesome coach. The fact that you’re going into this with a very good attitude and humble approach puts you ahead of many coaches. Keep us posted on the progress of the team. It’s not all about wins and losses, either.

Thanks.


#6

A club that I joined early in my career was so bad that we lost a third of our roster players after the first month of preseason play. We were absolutely miserable as a team, no personal chemistry among players and coaches, the only sponsors that stood by us made a cotton candy mix and spray starch. We shared a stadium that leaked like a waterfall, the electrical system shorted out sometimes, and if I leaned up against a certain support column during night games I got zapped! We had rodent traps that acted like a drive-through for rats, and a family of bats made their home in a corner of a cinder block closet that I called home for a while. And every time I shut that door for some privacy, I saw the word “janitor” painted over with tons of grey paint, on the side facing inward. We had no sanitary facilities for a while because the stadium was slightly below the water mark of the rest of the town, so, our toilets flushed up after a heavy rain. I got so desperate after a steady diet of black coffee during one week, that one night I moved a porta-potty from a nearby construction site into the stadium’s maintenance room. The place had no maintenance crew anyway, so what the heck.
On a Thursday morning I made my way to the field, only to find two guys in suits waiting for me.

I was handed a check and told that I could cash it and go home - OR - stick it out with a new ownership group, but no guarantees. I jokingly said I’d stick it out as long as they got a head coach that knew absolutely nothing about baseball! The man on the left smiled, extended his arm and offered to shake my hand - “it’s your lucky day mister, I’m your new head coach”.

The man knew little of the game, but knew how to motivate and promote. He was a God sent! He managed to collect a odd lot of castoffs, college players, even a guy right out of jail. And all of this the day before our regularly scheduled game. All he wanted from us was a good show - “give the folks their money’s worth”.

We played just for the heck of it - no pressure, no game plan, nothing but fun. We started tossing baseballs into the crowd after the last out on the field, we brought kids down to run the bases, we stuck around to clean up the stands, we collected trash, we even fixed an old hose to flush down the stadium steps and the walkways. I personally painted some walls and cleaned some of the rest rooms.

We finished next to dead last - again, but the reputation of our club attracted some outstanding talent at the beginning of the next year. So as a result, that club attracted better talent, a new place to call home, and a more experienced coaching staff. I, on the other hand, was on my way home with the bride reading the classified. ( I saw it coming.)

I did learn from that early experience though. If you let those on the ground floor do what they do best- usually the product is pretty stable. Also, those in the management ranks can sit back and take all the credit.

In my later years, I sat back a lot. Credit is a good thing! :spudnick:

Coach B.


#7

I’ll add just a couple items…

Remember that your actions speak louder than your words. How you carry yourself will set the example for your players to follow.

Give trust and respect before it’s earned. Your players will reciprocate.


#8

Note to Coach B.: Didn’t they use to call that a Class D league—the lowest of the minors, way back when? :roll:


#9

Zita,
Your so close to reality - it’s not funny. I have no idea how I even survied that time.

Yes, there was a “bottom of the barrel” league that drew ownership from all kinds. I was just starting out and it was, to say the least, a start. To be very honest, I got the job because smarter people than I turned it down. How my bride tolerated me, my mood swings, calling for $$ (collect) and the like is beyond me.

By the way - I didn’t want to identify that level, I was trying to avoid dating myself, not to mention other things that are not exactly worth bragging about.

However, there are great people like yourself that understand more about that time period than others. Understand what it took to be part of a life style, struggle, pay bills, survie on a steady diet of black coffee and stretch a can of chicken noddle soup for two days.

These youngsters today with their moms and dads shelling out serious dough, traveling all over, and hope upon hope have no clue of how tough it was to get a foot in the door, back when. It use to bother me big time seeing guys sleep in their cars, being taken advantage of by local businesses when part time work was metered out and so on. If it wasn’t for the Savation Army’s second hand store across town, some of those men would have been in serious straights. Also, Loneliness is a cruel taskmaster that so many young men at that time had no way of dealing with. That alone beat many into the ground so bad, that they didn’t get up.

Whenever I see a man tearing into a group of young men for not doing this-or-that on the field, I have to restrain myself from collecting knee caps. This is not an easy sport to play, nor is it supported at the amateur level enough to expect any kind of exacting performance. Kids are kids - period. Their children, without the benefit of experiences so taken for granted by their adult charges. This especially true of college coaches. Some of the biggest morons on the planet are college baseball coaches. (present company accepted.) The crack of the whip and a toe-the-line that some of these idiots demand is so far out of touch with what’s reasonable that it boggles my imagination why anyone would want their son to be part of that lunacy.

Oh well - enough of my running open. Time to take a pill.

Coach B.


#10

I know what you mean, Coach B.—some of those so-called coaches probably never set foot on a mound or in a third-base coach’s box in their lives. Never played. Have no idea what actually goes into the making of a player, or a team. And yet they call themselves coaches!
I remember one time when Ed Lopat told me that if he had a nickel, or a dime, for every self-styled pitching coach who didn’t know his onions, let alone the fast ball, the changeup or the knuckler, he would be a billionaire ten times over and could retire. But Lopat, during his time in the minors, had made a comprehensive study of pitching and pitchers, and he had kept on adding to that knowledge, and he had been pitching well enough that the Chicago White Sox had been persuaded to take a chance on him. He spent the next four years being a good pitcher with a lousy team, and when the Yankees acquired him in a trade (which to this day still has the Chisox scratching their heads and wondering how they let him get away) he spent the next seven-and-a-half years being a very, very good pitcher with a great team.
And besides being one of the Yankees’ aces he doubled in brass as an extra pitching coach for them. He knew. 8)