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
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.