Instructing

I graduated from college this spring and got hired as pitching and hitting instructor by a national baseball training company. And I’ve got my first lesson with a younger ball player (he is 10) tonight but i don’t really know how to approach the main issue he has, which is a total lack of confidence when the opposing pitcher is bringing a little more heat then he is accustomed to seeing. I don’t have much experience with this particular issue because it’s not one I’ve had since t-ball, so I figured I’d ask the baseball community.

Do any of you, preferably someone older with coaching experience (but any advice is welcome), have any suggestions on how to handle his confidence issues?

I’d like to be up front here … I’m not at all familiar with the amateur game, nor am I accustomed to figuring things out for a ten (10) year old and such. But I can relate to your situation of dealing with someone that has issues with seeing something new – sort of.

The youngster in question is at a good age to receive some frank talk, along with his parents. I’d say that ten (10) years old is a good time to realize how nervous everyone feels about learning something new and stepping into bigger shoes. Like trying on a pair of skates for the first time, or riding a bigger bike than ones use to. Experience of actually “doing it, the first couple of times,” is the right of passage that we all had to address at one time or another. No coach or combination of coaches in this sport can fit that experience neatly into a lesion and have any youngster walk away a happy camper.

My suggestions would be to stick to what YOU’RE good at, and don’t try to sell stuff that’s out of your domain. Youngsters can smell snake-oil right out of the bottle, so don’t go there. Confidence, in all cases, is a very personal thing that we all have to wrestle with sooner or later. For the youngster that you’re about to coach – his time starts sooner, like now. So, don’t try to instruct this youngster in being all things to all people – you’re a coach, nothing more, nothing less.

Now for your skills. You can present a package that the youngster can deal with, one on one, and he can absorb your training by having confidence in your honesty, upfront nature, and personality. Don’t forget, he’s ten (10), and very impressionable. Go easy with the “do-this-do-that, but a quick nod of approval when he “gets it”, and remind him that he’s only ten (10) and has a lot going for him, but, there’s a lot to learn – be patient.

This youngster will trust in your judgments, depend on your advice big time, and in time his confidence will feed off of your confidence, being treaded right.

Coach B.

[quote=“Coach Baker”]I’d like to be up front here … I’m not at all familiar with the amateur game, nor am I accustomed to figuring things out for a ten (10) year old and such. But I can relate to your situation of dealing with someone that has issues with seeing something new – sort of.

The youngster in question is at a good age to receive some frank talk, along with his parents. I’d say that ten (10) years old is a good time to realize how nervous everyone feels about learning something new and stepping into bigger shoes. Like trying on a pair of skates for the first time, or riding a bigger bike than ones use to. Experience of actually “doing it, the first couple of times,” is the right of passage that we all had to address at one time or another. No coach or combination of coaches in this sport can fit that experience neatly into a lesion and have any youngster walk away a happy camper.

My suggestions would be to stick to what YOU’RE good at, and don’t try to sell stuff that’s out of your domain. Youngsters can smell snake-oil right out of the bottle, so don’t go there. Confidence, in all cases, is a very personal thing that we all have to wrestle with sooner or later. For the youngster that you’re about to coach – his time starts sooner, like now. So, don’t try to instruct this youngster in being all things to all people – you’re a coach, nothing more, nothing less.

Now for your skills. You can present a package that the youngster can deal with, one on one, and he can absorb your training by having confidence in your honesty, upfront nature, and personality. Don’t forget, he’s ten (10), and very impressionable. Go easy with the “do-this-do-that, but a quick nod of approval when he “gets it”, and remind him that he’s only ten (10) and has a lot going for him, but, there’s a lot to learn – be patient.

This youngster will trust in your judgments, depend on your advice big time, and in time his confidence will feed off of your confidence, being treaded right.

Coach B.[/quote]

Coach Baker,

I was hoping to hear from you on this, and what you said is very much what I was thinking so that does ease my mind a bit.

Excellent advice indeed. It’s very much like a good creative-writing class in which the instructor who really knows his onions will tell the class simply, “Write about what you know” to begin with, rather than give some abstruse or complicated assignment. This is especially true when he has to deal with kids whose experience is limited.
I remember an old story about an elementary-school class whose assignment was to write a description of a baseball game. There was one kid who had never been to a ball game, who indeed knew nothing about baseball. He sat and chewed his pencil and thought and thought and was getting a headache from the whole thing. Finally, as the teacher was going around collecting papers this youngster hastily scribbled three words: "RAIN, NO GAME."
Even with older players who do know something, it’s good advice. What does, say, a young pitcher know—where does one begin with teaching him or her how to throw a curve ball or some such? There have been instructors who, from the beginning, will go into all sorts of technicalities and abstruse data which does the young pitcher no good because all he wants is to learn how to throw a curve ball properly—and then there’s someone like the pitching coach I had in my teens. When I told him I just wanted to ask him something about the slider, he took me aside and, in his calm, direct, matter-of-fact way, taught me how to throw a good one. He said, “Throw it like a curve, but roll your wrist, don’t snap it.” He showed me the offcenter grip he used, demonstrated the wrist action, then handed me the ball and said, “Go ahead—try it.” In about ten minutes I got the hang of that pitch; I also knew that I would not master it overnight and so worked on it for several months—and had myself a strikeout pitch.
So go to it, and best of luck. 8) :slight_smile:

Confidence is hard read, at any age, and is especially challenging for a coach. Knowing who your coaching, their personality, body language, facial expressions, conversations and/or lack thereof, is an art to be groomed.

Since you’re knew to the coaching field, sort of, I would use this opportunity to make mental notes – at first, then commit those notes to paper once you get home and settle in. In effect, you’ll find certain traits or characteristics that’ll cover a multitude of trainees, and some tell-tale signs that’ll tip you off, right off the bat, that something is, or is not, going right. Be sensitive to the little things that’ll escape the casual observer, ask your charges to talk to you along the way, keep an open mind to changing things when what you’re doing seems to hit a snag. It’s going to happen.

And another suggestion – don’t coach mad, with an angry tone, and don’t intimidate as a style signature. Coaches that cultivate this kind of atmosphere are weak inside and need that fear factor on those around them as a safety net when real talent and professional ability are lacking. Don’t get me wrong here. Being overly nice is not my suggestion. In fact, dealing with the college, semi-pro and professional player requires you to be a coach, not a friend. On the other hand, coaching the high school age group and even younger is a fine tightrope to walk. I’ve seen good coaches get drawn into a kind of friendship/mentor relationship that really requires a ton of social science courses to back them up.

And last, I would like to be one of those in the field to welcome you to the most rewarding profession to grace mother earth. As you develop, you’ll see things in people that so many others miss. You’ll feel so good, deep inside when you know that part of you is on the field playing ball when you can no longer do it yourself. And you’ll watch your first real success guy make it big, collecting his things, walk by you sitting at a three legged desk, poke his head into your office, reach for a bent door knob and close the door and just stands there. You’ll look up, sit back in your chair until you hear that spring loaded back go… bong! “ Can I help you son?” you’ll say with a smile, only to watch the guy searching for those simple little words of … “ thanks coach, thanks for everything.”

After the guy leaves, you’ll know that this is the only thing in the universe that you were born to do. You won’t make squat, dollars and cents wise, but you’ll live forever knowing the guy you helped will someday pass on a little of you, your coaching style and a lot more, to someone else as a coach himself.

I sincerely wish you and your family the very best. Welcome.

Pitching Coach (Ret.) John Baker
Springfield, Massachusetts