I Signed up to Coach, Now What?

So no one else would sign up to coach, and now here you sit, trying to figure out how you’re going to do it.  Thanks for volunteering your time, the youth sports world needs more people like you.

Or maybe you had a team name picked out in the delivery room and were making practice plans between diaper changes.  You’re excited to coach and were the first one to sign up.  Thanks to you too for volunteering your time, the youth sports world excels with people like you.

Either way, I must tell you, it is a hard and thankless job.  If you put effort in though and try to do right by the kids, someone will notice you.  And when that one thank you comes, it feels much better.

The greatest feeling though is watching your athlete perform on the field and complete a task that you have taught them.  It’s the feeling of joy you get when you see all that work in practice pay off with a solid hit.  It’s the feeling you get when the kids come off the field smiling and enjoying the sport that you’re guiding them through.

That feeling is worth coaching.  Enjoy the ride.  I’m on it myself and would like to offer you a little insight.

The first thing you’ll want to do once you’re appointed coach is research.  Find out what type of league you’ll be playing in and get to know the rules.  Learn the important dates and start making a calendar.  Start forming a plan for the season, and think about goals you’d like to accomplish.

First you will want to schedule a parents’ meeting.  You’re going to need contact information for all of their players.  Ideally you’ll have a phone number and email address for everyone.  Calling each parent individually every time you talk to them is a daunting task and one that wastes too much time.  One initial phone call can help you gain respect, but after that a text message or email just does fine.  Find out if you can send text messages to all of the parents, and if not, try to find a number that you can send texts too.  It’s a quick way to immediately notify everyone of important updates, for example, a rain cancellation.

Sometimes I have a lot of information to pass on, so email addresses are important to me as well.  And since not everyone checks email regularly, I’ll send out a text message to notify everyone of the email.  Just be careful that you don’t flood them with information.  Tell them what is needed and try to cover as much as you can in each text or email.  Making extra information available is a way to get them a ton of information but not overwhelm them.  If some things aren’t mandatory to read about, let them know where to find it but don’t force it into their email box.

In the parents’ meeting, you can and should provide as much information as you can.  Some of the things you should discuss might be, but are not limited to:

  • Your coaching background / Baseball experience
  • Your goals and expectations for the season
  • Your plan to achieve these goals
  • Practice times and locations
  • Fees – League, tournaments, uniforms, equipment
  • When and where the games will be played
  • How to contact you and when (not during practice or games)
  • Your plans for playing time
  • Your plans for positions
  • What they should bring to each practice and game
  • Plan for snacks after games or practices

Another one of your first steps is to identify what equipment you will need as coach.  For baseball practice, you’ll need bases, balls, water, and possibly some other items.  Helmets will be necessary as well, but this is something parents might provide.  Bats and gloves should be brought by the kids as well.  If you plan for each child to have their own helmet, this is a cost that you will have to think about ahead of time.  Let your parents know your plans and what they’ll need to provide.

Team uniforms is something to keep in mind early as well.  If your league does not provide any assistance, you’ll have to find a way to purchase uniforms early enough so that they are ready in time for the first game.  You’ll need to gather sizes as well, so factor that into the parents’ meeting or early practices.

Securing a practice field can be a tough task, especially if the league doesn’t help to provide them.  Talk to local schools, churches and the parks’ department.  Check out the fields and find out how they are maintained.  In our area, fields aren’t cared for well, so we have to do some of our own maintenance.  Getting permission to do this can be tough as well, you might have to put in some effort here.  If it’s an easy task, that’s a win for you.  Be happy about it and get to planning your practices.

Planning practices should be done ahead of time.  Check your games schedule and figure out how many practices you will have before the games start and during the season.  Depending on what you plan to accomplish, you’ll need to factor in how many chances you get to teach everything you need to before taking the field.

The most important part of practice is keeping the kids active.  Talking too much is a wasted effort on young kids.  They’ll stop listening minutes into your lectures, and baseball could become boring.  You want them to have fun, because you want them to enjoy coming to practice, which gives you the chance to help them improve much more.  Get them active, divide them into groups and give them as many repetitions as you can.

When talking to parents, you’ll want to hunt for assistant coaches.  Some will say that you need a certain amount and no more than that, but if everyone is on the same page, I believe in the more the merrier.  Ideally you can find a couple parents with some baseball experience, but often either experience will be lacking, or they won’t have the time or interest to help out.  Use the resources you have though, a mom that knows nothing about baseball can roll grounders to kids.

Having assistant coaches helps you divide the team into stations at practice which helps maximize repetitions.

With all of the above in mind, when you get some free time, research the internet for ways to improve yourself as coach.  Learn more about the skills you want to teach, and find out what methods have been effective for others.  Research coaching philosophy and try to be the best coach you can for the kids.  Talk to other coaches and find out their experiences.

Remember why you’re coaching.  You’re there to teach the game and maximize development.  Earning the respect of the kids and parents by coaching the right way erases many problems that can arise.  You’re there for the kids, they’re not there for you.

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