Mistake 1 – Too many kids are standing around with nothing to do.
Solution – Set up small group stations with coaching supervision and instruction. When no help is available, coaches should stick with all-inclusive team drills and game play. For example, batting practice should have separate stations. Some players do batting tee work, others flip work and some live batting practice. Coaches should have the other players field batted balls in batting practice, so players engage and develop defensive skills.
Mistake 2 – Talking too much.
Long drawn out talks are an excellent way to bore kids. Attention spans are often short to begin with and especially when kids expect activity.
Solution – Keep instruction short and to the point. It is best to give brief explanations before having players work on a skill. Coaches should continue that pattern for the length of practice or until game play.
Youth Coaching Mistake 3 – Forgetting the main reason kids play any youth sport is for the fun.
Solution – Many coaches do not understand where fun comes from. Fun for kids includes caring adults, activity, challenge, improvement, competition, achievement, recognition, and socialization. Coaches, who can provide as many of these as possible fulfill kids desires of enjoyment. Notice that winning is not a priority for youth to play or for having fun.
Mistake # 4 – Spending too much time on one aspect of the game.
Solution – Add variety to the practice agenda. Spending too long on the same drills usually leads to apathy, fooling around, and negative attitudes. Coaches should keep the segments short. They should teach the skills of hitting, throwing, fielding, pitching, and base running at each practice.
Mistake # 5 – Telling players what they are doing wrong or what to do instead of showing them. Words often go over players’ heads or in one ear and out the other.
Solution – Coaches should add pictures, demonstrations and video analysis to instruction. Visuals go a lot further than words. Showing players make a huge difference to athletes learning.
Mistake # 6 – Failure to challenge each player to their ability. Many of the best players gravitate to other sports because the game comes too easy at first.
Solution – Challenging athletes is what sports are about and important for player improvement. Using softer and safer baseballs can help the challenge of young players. With safe baseballs, coaches can hit and throw faster to players. Players play with less fear and coaches have fewer injuries to deal with.
Mistake # 7 – Waste practice time. Many coaches fail to teach during warm-up time and throughout practices, which is when the fundamentals develop.
Solution – Have a written plan for practices, keep to it and use every minute possible to teach. Coaches should not wait to begin just because a player or two is late.
Youth coaching Mistake # 8 – Do not include interested parents in baseball instruction and fail to give kids baseball homework.
Solution – Coaches should not be afraid to pass on their knowledge of the game to interested parents. They should always give everyone ways of practicing with their kids at home. Players develop quicker when everyone teaches the same things, so coaches should coach the parents, too. Of course, this knowledge passing should be at the end of practices and games, so as not to have distractions and too many “chiefs” during practice.
Coaching little league Mistake # 8 – My way or the highway approach. Coaches must understand that the modern athlete often has their private coaches, too.
Solution – Coaches must not insist that their way is the only way. They should be open to working with other coaches, so kids are not left to decide who to follow.
Mistake # 9 – Selective coaching. Many coaches coach some players on their team and deem others beyond hope.
Solution – Over the course of the season, coaches should give equal attention to all. Coaches should understand that all kids are worthy of their effort and are never beyond hope.
Mistake # 10 – Playing some players more than others.
Solution – This solution is obvious and the most necessary of all the above. Coaches must find ways of giving equal time to all over the course of the season. Nothing creates more player and parent dissension than more playing time for some. Unequal time is a sign of a win at all cost coach and is only for high school baseball and higher.
Finally, a couple of other mistakes deserve mention. Giving false praise and entitlement to ballplayers is not a beneficial thing. They both give players the belief that approval comes no matter their effort levels.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories help create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of Hitter” and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte at YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.