tips for t-ball coaches
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6 Tips for T-Ball Coaches
We just started our second season coaching Avery’s t-ball team! It really has been so much more fun and rewarding than Dave and I ever imagined. That’s not to say it can’t also be tough, and exhausting but, overall, it has been one of the best experiences we’ve shared as a family.
The majority of our team from last year returned to our team this year, which has given us a little baseball family of sorts. It’s been truly wonderful to watch these kids grow, not just in their baseball skills, but friendships and in life.
We’ve had many friends come to us asking for advice as they embark on their first-time coaching journeys, and I remember how completely lost, nervous, and unqualified we felt last year. Now that we have a full season under our belts, I feel slightly more qualified to share our tips for coaching t-ball!
Here are our 6 Tips for T-Ball Coaches
- Establish Team Rules & Have the kids help: It’s really important to set and stick with some basic team rules. Ours include “No bats in the dugout” and “Everyone must sit on the bench until it’s their turn to bat ” (Which we’ve found to be the hardest rule for 4 – 6 year olds to follow) Instead of making all the rules ourselves, we asked the kids to help come up with rules they thought were important. They came up with things like “No throwing rocks” “Do not pick up sticks” and “No digging in the dirt!” We asked them at our first practice this year if they remembered the rules from last season, and they remembered every single one!
- Give Everyone a chance to field the ball: Whatever the sport, when you have a team of little kids, and a ball, there always seems to be a huge group of kids, piling on top of one another. We saw that in our first few practices and games. The ball would be hit, and every single kid would run and throw themselves on it. It’s cute, it’s funny, BUT it can also be dangerous, and the kids aren’t really learning anything. We use two methods to combat this issue
- The first method is to call out a player before each at bat, and let them know this ball is thiers, wherever it goes. This way, each kid get to “Make the play” This isn’t a perfect option since, sometimes you’ll have a kid on 3rd base, running over to first to get the ball, but more often than not, it works well.
- The other method is to assign “lanes” or “circles” This is great for when the kids have a few games under their belts, and are starting to understand the game a bit more.
- Rotate the Batting order: Our games are 3 innings long (I think that’s he case in most leagues) So we rotate our batting order through 3 innings. That way, you don’t have the same kid leading off every inning, and the same kid waiting, and waiting, and waiting to bat clean-up. We also rotate fielding positions. That way, each kid has a chance to try out, and learn a bit about each position. They learn to throw to first base, and the first baseman learns to throw the ball home (after touching the base, of course!) etc.
- Hand out a Game Ball at the end of every game: We give one player the “Game Ball” We don’t give it to the kid who had the best at bat, or threw the farthest. It goes to the kid who showed the most team spirit (cheering loudly for every teammate) or the most hustle, or the most determination. We want them to see that being a great teammate and trying your best is what is most important here. The kids love it and work very hard to earn the game ball every week. Sometimes we give it to the kid who is struggling the most, to help get them excited about the game again. Make sure you give one to every player by the end of the season. That may mean two game balls in one game. But definitely don’t leave anyone out!
- Mix it up!: Find new and fun ways to teach the basic skills. This helps keep the kids interested, having fun, and excited for the next practice “What will coach do this week?” Maybe you set up an obstacle course or relay that includes hitting of the tee, throwing baseballs to a coach, and running the bases. On a hot day, try playing a game of catch with water balloons or throwing the water balloons at a target (Give parents a heads-up about this so they can bring a change of clothes!) The possibilities are endless, and a quick google search will give you tons of ideas for games you can play incorporating baseball skills.
- Most importantly, BE PATIENT and HAVE FUN!: Remember that these are little kids. They will not always pay attention. They will not always listen. They will not always focus. They just can’t do those things, all the time, yet. And that’s ok! Your job is to show them the ropes. Guide them, teach them. They are retaining so much more of the information that you may think! And kids definitely pick up on your attitude. If you are having fun, they will have fun (and guess what happens when coach is miserable…everybody is miserable! ) I should also add that it is important to learn your player’s strengths and weaknesses, and understand how they learn, and what motivates them. Every kid is different, and therefore, you may need to coach each kid a little differently.
Remember these kids are there to learn and have fun. You may end up having a 4 year old phenom on your team, but it’s more likely that you’ll have a group of silly kids who have never picked up a bat, have little coordination, and just want to dig in the dirt and pick dandelions in the outfield! But enjoy it! There will be many, many years where they’ll need to take the game much more seriously. But, if t-ball isn’t a fun experience for them, they may quit on the sport all together.