Recent analysis of traffic to the site suggests that our number one page these days is stuff on Coaching T-ball. Makes us think that a lot of you are just getting your first T-ball team around now. Maybe you’ve played high school ball, maybe your a dad whose league just called and begged — whatever you have the job and you are now finally getting a minute to search the internet after we can guess your oldest child who is 5 has gone to bed. Odds are you have another child since people tend to have them fewer than 5 years apart so heaven help you, you have put two kids to bed and now finally have a minute. So its now two little kids, job, family outside of the house, COVID, heaven knows what else and ….. T-ball.
All of this makes me want to talk to you and tell you some things. Who died and gave me the right to tell you things? Well, I feel like I have thought about it a LOT. I started coaching in 1998 and being a lifelong baseball enthusiast. I started in AA as I didn’t have kids and they needed AA coaches. Probably lucky, not sure I would have survived T-ball. I coached my now-17 year old at T-ball, I coached his brother at T-ball and I recently coached my Nephew at T-ball. I have coached at all levels and T-ball is really something. So I have you for a very limited time (Analysis says no one reads these blogs for more than a couple of minutes), what’ are my one or two pieces of quick advice?
- MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ONE ASSISTANT COACH PER PLAYER. Your league will probably tell you to get 1-2 assistants and give you a shirt for two assistants and a shirt for you. TELL YOUR PARENTS YOU WANT TEN ASSISTANTS. Its so much better in T-ball with a 1-1 ratio on the field. Just close your eyes and picture the first practice. “Line up for warmups,” you say. Nothing happens, kids mill about, looking at the grass, one kid takes another kids hat, kid whose hat was taken starts to cry, concerned parents on the sidelines look up and wonder why someone is crying only 3 seconds in. Now picture this “Assistants, please help a player get in a line for warmups”. Tell them you want them on a line about 5 feet apart. Quietly wait 5 seconds and BANG they are ready. Which world do you want to live in? Now let’s try this thought experiment on playing some catch. “Players, please take turns throwing a ball to an assistant.” Your 2 or 3 assistants get them in groups of 3 or 4 and they throw the ball past the assistant who goes to get it and the others in line start retaliating for the stolen hat at the start of practice. This time one kid takes the hat off a kid and runs away with it. Kid who had the had stolen begins to cry. Parents again look up and wonder why this is so hard at only gosh a 60 minute practice. Or you say, get across from an assistant and throw the ball. 1 kid with 1 assistant – no line of kids to stand around. Walk your parents through this at a parents meeting and tell them NO KNOWLEGE required to be an assistant. Wear tennis shoes to practice and come help. Most families will have more than one kid so they’ll be busy. Some will absolutely have to be somewhere else, but odds are if its T-ball they won’t really want to leave a player alone with you. So that means if they wouldn’t be helping they would just be sitting in a picnic chair on the sideline. T-ball is no picnic, all HANDS NEEDED ON DECK. Its super tough and now we’ve had a pandemic so some of these kids have been cooped up for a year — imagine how that’s gonna go for you. OUTNUMBER THEM and then start TEACHING. You cannot teach if you have no classroom — if there’s no discipline they can’t hear you.
- Next big TIP — there’s no BENCH in T-ball. No matter what happens play everyone all the time. Get them cheering for their team
- Next big TIP. Keep games as short as possible. Practice is all that matters. The games are exciting for the kids and parents, but the kids get tired after an inning or two. If the other coach comes over on a pretty day after 2 good innings and you are past the time limit or close and says HEY COACH — HOW ABOUT ONE MORE INNING. The right answer is NO — my guys are done — we’ve had a great game. this happens like every game — just say NO. Always always end the game early if possible and end on a good note, have a nice snack and be happy. Your job is to build happiness — and to get them to love the game. Its an awesome game and they really aren’t ready for the long version if they are T-ball age. Keep it short. Have a good snack and move on. I’ll focus on some good T-ball things to do in the next few blogs as I want to help and don’t hesitate to ask questions…. Always remember — it all gets easier after T-ball. No level is tougher as the kids are just super young and have not really had to learn how to be on a team or how to listen to a coach.
- Oh yeah, next big tip — always talk to them on their level, get down on a knee and look them in the eyes. And do not give long speeches — very simple and clear at all times. Be consistent. Favorite story of T-ball — I had a team run to a line and then run back and on the way back 3-4 of them sort of dove and slid across the line. I said lets do it again and please do not slide or dive. So we did it again and 2-3 slid or dived. I said no big deal — some of you are having trouble listening to the coach. The most important thing we learn in T-ball is how to listen to the coach — it really is a big deal. If a coach says WATCH OUT A BALL IS COMING — we need the kids to learn to listen. so we did it again and one of them slid. Calmly I said, gosh we still have people not quite getting it. At this point a parent came out and started yelling at the child that was not listening. I thanked the parent and said I think we are gonna have a success here. Then we tried again and no one slid. So just make it so they are locked in when you talk— give very simple commands and use a command voice and let it be. They want order – they want direction — they get confused if they are told to do what they want. Doesn’t mean be evil or mean or like a dictator — just be a teacher, be firm demand 100% attention and make it super fun. Think of games, do anything you can so they are having fun. Have races, bring water balloons — baseball fundamentals aren’t nearly as important as associating FUN with a baseball field. Hope this helps —and THANK YOU FOR COACHING T-BALL!!!!