Coaching little league baseball and softball is one of the most rewarding activities a parent or adult can enjoy with children. Here are some little league baseball/softball coaching tips to help your team win games, but more importantly learn and have fun. I’ve compiled this list from years of organizing physical education lessons in a Montessori school in which teachers were responsible for creating lessons on all subjects. My career has also included several stints as assistant little league coach and track and field day coordinator. As a special needs teacher, I have developed and implemented methods for inclusive team sports.
Little League coaching tip one: Start your little league team off with tee ball. Tee ball is the precursor to little league baseball or softball. In place of pitching balls to each other, the tee ball is batted from a stationary tee, like golf. Tee ball (usually played with ages 6 or 7 and under) is an ideal game to introduce children to baseball and softball. Tee ball helps coaches focus on batting, hitting, running, catching and baseball rules and game play; tee ball delays the more advanced skills of pitching and introduces children to those skills at age and developmentally appropriate levels.
Little league coaching tip two: Keep your team players moving at practice. One of the biggest reasons children drop out of little league is because they spend too much time sitting on the bench waiting for their turn. Boredom spells disaster, especially for young children. Organize your drills and practice activities in small groups to keep all team players actively engaged. Every team has better and poorer players; keeping everyone involved hones your better players’ skills while boosting poorer players confidence and ability level. In the classroom, we call this kind of teaching ‘learning center based’. Set up center activities where team players practice in small groups for 15 minutes and rotate among three to five activity zones.
Little league coaching tip three: Avoid the prima dona syndrome; it’s futile and archaic. Yes, you want to win. Yes, your team wants to win. You won’t achieve that by over working better players and benching poorer players. Baseball and softball are team sports. If you turn your games and practices into individual sports featuring a handful of players and making it a spectator sport for the rest of the team, you’ll burn out your better players and lose your support players. I assure you that you will not have the support of your team members’ parents if you favor your better players. It’s a wise coach who encourages, inspires and motivates all the players on his team to give their best. You may be in for some pleasant surprises. That the overweight kid who doesn’t run well? He can hit like George Herman Ruth. The skinny kid? He may not be a great hitter but he can field like Brandon Inch.
Most of all, show your little league players and parent boosters that you genuinely appreciate them. They will appreciate you and pour their heart out for you on the ball field.