Become a Student of the Game
You’ve heard us make that statement over the years. What does it mean?
We’ve said, if you’re going to coach baseball become a student rather than a fan. Put aside any fan fanaticism and take into consideration the importance of coaching.
You are coaching and teaching young people and like it or not you are a role model for them. Give them your best. A fervent fan does not make a good coach. Learning the complexities of baseball presents a formidable task for any novice coach.
I believe a teacher (Coach) should become the most ardent student of all, much more than his players. We often get calls from coaches and parents concerning learning about one segment of the game or another. Our answer is always the same; become a student. It takes time and patience. You will not be successful overnight.
I tell them about one wall in my game room; filled to overflowing with baseball books magazines and videos. If something new comes out, I am right on it. You can never have too much knowledge.
Baseball is very beguiling because of the simplicity of the game. But behind that simplicity are a myriad of complexities. Please don’t let your ego get in the way and allow a few youth baseball successes mesmerize you into thinking you know it all.
There’s an old saying, “When you’re green you’re growing; when you’re ripe you’re rotting.”
Here are some suggestions for you to consider.
- Baseball is the most difficult game to teach and play. Give the teaching of skills your highest priority.
- Place development over winning. Strive to win every game but take into account the importance of HOW you win. Don’t overuse a dominant pitcher, show favoritism to more talented players or lose your control over player miscues and flaws.
- Learn something about baseball everyday. (The kind of information that is not in the box scores.) Most effective coaches eagerly soak up every scrap of information they can get their hands on.
- Whether at practices or games develop the ability to see the entire field at once. This is a learned skill and must be acquired. It will bring your coaching ability to the next level.
- Remain in control at all times, including umpires’ questionable calls. This may not seem to you as if it belongs in the “student of the game” category but by controlling your temper (and realizing that the umpires are just part of the game) you will find that you are more open to learn from negative situations. Don’t take bad calls personally.
- The more you learn the better your team will be. Teams seem to play at a higher level of competence when they believe their coach is superior to the opposition’s. They will play with more confidence because they will feel their coach can handle any situation.
- Discuss the game with your players, immediately after the game. Take them away from everyone (Down the foul line in the outfield grass is good) and talk about the game; why you won, why you lost, stress great defensive plays and talk about the next practice. Listen to the feedback you get from your players. The students can often become the teachers.
- Become proficient in all areas of the game. Even though you need assistant coaches make it your business to learn all you can about pitching, hitting, base running, etc.
- Baseball skills all have various movements that are efficient and correct. Learn what they look like and correct them when you find flaws. With (just a few variations) there are correct ways to throw a baseball, pitch, hit, field and run. Don’t try to reinvent the game. Learn the correct way it is supposed to be played. Like the old scout said, “I don’t know how to describe it but I’ll know it when I see it.
- Learn the basics of each skill and expand from there. For instance, an experienced coach looks at how quickly a hitter can get his bat from the back of his shoulder to the contact zone; a very short distance. Teach the correct path to the ball and other things fall into place.
Coaching young baseball players can be the most rewarding time of your life if you give it your best commitment of time and effort. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”… Robert Frost 1874–1963
Coach Tim Kafer