How Parents Can Choose the Proper Little League Coach for Their Child

By: Tim Rafferty and Gerald Masterson Ph.D.

Little League Coach with PlayersBefore parents just sign their kids up for little league, they need to do some research on the coach. Little league could negatively or positively impact a son or daughter and most of the time the initial impact is made by the coach. Imagine your ten year old trying to stretch a single into a double and unfortunately they get thrown out. You would expect the child to receive encouragement from his coach for good hustle and aggressive behavior, but what if, they didn't. What if, instead of congratulating the athlete for his or her efforts, the coach starts yelling and screaming at the ten year old for poor judgment. How can you as parents spot a good coach from a bad coach? Parents want their kids to have a great experience and learn that sports are meant to teach. So what are the characteristics in a coach that a parent should be looking for? Is it the team that always wins or the coach that plays everyone? Well, the real question should be: what coach will be best for my kid? Most professionals suggest that when looking for a coach you should look for one: that is going to be positive, that knows the limitations of little leaguers, that is going to educate their players about the game, that respects the athletes individuality and shows they care for them as a person, and one that will create an enjoyable experience for the kids.

One of the most important characteristics a little league coach should have is the ability to remain positive with their players. This is something that parents should make sure they identify before selecting the right coach. As a parent, one of the easiest ways to do this is observing a particular coach's practice. Instead of just observing the practice, ask other parents questions. Find out how the coach treats the players. If he is constantly promoting the kids and teaching them instead of yelling at them, you might have found a good one. Also, find out what the coach thinks about winning and losing. A win at all cost coach might not be the best fit for your ten year old. A coach can easily destroy their player's confidence by telling them what they are doing wrong. For example, it takes ten seconds for a coach to destroy a little leaguers confidence by telling them what is wrong with their swing or throwing motion. It could take up to 10,000 swings or throws closely supervised by the coach in order to correct something. If the coach does not have the time to supervise 10,000 swings, then they should not be telling their players they have something wrong with their swing or throwing motion. At this age coaches just need to remain positive and provide simple suggestion along the way. This is something that parents need to make sure they find out before deciding what coach is right for them. Parents should watch practices and games to see the coach's interaction with the athletes. Confidence is something that little leaguers get from their coaches so parents look for a coach that instills confidence in their players. For example, in little league, hitting is the life of the game. A good little league coach will have each and every one of their players believing that they are good hitters. The main problem with kids not hitting is they have fear and doubt. A good coach, makes a fearful hitter believe that they can do it, that it is in fact easy, and they are a good hitter. As a little league coach, you have to believe in your players, if your players are going to believe in themselves. Finding a coach that believes in their players is very important for a parent. Again, parents should observe interactions between the coach and players. Listen to the advice the coach gives the athlete. Look for the coach to say something instructive then positive at the same time; for example, the coach could say, "take the first pitch to get a good look, then hammer the second pitch for hit."

Little league coaches need to understand that they are coaching young children and young children have limitations. Look for a coach that knows pushing your players is good, but pushing them too far can be discouraging. The process of developing skills is an upward steady slope. Sometimes the skills are improved in drastic inclines and sometimes they occur in a slow upward slope. These increases are not always determined by the coach. A good coach knows how to get the most out of his or her players while keeping them motivated and having fun.

A coach's main responsibility is to educate its young players on the game. Parents want to make sure that they find a coach that is willing to spend time educating their kids. One of the best ways for a coach to educate their players is to run an effective and organized practice. A good structured practice can have a positive effect on the team. A coach should have five key goals in mind when running practice. Get the players in shape, understand each player's potential, work on individual skills, work on team execution, and motivate, communicate, and lead. All of these goals can be achieved in a short effectively run practice. It is very important that the coach gets their players in shape and allows them plenty of time to get loose and warm up.

Parents also need to make sure that they find a coach that works on individual skills. These skills are very essential. Team execution is very important; this is a good time for the coach to get the entire team together and work on team defense. As always, the coach should communicate, motivate and lead. There are two keys to this staying positive and rewarding good effort. A good way for a parent to spot all this in a coach is to see if the coach has a practice plan. A practice plan can be as simple as a sheet posted in the dugout of what the team is trying to accomplish that day. Make sure that the plan consists of infield and outfield work along with hitting drills and team batting practice. It is very important that the practices are intended to get every kid extra practice not just one or two athletes. A practice plan shows the coach put actual thought and effort into that practice.

Parents need to make sure they find a coach that is going to create an enjoyable experience for their kids. Since some little leaguers have a short attention span, it is necessary for the coach to create a fun atmosphere. The secret for this is to make it fun and keep it simple. Look for a coach that allows the kids to play games during practice or tells the athletes if they only allow a certain amount of runs, they get to go out for pizza after the game. Little league is about kids having fun with their friends and peers while learning skills like teamwork and sportsmanship. Parents want a coach that will allow the kids to have fun. This means that the coach does not place all of the importance on winning and losing. The best way a parent can spot this is listening to the advice that a coach gives their players. A coach should tell their players that winning is not the most important part of the game, but it is fun to win. Young kids can relate to this advice. It is important for the coach to tell their players what's important is how they handle both victory and defeat. It is imperative for the coach to tell the kids that they can be as good as they want to be as long as they give their best.

Also, parents need to look for a coach that knows the dangers of baseball and the proper ways to prevent injuries. If a coach encourages a little leaguer to "take one for the team" this is not the right place for most kids. Every year there are three or four little leaguers killed when they are struck with a normal pitch. They suffer from ventricular fibrillation which is where the heart muscle contracts improperly. A good coach knows how to protect their players from serious injury.

It is very critical that parents find the right coach. Some of the characteristics they need to look for in a coach consist of being positive, knowing the limitations of young athletes, educating them on the game, and creating a positive experience for the little leaguer. Through careful observation and asking questions, parents should be able to find out if a coach contains these characteristics. If parents can find the right coach, little league will be an enjoyable experience for both the child and the parent.

Parents, remember when selecting a coach: go to practices, look for the practice plan, and look to see if the coach is making it enjoyable for the athletes by playing games or other creative ideas. Also, remember to ask other parents questions such as, how does the coach feel about winning a losing or how the coach feels about playing everyone. If you see a coach that instructs without yelling, constructs a practice plan, and does not over emphasis winning, then you know you have the right coach for you and your family.


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