Coaching Little League Baseball Requires Maintaining a Healthy Balance in the Areas of Learning, Fun and Winning

There are different types of approaches to coaching little league baseball depending on the age group being coached.  With younger kids (Under 9), there usually is a more laid back approach to coaching.  Some fundamentals are stressed but winning or losing the game is not a concern and usually the score is not even kept. Letting the kids enjoy the game while learning a little bit about it is the goal.  With the older kids (13 and over),  the emphasis is on winning and the coach is going to use tradional baseball strategy to score as many runs as possible and win games.  Making sure everyone plays and equal amount and bats an equal number of times is usually not as much of  a concern of coaches.  It's in that 9-12 year old age bracket when it is a little less clear as to how to coach your team.  The kids are just beginning to become competitive but they are still in the development stage of their skill set and physical growth.  This will be their first experience with the score of the game being tracked and their first experience with unequal playing time and positioning.  This is the age group where coaches will want to achieve a healthy balance in the areas of learning, fun and winning.  Let's take a closer look at each.

  • Learning - In preseason practices, a large amount of time should be spent focusing on  the fundamentals of baseball.  This will be the kid's first experience with base running, bunting, applying tags, pitching, catching and a whole host other baseball skills.  Talk about each skill before practicing it and then use your assistant coaches to break the kids into smaller groups when possible.  This will keep the kids involved and get them more actual practice time.  Practice in and talk about each skill area several times before the season starts.
  • Fun - The kids are still at an age where keeping baseball fun needs to be a goal of the coach.  Baseball is a slower moving game than soccer and basketball and kids can often think of baseball as a boring game.  Keep practices lively and fun.  There is nothing worse than the dreaded hour and half batting practice where 11 kids stand around while everyone takes a turn swinging at 10 pitches. Break players into smaller groups whenever possible and try to use baserunners and simulate games situations when hitting infield and outfield practice.  Fast paced scrimmages with rotating 3 kid teams can be fun too. 
  • Winning - In this age group, winning should be stressed consistantly at practices and during games but it should also be kept in perspective.  The kids should be encouraged to play good fundamental baseball, have fun and play the game to win.  After that, only a poor effort or fooling around should be chastised.  Mental and physical errors should be addressed at the appropriate time, usually at the next practice session and areas of weakness of the team and particular players should be given attention at the next practice.  Kids should not be yelled at for making mistakes or embarassed by the coaching staff during a game or practice.   

A lot of coaching baseball at this level is just good common sense.  You don't want to be the win at all cost coach who who is yelling at players and umpires during a game but at the same time you don't want to be the wimpy coach who let's the players run amok at practices and games.  A  coaching philosophy should be developed before the team meets for the first practice.  A good philosophy and a well laid out plan will help your season and your kid's season be a success.