Wearing the hats of motivator, teacher, and role model underneath your baseball cap.
Coach Kevin was recently featured in the Forked River Gazette having a guest piece. See more below!
Have you ever seen a mother duck at a pond? A mother duck is always walking along, a group of chicks dutifully trailing behind her. Otherwise she’s in the water, with her little ones crowded around, teaching them how to navigate the world while making sure none of them stray. Being a little league coach is, honestly, a lot like being a mother duck: you have to herd little ones, instruct them, and keep them safe. It can be a massive amount of work, especially when most little league teams have one, maybe—if they’re lucky—two coaches. So how do you manage to balance everything and ensure it’s a rewarding experience for everyone involved?
One of my secrets to successful coaching is no secret at all: I get a lot of help. I put my mother duck skills to good use and motivate—not just kids, but parents, too. You see, with just one or two pairs of hands on the coaching end, practices will end up with a lot of kids sitting around, just so you can make sure they don’t get into any trouble. But if you can enlist the parents who are sitting on the bleachers watching to help, everyone gets to be more active and have a far more rewarding experience. The key is to ask for help in an authoritative, straightforward way. Parents will give you excuses, saying they don’t know the game, etc. but simply reassure them that you need extra pairs of hands and the tasks they have to perform will be extremely simple. Before you know it you’ll have parents standing, ready to help at the beginning of each practice, and you’ll see that the kids are able to become better players faster because they don’t have to spend as much time waiting for their turn to really practice.
This is where you really have to teach—you’ll be able to go around and assist kids, correct their stances, etc. but before that you have to command the attention of the group and lead them in activities. The parents you’ve enlisted to help are there to support you, but you’re still the coach and that makes you the leader. It may seem daunting, but it’s actually such an incredible opportunity to guide your team and share in their excitement. You’re in control, so use whatever methods work best for your group to teach them the skills they need to become better players and advance to the next level.
Finally, being a coach means being a role model. Not only are parents trusting you to be the first responder to everything from bee stings to twisted ankles, they’re trusting you to support, encourage, and set a good example for the kids. I always feel that a good coach knows more players than just their own team; having a combined practice with another team is a great way for children and parents to make new friends and for players to get valuable tips from another coach. Additionally, showing your team that you can learn and train alongside rivals is a great way to instill values like cooperation and sportsmanship and teaches them more than the rules of the game.
When you become a little league coach, you’re in for a lot of things you could never expect, many of them that have nothing to do with baseball. Coaching is part getting the kids excited, keeping their attention, and, most importantly, keeping them safe. As I said in the beginning, it’s a lot of work—but it’s also incredibly rewarding. You aid children in growing into baseball players and well-rounded adults. You’re forever “Coach” to the children who have played on your team; that’s what it truly means to be a little league coach.