By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck
I’ve talked about this before, but it is important enough that it bears repeating. When you are coaching young players, your main goal is to make the experience a positive one so that they’ll want to come back and play again next year. This doesn’t mean you don’t correct mistakes and it doesn’t mean you tolerate fooling around behavior that detracts from the rest of the team. But it does mean that you exercise patience and compassion for players who don’t have the most ability or who are a little rambunctious.
I remember a player I coached in T-ball one year named Duncan who was a super-nice boy but who was on the low end of the talent scale relative to the others on my team. There were times I was frustrated because it seemed that he didn’t catch on as quickly as the other players, and it looked pretty obvious to me that he didn’t have a lot of natural ability when it came to baseball. However, I worked with him as hard, if not harder, than with the players with greater skill and enjoyed all of the minor accomplishments he made during the year.
When that initial T-ball season was over I gave Duncan our team’s most improved player award and saw a smile spread across his face like I hadn’t seen all season. The next year, in Coach-pitch, I learned that Duncan had been assigned to my team again. I sighed a little, knowing that again this season I would often have to stop my practices to help him, and that some of my better players would suffer because of it.
But when our players came out for the first practice, it became evident that Duncan had improved-dramatically. By the second week of the season I was stunned that he was now one of my team’s best players. It turns out that when our baseball season ended, Duncan had missed baseball so much that his parents signed him up for a pee-wee instructional league that played year-round. Though other coaches had assisted with Duncan’s remarkable improvement, what made me proud was that he had wanted more baseball when our season ended. I know that many coaches, even those with good intentions, could have turned Duncan’s first baseball experience into such a negative that he may never have wanted to pick up a glove once it was over.