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10 and Under Coaching Advice

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Offline  10 and Under Coaching Advice
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Posted: May 17, 2017, 2:50 PM Post
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I recently helped out at a baseball tournament with my son's team. I wrote a few thoughts down to help me calm my nerves, as it helps me to write out my thoughts. Let me know if you have any coaching advice, or if my experience is common with what you have encountered outside of northeast Iowa:

I survived Ben’s first baseball tournament on Saturday. He had to be in Edgewood by 8:45 and we got home around 4:30. Before our first game, Coach Ken asked for my help, as he needed a third base coach. I’m happy to help out, I’m typically the parent that sits in the dugout, keeps the kids from knocking each other out with their bats, and reminds them to make sure they have their bat, glove, and helmet in their bag after each game. I’ve been performing this role since Ben started t-ball.

The initial experience of coaching a group of third graders from a sports crazy school district led me to the following observations. First of all, ten and under baseball games have little entertainment value for casual observers. Since her Ipod battery was dead, Madeline was ready to leave before Ben’s first at bat and my brother that was visiting from Colorado ended up leaving in the valet mini-van shuttle to Manchester with Brenda at 11am. He caught most of the John Wayne double feature on TCM and enjoyed his choice of the leftovers in the fridge.

Parents that normally just drop their kids off at practice, but were stuck hanging around Edgewood all day were suddenly offering advice and coaching expertise. One felt it was critical to line the kids up and run them through throwing drills before the first game. It was in direct competition with another, who wanted to make sure they all stretched. I just wanted to make sure that they didn’t hit any cars in the tight parking lot or spectators near the field when they warmed up. A parent from Edgewood Black noted my efforts and thanked me for protecting her toddler. About an hour before the third game, a group of parents started warming the kids up beyond the right field fence, which meant I could relax and enjoy my seat in the shade.

Ken issued the new West Delaware hats to our kids before the first game. Three weeks prior, another parent had collected money for them, but I didn’t notice him writing down who he had collected money from. That included a few parents that wanted a hat for themselves. Most of the kids were anxious to get them, but I knew what was coming. Most of the hats were too big for third graders and too small for the parents. I was reminded that Henderson manufacturing had sponsored our city league team in 2016 and hats were getting randomly exchanged by our players each inning. Anticipating what would happen, I brought along a Sharpie marker to the tournament and directed the kids to write their initials on the rim of their hats. Ken offered me a hat but I turned it down, I knew it would be too small and I also knew there would be an irate parent that noticed he had given me a hat free of charge.

As a third base coach unexpectedly representing West Delaware, I was totally underdressed in my red Iowa State mock baseball jersey and blue visor. I had already shelled out $31 for Ben’s jersey and $15 for his hat, and I don’t think I’ve ever owned anything orange in my life. I’ll need to borrow a Randy Gradishar or Karl Mecklenberg jersey before the next tournament in June. Some 6 year old at the concession stand also questioned my loyalty to Iowa State. I was going to bring up the men’s basketball season but I remembered that we lost to the Hawkeyes in December. He diffused the situation when he said that his grandparents were Cyclone fans.

During the game against Edgewood White, while walking from our dugout to third base, their catcher told me, “your team isn’t very good at fielding”. While I was amazed at the trash talking abilities of a fourth grader, I only made the comment, “do you know what karma is, kid”? Based on the look of confusion, it wasn’t a part of his vocabulary. While Ben is batting that inning, he pops one up behind home plate. The catcher peels off his mask and sticks out his glove. He lines himself up and catches the ball square on his forehead. After a minute or two in the dust, he gets up and is led off the field in tears. I assured his teammates around third base and left field that he was ok, but those that heard our earlier exchange may have questioned my motives for clapping as he walked off the field.

Ben is using an older model Easton bat that I bought him last year. It is one step up from what you would find at the goodwill store. I thought he needed a new one after he used a t-ball bat in first grade and an older kid made fun of him. This is in direct contrast to most of the West Delaware parents that have dipped into their 401k to buy the latest in bat technology. This also drew the ire of an Edgewood White coach that thought that some of the bats that our kids were using may have exceeded the diameter limit that must be in some official rule book written by the national federation for ten and under semi pro baseball. He must have also thought that I was an expert on this matter. After all, I was coaching third base.

He proceeded to chew my ear off from the dugout while I was coaching third: “You’ve got to pull those bats off the rack coach, they make a huge difference, if our kids were using them we would hit every ball out of the park”. He must have surmised that I had a hearing loss, as he proceeded to repeat his statements four or five times, gaining volume with each stanza. After our half of the inning, I walked to our dugout, waved Ken down, and said, “some gas bag is chewing my ear off about the bats” to which Ken says, “yeah, he’s right behind you”. It led to a heated discussion where the volunteer umpire that now regrets volunteering gets drawn in and another Edgewood White coach has to stand between him and the gas bag coach and yell, “the tournament is for the kids, not you”. While all of this is going on I walked into the stands and talked to Brenda, who tells me that she works with the irate coach’s wife and that they would probably have an interesting conversation about baseball tournaments at school.

After beating Oelwein, we lost our second game to Edgewood White. The tournament rules meant that everyone in the lineup batted each inning, regardless of outs, which led to typical scores of 25 to 15 in four innings. This was lost in the minds of some parents, who felt that we needed to be more aggressive on the bases. Two parents sought me out while I was eating my walking taco from the lunch stand and offered advice on aggressively sending runners during the third game. I later noticed that I had bit my tongue while eating.

Until Saturday, I also didn’t realize that fourth graders were free agents capable of switching teams between games. One of the kids on West Delaware Orange attends school in Edgewood. Our kids were unnerved when he was playing for Edgewood Black when we arrived. Before our game with Oelwein, however, he switched jerseys and started warming up with our kids. After the Oelwein game, he again suited up for West Delaware Orange as we took on Edgewood White. Gauging his championship chances after our loss, he suited up for Edgewood Black against West Delaware Orange. I compare it to a deadline trade in July for a team with World Series aspirations. I was proud of the kids on our team that approached him between games and wished him “Good Luck”.

I’m not sure how any kid that fields a ball would know where to throw it. The two Edgewood teams used a chant such as “two, then one” which they called out when a runner was on first. While it keeps the kids cognizant of where to throw the ball, it really gets old for opposing teams and spectators after the first half inning. I’ve seen it used at softball games, which is probably why you see softball parents popping handfuls of valium. Our kids, on the other hand, depended on listening to parents yelling from the stands to determine where to throw. In most cases, since they were being directed to throw to four different bases, they avoided any contact with batted balls and ran in the other direction. Between games, I discussed the chant with an Edgewood parent and she said, “my God, I wish they would quit that”, as her normally sedate three year old was joining in the chants from the stands.

One of the parents that suggested aggressive base running volunteered to keep book during the last game. He must have thought that the best position to keep an accurate scorecard was standing next to the third base coach. The kids coming around third must have also been surprised when they had two coaches telling them what to do, especially when they were being told to “stop” and “run home” concurrently. During the final game, Ben hit a ball into the outfield. He was able to advance to third after a play on an advancing runner at the plate, and slid hard into the bag. He got up and asked me, “what did you think of that Dad”? I threw my arms around him and yelled, “I love you son”! We both laughed our asses off, but my assistant third base coach was upset that he was ignoring his shouts to run home.

From my vantage point as third base coach in the last game, I noticed the third baseman from Edgewood Black chewing a strap on his glove. I offered him some sage advice, “you won’t be able to catch anything in that glove if you eat it”. He pointed out that he shouldn’t be taking advice from a rival coach. As we were exchanging handshakes after the game though, he said “thanks for the advice”. He must have reviewed the situation with his coaches in the dugout.

West Delaware Orange took third place. The team got together on the field for pictures and received their third place medals from the tournament sponsors. Ken wanted me in the pictures, but I turned him down, as I wasn’t dressed for the occasion. Ben’s medal fell off the strap before we got to the dugout. I reminded the kids to make sure they had their bat, glove, helmet, hat, and medal before they left. Brenda used the hot glue gun to fix Ben’s medal when we got home.

Edgewood Black took first. I’ve known their coach for a few years. In addition to being a PE teacher, he is the head basketball coach at Edgewood Colesburg High School and has a collection of five boys at home. I’ve always been amazed at how calm and collected he is based on his home and work environments. Being the secretary at the high school, Brenda said that she talked to him yesterday and he mentioned that he also stayed out of the pictures, noting “It’s about the kids”. He said that the coach I called ‘Gas Bag’ from Edgewood White told him, “That’s the last time I let you steal a tournament from me”. Coach Gas Bag’s wife is a teaching aide, she asked Brenda what she thought of the tournament, she replied, “I think the kids had fun”.


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Offline  Re: 10 and Under Coaching Advice
#2

Posted: May 17, 2017, 3:05 PM Post
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Great writing and best wishes with your team this season.

For that age group, it's really just about having a good time, learning the game and not overworking pitchers.

Hypercompetitive coaches and parents ruin the game for kids. Just try to ignore them.


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