New Coach, advice appreciated

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Mar 11, 2024
5
3
Hey, I'm a former HS/travel ball player from a while ago, and I started coaching a 16u rec team. I love the game and want to help these girls, but I feel like I'm a crap coach. I'm softer spoken, and sometimes the girls don't listen well. I feel like I try to plan a well thought out practice, and either half of the girls don't show up or they don't understand the drills. I'm kicking myself for not realizing how different coaching is from playing. I know the skills required to play the game at a high level, I just can't seem to run a smooth practice for the life of me. I'm not sure if I'm over complicating things or not doing enough. Any advice is appreciated. Most of the time I'm running practice by myself, or a parent sometimes helps. My issue with this is that they often teach things that I do not agree with about correct fundamentals, or I have parents that have zero experience with the game and aren't helping the girls learn correct form. SOS from a new coach. Thanks.

Sent from my SM-S911U using Tapatalk
 
May 29, 2015
3,851
113
@sanderson47 . . . thank you for stepping up and doing what you are doing.

As somebody who made a mid-life career change and became a teacher, what you are describing is no different than what I see in the classroom every day. I'm in my 4th year and I feel like a miserable failure every single day. In general, this is a hard generation to engage because they were raised digitally and COVID took away crucial time to teach them to be curious and interested in . . . anything.

The most important thing I would point out is that it is REC. The critical thing you can do for those girls (especially at 16u) is make the game fun. It sounds as if you may be close in age to them, and that can work in your favor or to your detriment. Work more at being a facilitator of the game for them and less of being an instructor to them. They will destroy the best laid plans you will ever have; you have to figure out how to work around that, and you can only do that by getting to know them and earning their trust. At 15 and 16, they need you for more than softball.
 

Cannonball

Ex "Expert"
Feb 25, 2009
4,903
113
Fake it till you make it. IOWs, the way you carry yourself around the players really matters. Have your plan and then get after it. Coach the best you can. Have standards/rules but not too many. Help those who want help. If it comes down to your principles, don't deviate from them. One thing that I have found in coaching is that you state your objectives and then, have a running dialogue with those players reinforcing your goals for that practice. Ask them to participate and, in a way, repeat what they are accomplishing in practice.

You are volunteering. Don't be hard on yourself. I started out by volunteering. I didn't know much way back in the day. I still don't know much and must keep learning. You are doing a service to these players. If it becomes work for you or troubles you, you won't last long. As I constantly say to my daughter who is coaching HS, baby steps.
 
Jun 6, 2016
2,764
113
Chicago
We've all been there.

My first day of coaching in 2016 went like this:

Brand new high school team at a school in its third year of existence. It started as a K-8 school, then added 9th and 10th graders in the subsequent years. My DW is a teacher at the school, signed up to coach the team, volunteered me to help her.

So I went into the first day of tryouts knowing a few things. I knew we had something like 15 girls signed up for tryouts. I knew it was a first-year team of just Freshmen/Sophomores. And I knew that I knew a LOT about baseball and I had a good idea of ways softball was different from watching my sisters play. I figured the baseball knowledge would get me pretty far, and I'd pick up the nuances of softball (this part actually turned out to be correct).

I created what I thought was a pretty good tryout plan. I don't think I have it anymore, but I still think it was a solid plan if we were going to have a tryout of 15 girls with softball experience. Instead I watched about 30 seconds of the throwing warm-up, turned to my DW, and said "we can't do any of this." I remember I had an infield segment where we'd have players at SS, 2B, and 1B and work on turning double plays. Turning double plays! Of the 12 or so girls who showed up, 2 were pretty good. 2 knew how to catch and throw decently. I don't know if any of the others even owned their own glove.

The good news is we knew we didn't really need a tryout since we didn't have enough girls to cut anybody. So we decided to just start with the basics. A little throwing/catching, some ground balls, hitting off the tee.

I remember watching some of these girls hit off the tee -- it was literally the first time some of them had ever held a bat -- and I would think "OK, they don't know how to swing." And my next thought was... I know how to swing. I know they don't know how to swing. But how in the hell do I teach them how to swing? (Eight years later I still struggle to teach this to brand new hitters, so DW is our primary hitting coach. I'm much better at tweaking decent swings than building one from the ground up).

I learned the most important lesson I've ever learned as a coach that day (actually, the most important stuff I've learned has nothing to do with softball). I learned that I wasn't done learning. I spent that whole first season looking up how to teach the basic skills. The stuff I knew. And 95% of how I thought things were done was correct, but I had to figure out how to teach that to others. DFP was a godsend.

I definitely used some bad drills that first year. It took time to sift through the YouTube crap. I remember teaching L drills for throwing one time, but I realized they all looked wrong, so I did more research to figure out that it's a terrible drill that reinforces bad throwing mechanics.

Some other lessons: Toward the end of that first season, one of the better players said I was too nice. She was right. I still consider myself a "nice" coach, but I learned how to be nice while also having standards and rules and holding players accountable. I don't always do the best with the accountability even to this day, but I'm working on it.

I remember a couple times during that first season the players would do things that justifiably upset me, but I didn't necessarily properly articulate why. Or I didn't explain my expectations. Players, especially inexperienced ones, don't know they're supposed to hustle on and off the field until they're told. So you can't be mad at them for being "lazy" if you never explained to them what "lazy" is.

You think your practices are bad? They might be good practices for some but bad for the group you have. You might be trying to turn double plays when they still don't know how to catch and throw.

What do your players need from you? What do they need you to teach them? They're 16u Rec, which means it's very unlikely any of them are going to play in college. They're there to have fun during their last few years of childhood. So help them have fun. Teach them what they don't know. Find something every girl on the team is good at or can be good at and get her to be good at that, and then do your best to put her in a position to show off that she's good at that as much as possible. You're not trying to turn her into an Olympian. You're trying to give her some good memories of playing the game.

You need help. If parent help is all you can get, deploy them in a way that doesn't contradict what you're trying to teach. But also, make sure you're trying to teach the right things.

Two questions for you: What is the level of skill of these players? What does a typical practice look like?
 
Dec 10, 2015
850
63
Chautauqua County
Your first relationship is with the team. What are the goals? After establishing the first relationship, you can then begin to establish secondary relationships with indiviual players. How can you as a coach help/motivate/convince them to contribute to the goals of their team?
 
Mar 11, 2024
5
3
Fake it till you make it. IOWs, the way you carry yourself around the players really matters. Have your plan and then get after it. Coach the best you can. Have standards/rules but not too many. Help those who want help. If it comes down to your principles, don't deviate from them. One thing that I have found in coaching is that you state your objectives and then, have a running dialogue with those players reinforcing your goals for that practice. Ask them to participate and, in a way, repeat what they are accomplishing in practice.

You are volunteering. Don't be hard on yourself. I started out by volunteering. I didn't know much way back in the day. I still don't know much and must keep learning. You are doing a service to these players. If it becomes work for you or troubles you, you won't last long. As I constantly say to my daughter who is coaching HS, baby steps.
Thank you for your kind words. Baby steps for sure.

Sent from my SM-S911U using Tapatalk
 
Mar 11, 2024
5
3
We've all been there.

My first day of coaching in 2016 went like this:

Brand new high school team at a school in its third year of existence. It started as a K-8 school, then added 9th and 10th graders in the subsequent years. My DW is a teacher at the school, signed up to coach the team, volunteered me to help her.

So I went into the first day of tryouts knowing a few things. I knew we had something like 15 girls signed up for tryouts. I knew it was a first-year team of just Freshmen/Sophomores. And I knew that I knew a LOT about baseball and I had a good idea of ways softball was different from watching my sisters play. I figured the baseball knowledge would get me pretty far, and I'd pick up the nuances of softball (this part actually turned out to be correct).

I created what I thought was a pretty good tryout plan. I don't think I have it anymore, but I still think it was a solid plan if we were going to have a tryout of 15 girls with softball experience. Instead I watched about 30 seconds of the throwing warm-up, turned to my DW, and said "we can't do any of this." I remember I had an infield segment where we'd have players at SS, 2B, and 1B and work on turning double plays. Turning double plays! Of the 12 or so girls who showed up, 2 were pretty good. 2 knew how to catch and throw decently. I don't know if any of the others even owned their own glove.

The good news is we knew we didn't really need a tryout since we didn't have enough girls to cut anybody. So we decided to just start with the basics. A little throwing/catching, some ground balls, hitting off the tee.

I remember watching some of these girls hit off the tee -- it was literally the first time some of them had ever held a bat -- and I would think "OK, they don't know how to swing." And my next thought was... I know how to swing. I know they don't know how to swing. But how in the hell do I teach them how to swing? (Eight years later I still struggle to teach this to brand new hitters, so DW is our primary hitting coach. I'm much better at tweaking decent swings than building one from the ground up).

I learned the most important lesson I've ever learned as a coach that day (actually, the most important stuff I've learned has nothing to do with softball). I learned that I wasn't done learning. I spent that whole first season looking up how to teach the basic skills. The stuff I knew. And 95% of how I thought things were done was correct, but I had to figure out how to teach that to others. DFP was a godsend.

I definitely used some bad drills that first year. It took time to sift through the YouTube crap. I remember teaching L drills for throwing one time, but I realized they all looked wrong, so I did more research to figure out that it's a terrible drill that reinforces bad throwing mechanics.

Some other lessons: Toward the end of that first season, one of the better players said I was too nice. She was right. I still consider myself a "nice" coach, but I learned how to be nice while also having standards and rules and holding players accountable. I don't always do the best with the accountability even to this day, but I'm working on it.

I remember a couple times during that first season the players would do things that justifiably upset me, but I didn't necessarily properly articulate why. Or I didn't explain my expectations. Players, especially inexperienced ones, don't know they're supposed to hustle on and off the field until they're told. So you can't be mad at them for being "lazy" if you never explained to them what "lazy" is.

You think your practices are bad? They might be good practices for some but bad for the group you have. You might be trying to turn double plays when they still don't know how to catch and throw.

What do your players need from you? What do they need you to teach them? They're 16u Rec, which means it's very unlikely any of them are going to play in college. They're there to have fun during their last few years of childhood. So help them have fun. Teach them what they don't know. Find something every girl on the team is good at or can be good at and get her to be good at that, and then do your best to put her in a position to show off that she's good at that as much as possible. You're not trying to turn her into an Olympian. You're trying to give her some good memories of playing the game.

You need help. If parent help is all you can get, deploy them in a way that doesn't contradict what you're trying to teach. But also, make sure you're trying to teach the right things.

Two questions for you: What is the level of skill of these players? What does a typical practice look like?
Very true. I know I am learning every practice, game, and when I can at home. I have some girls who probably barely didn't make cuts at their HS, and a couple who are learning to throw and catch. I typically have the girls run/stretch/throw, then do some infield. I've been trying to get good enough to hit fly balls consistently to the outfield, but I'm not there yet.(I didn't realize how hard it would be, it's definitely a skill in itself) I just bought a net to get more tee work/ hitting at practice. I would like to do more game situation things, but i often have 6 girls and can't have everyone at their position to practice that. I guess I'm trying to balance helping the girls who are scared of the ball, and the ones who are wanting to refine their skills they have. I think I was at a loss after my last practice, but I know I just need to keep trying things until I find what works best for this group of girls.

Sent from my SM-S911U using Tapatalk
 
May 8, 2009
181
18
Florida
One thing I learned years ago was to standardize the warm up portion. Always use a throwing progression and add the catching element as well. From there I have/had a set of everyday ball handling routines that emphasized glove skill and short throw techniques, then progressed to longer throws and footwork. We did this at practice and pre game at skill levels from rec to travel and HS.

Introduce a technique by first demonstrating how to do it (technical) and drill with high reps. Then put it in a game situation and teach the why (technical). Once again high reps.

If you PM me I would be happy to share the last set that I used.
 
Jan 31, 2011
459
43
Its not easy. You have to start somewhere. I love the advice of building those relationships with the kids. At the rec level you definitely have a cross section of abilites and reasons for being there. The level of dedication you are showing is awesome.

I started with Mike Candrea videos. The one below is great for getting a lot of reps in a short time. Hitting grounders takes a lot of time and kids are standing around. Whatever drills you come up with, try to minimize standing around time. Keep them moving.


Youtube channels I like are also NFCAorg and MegRem Softball

Best of luck and remember, it takes time. Have fun. Enjoy the experience.
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
7,146
113
Dallas, Texas
Its not easy. You have to start somewhere. I love the advice of building those relationships with the kids. At the rec level you definitely have a cross section of abilites and reasons for being there. The level of dedication you are showing is awesome.

I started with Mike Candrea videos. The one below is great for getting a lot of reps in a short time. Hitting grounders takes a lot of time and kids are standing around. Whatever drills you come up with, try to minimize standing around time. Keep them moving.


Youtube channels I like are also NFCAorg and MegRem Softball

Best of luck and remember, it takes time. Have fun. Enjoy the experience.

For newbies, coaches should softly hit groundballs rather than roll them.
 
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