Teach the player to think for himself instead of the coach doing his thinking.
The responsibility of the baseball coach is to teach the players to think for themselves. In baseball you can teach some instincts, but you have to practice it.
I will give you an example of what I have seen in a high school baseball game. The runners are at first and second with less than two outs. The batter hits a bomb to right center, and the third base coach is yelling to tag up. The center fielder is running full speed to the fence and dives and the ball glances off of his glove. The play ended with the bases loaded and with some terrible coaching. You have to teach the players what to do in practice and let them react in the game.
Another thing is why is the coach calling the pitches in a game? What he should do is discuss the game plan with the battery men before the game. You have to work with the pitcher and catcher on how to call a game. The coach can still call pitches from time to time.
A coach is always teaching, even between innings you can discuss as a team real fast what needed to be done on a certain play.
The main time to discuss game situations is immediately after the game as it is still fresh in everyone’s mind. This is not the time to say, we have to hit better, field better, and pitch better. This is where you go into details and get animated, you have to look at your players and tell them what was done wrong and praise them on what was done right.
This is the time a good coach really shines and the bad coach fails miserably. When you get done talking, you always ask your coaches if they have something to say. This is how you build a team with everybody working together.
This is an area that baseball is lacking very much. What needs to be done is a lot of individual and small group teaching and drills. I am obsessed with this as the players want to keep moving and being pushed with enthusiasm and high expectations!
We need to have as many coaches as possible and at times the whole field being used. I use to look at my players and say, DP I want you to be the best shortstop that you can be. Jeff I will work you to be the best catcher that you can be. We do this with a lot of individual drills with hustle and enthusiasm. Your goal is for each player to be the best he can be individually, and then you put your players together to play as a team.
What I mean about working hard in practice is not about running the players to death. It is about laughter, enthusiasm, diving, working hard, and going all out in practice! Everybody involved with your team has to want it. Your players should want to be hitting with the game on the line. When it comes time to make the great play, they dream and visualize doing it.
The Coach has to pound this into the players all the time. With your pitchers, you ask them, do you want the ball! I always insisted they reply back, I want the ball or give me the ball! I always insisted on a controlled bulldog attitude. Your players should be sweating, diving, laughing, and pushing each other on the practice field.
My guys couldn’t get enough of practice and sometimes wanted to stay longer. I would have fun sometimes and have players all over the field and I would be hitting fly balls to a bunch of them. There would be times that I thought that I was going to drop from exhaustion.
Do not make the game easier to play, teach the proper way. Please don’t treat 13-18 year old players like they are 5. I had a coach tell me that you can’t teach a 15 year old like you do a 29 year old. I told him that he was full of bull and that I would never dummy down, to my players. He is a high school coach and is very much wrong. Now of course when the boys are 5- 10 there are some variations.
One of my coaches dad said when my players were about 13 years old they knew the fundamentals and played better than the high school team. It was real obvious because we worked our rears off, and did a lot of drills and worked a lot on fundamentals. We got compliments all the time from other coaches and parents.
I would watch the high school practices and was shocked at how the game was being taught. The boys played slow and were like robots.
I always taught athleticism, skill, and play fast. I have many examples of the players being taught the dummy down method. I will give you one situation in particular that changed my son Jeff, and his outlook on baseball in his freshman year.
They were doing a scrimmage and Jeff was playing second base. There was a runner on first and less than two outs. A grounder was hit up the middle and the SS fielded it and flipped it to Jeff at second and he barehanded it and threw the runner out at first. The stud varsity pitcher yelled to Jeff, great play!
One of the assistant coaches yelled at Jeff and said for him to use his glove! Now I always taught up to my players, and then I asked the head coach about this and he gave me a dummy down explanation. Don’t Dummy Down! Teach UP!
When I was coaching and the situation was we had to turn two, my players knew they had to turn it, because it was expected. I taught this in practice and we worked real hard on the double plays. They were also expected to make the great plays. If they missed on a double play or they messed up a play, they knew it should have been made. We always played all out with high expectations.
With infield practice I would be pushing, and encouraging the great plays! When they would make the great plays I would heap on the praise. When they would mess up, I would say come on lets work, you are better than that, you are a real good baseball player!
Here we go again enthusiasm and hustle from all. My guys wanted and expected to make the great plays, and wanted to be in the key situations. On defense they should be saying to themselves, hit it to me! You have to want it! I always stressed even when they were 12 years old that two errors or less a game was acceptable. Guess what, we did that a lot of the time at a very young age. I had a lot of coaches and people tell me how good we were on defense. If you keep expectations high, praise, push, challenge, and with enthusiasm you will see a lot of improvement.
The high school and college baseball programs have gotten away from drilling and do more scrimmages. The name of the game is individual attention with a lot of enthusiastic coaches and drilling. You guys think that the MLB does a lot of drilling, you haven’t seen drilling. We do a lot of individual attention that assures the players of improvement. We have a lot of hustle, repeat, and enthusiasm.
As a baseball coach you are constantly researching for more information, as there is always so much more to learn. Then as you are being a human sponge on the learning end, you turn it around to teach your players. They then turn into human sponges. There is nothing in the world better than seeing your players improving and enjoying themselves! You have to be a leader, listen, teach, push, and enjoy yourself. This is all contagious with your whole baseball family. When you do the drills, practice, hustle, and enthusiasm, you will see the wins coming.
I always told my baseball players that it is important to be a relaxed concentration. Baseball is not football or hockey with all kinds of intensity and energy. Baseball players have to be focused, not tight, and you have to be mentally under control. When you are batting there can be no tenseness, as this can cause you to squeeze the bat to tight, or to jump at pitches. Pitchers have to be bulldog tough, but under control. Fielders have to be a relaxed concentration at all times and say to yourself, hit it to me! You have to want it! I would always tell my hitters, relax, relax, and explode!
I always stressed to my players to go all out and play fast. The older they get, the faster the game becomes. I was showing them the little things that would make a difference, when they would be playing at an older age. There will be no need to hurry; they have to learn this at a young age. I will be going through a lot of information on this subject on our web site.