While I cannot speak for all other bloggers, I know one of my complete obsessions with my own blog is checking out Google Analytics to see how my blog is performing: how many visitors I am getting, what sites they are coming from, how long they spend on the site and what keywords they have used to reach the site. It’s pretty cool how you can slice the data a bunch of different ways to see what in the world made someone: (a) come to your site; (b) stick around and (c) look at some particular pieces of content.
Outside of the sheer numbers piece of total unique visitors (I love this one and just want it to go up all the time), I really love the keywords. It never ceases to amaze me the searches someone used on a search site like Google to find humble little Fierce and Mighty. For instance, for the time period between May 26 and May 31, I’ve had people come to my blog for “dealing with toxic people”, the “prowler” and a variety of connections for people looking for guides on handling youth baseball. I think my favorite youth baseball one is “youth baseball moms how to deal with crappy coaches”. Umm… I’m hoping that wasn’t a parent of one of my players… but then again, ya gotta admit it would be pretty funny if parents of some of my players came to my own site for advice on how to deal with my (ALLEGEDLY) crappy coaching.
So let’s get back into the coaching piece for a bit, mostly since I am really enjoying doing posts on my thoughts on being a youth baseball coach.
I think if there is one huge challenge any youth coach faces, more than teaching skills, setting rosters, structuring drills or managing an actual game is setting the proper tone and attitude of the team. You really need to get to the kids early and stay utterly consistent in your message to them from the first practice to the last moment of your final game. But how exactly does one do this? I think I’m finally seeing what it takes to pull this off after a lengthy period of trial and error… and this is probably something that applies more generally to teams than just kids… but for now, I will focus on our getting our precious little angels to stop yammering for 10 seconds to pay attention to the baseball game.
- A common theme, shared among all. The coaches really need to be on the same page with what the approach they want to take with the kids. My brother and I have a pretty good idea of how we want to approach our team, so that does help. We want them to improve and play well and have fun. Do we want them to win? Of course, but only towards the bigger goal that they will get more excited about the game when they are doing well as a team. The pure accolades associated with winning a “title” or something at this age is not our real goal. Sure, it would be nice, but I will take the kids having fun over that any day without even a 2nd thought. To some nutjob coaches out there, that makes me a loser. To all those nutjob coaches out there, I would simply respond… with nothing. Y’all ain’t it even worth the effort of my fingers to type something.
- The more, the merrier. This is one I almost cannot stress enough: the younger the kids, the more coaches you need. Period. I will not debate this. If you are dealing with all teenagers, 2 coaches can probably be sufficient because, at that age, the kids can actually stay semi-focused at practices and in games. But coaching 14 or so 8 and 9 year olds? You need to have at least 4 coaches to make things close to workable. The reason for this is simple: they have incredibly short attention spans and are always looking to act like goofy little lunatics with their buddies. While this is sometimes kind of funny, if you don’t keep it on a short leash, things become unworkable for the whole team VERY quickly.
With a group of coaches, it’s easier to divide kids into groups and minimize the amount of standing around time or “SAT”… ok, there isn’t really a true acronym for that, but I made it up… umm… and may never use it again. I just felt like doing it. Cut me some slack. But as coaches, you simply need to be proactive about getting other parents involved as either coaches for practices or just to help monitor the kids on the bench during games when you are trying to focus on the actual in-game coaching. The alternative is spending all your time telling Reggie to take the gum off his nose, Charlie to stop kicking the dugout gravel into coach’s glove and Thomas that throwing the empty gum wrappers behind the bench was not what you meant when you said you didn’t want trash in the dugout. I want to point out that while the names were changed to protect the… *ahem*… innocent, all of these things happened last game. I kid you not.
- Getting it back when you start late. This is one I feel like my brother and I seem to focus on too much in that we don’t get the attitude set the way we want early and consistently and then struggle a bit to bring the boys back to the task at hand. Now believe me, it is not that hard to lose the kids if you are not following the first 2 tips, but that being said, I am not making excuses. Just an observation. So what do you do when you find yourself 5 games into the season and your exquisitely crafted plan of 9 year old baseball domination falling apart before your very eyes?
I’d like to say I have an easy answer for this one… but I don’t. It really is a matter of acknowledging that at any point in the season, you can say “OK, enough is enough” if you really and truly mean it. Our teams have always tended to bloom a little late because it took my brother and I a little while to get everyone back on board. The funny thing about that is that even if it happens late in the season, it’s very cool when it happens… not because your exceedingly fragile coaching ego has been saved from further bruising, but when the kids finally do “get it”, they begin to play well and have fun. We actually had a bit of this happen in our last game. The opposing team came out swinging against us and knocked the ball all around the top of the 1st inning. How did we respond? Hell, we came out and knocked the ball all over the place in the bottom of the 1st. Was this because they saw it was possible? Was it some secret bit of magical coaching pixie dust that got us back into the positive end of things? Damned if I know… but it was fun… and the fun is what counts… keep reminding yourself of that.
OK, that’s enough for now. I started this post at JFK yesterday before my redeye flight to London, got less than 2 hours sleep, rolled right into my conference, finished that up for the day, had dinner and I am now attempting to finish this post with a semblance of rational thought. I have no idea how that went – you be the judge. I gotta get to sleep… but I do have a few thoughts I plan to share soon on this trip to London and also on my non-baseball playing nephew. He needs some blog love too.