I would like to voice my thoughts on some pet peeves I have as a coach from viewing other baseball coaches. Yes, other coaches. Not to suggest I am perfect and don't inspire pet peeves in someone else, but these are a few things that really bother me as I don't see them as contributing to the development of the most important people...no, NOT the coaches themselves, but THE PLAYERS.
Do you want to become better as a baseball coach? Sure, we all do. There are numerous ways by which we can become better...gain more knowledge of the game; learn to cope with adversity better; learn to not show negative emotion as much; let your kids play; don’t always think your way is the best...these are just a few ideas and thoughts one can do to improve as a coach. Of course, there is an abundance of theories on how one can improve by way of ADDING to your coaching tool box. However, what isn’t looked at as much is TAKING AWAY from your imperfect tool box (and we all have imperfect tool boxes yet how much self-reflection do we honestly do?).
Here are some attributes that I believe should definitely be taken away from all coaches' tool boxes that serve as some of my own pet peeves:
1. Wasting time on unnecessary things that are not skill related. Yes, one can say other areas of the game are critical, I won’t disagree. But to spend time on areas that are meaningless or trivial? Just get it done and move on. For example, spending part of a practice making sure players have the numbers they requested. Who cares?! Here is your number, now go out and play!
2. Taking too much time to warm players up. Now I am not saying a warm is not critical, because it is (check out this blog). But build in sufficient time to ensure the kids get a proper warm that lubricates the body. In other words, why spend time doing meaningless, antiquated static stretching, that serves little purpose other than to provide a location on the field where all the players can gather around the “water cooler” and gab, chat and essentially do nothing, but they think they are warming up? Design an efficient, economical and EFFECTIVE warm up that gets them moving and warm and keeps them from wasting time.
3. Coaches sitting on bench or bucket gabbing themselves when kids are warming up. Be there with them, make sure they are limiting the chatter and getting warmed up properly and on time. They are indeed watching you and WILL emulate you. Don't think otherwise. If they see you guys huddling and chatting and joking, they will do the same. Stop it. You are there to coach, not socialize.
4. During the pre-game in and out, the coach is trying to make the team. Hey coach, you are done playing, you need not hit rockets at the kids or send balls into the gaps or over their heads. Hit them balls that will help them gain confidence prior to the game. Try hitting outfielders one hop line drives right at them and hit your infielders two hop ground balls.
5. Your pregame speech and post game debriefing...my gosh, how long do they have to be? What on earth could they really get out of a 20-30 minute rant and rave that they will take home in a positive manner? Usually not much. Make your points, end it, pack it up, clean up and hit the highway. There is no sense in blasting and blasting kids for a loss. Make your points to the point and review them next practice. (After a tough game is not a great time for how to's anyway - read here)
6. So, how many signals do you really have? Do you really need that many? And why make it so complicated? You are not trying to re-invent the game, are you? At the younger levels, the sign system should be short and simple. It may get more complicated as they get older and at higher levels, but, that only leads to confusion and missed signs.
7. How about your pitchers trying to deceive the baserunners? You see more and more of this at the younger levels. Just make it simple, tell your pitchers or better yet, show them how to control the running game and then make sure they understand their role on the bump. Get hitters out, control the running game and do not try and try to deceive baserunners with pick off, or fake pick off or step off and run toward the baserunner garbage. That stuff won't work in the long term so stop wasting time on it.
8. Over-coaching your hitter during his at bat. Think about this for a moment; you are coaching third base and you rattle off 5 thoughts for the hitter. Ya, that will work! The hitter's thought is “was that a strike”? Or "was I supposed to swing at that pitch?" The hitter will be under an enormous amount of strain if the coach continues to pound numerous thoughts at him during the at bat. Let that one go. He wants to hit more than you want him to anyway.
9. Coaches calling every pitch. Hey, I have no problem with pitch calling; I do have a problem with every pitch being called. The battery needs to figure things out. Nothing wrong with a few pitch calls, then talk to your battery about your reasoning behind why certain pitches were called and let THEM decide for themselves the next time they find themselves in that same situation.
10. Coaches who struggle to hit fungos...that is they struggle to hit ground balls and flyballs. There is nothing more bothersome than for kids to be waiting and waiting for a batted ball and it is a swing and miss, followed by another swing and miss or the coach that just cannot hit a fly ball. This IS a skill. Practice it. For your own good...and far more importantly for the good of your players. And oh ya - you're finding it hard to hit a fungo? Now imagine how hard it is for that guy at the plate you are yammering at that actually has to hit a pitch!
This is just a small fraction of some simple pet peeves. Would like to hear from others who may also have some pet peeves that they see from coaches or even themselves from time to time.
Stay tuned for the next pet peeve series...coach’s pet peeves on parents. Hate to pick on you, but there are some things you do, with all good intentions no doubt, that do make it more difficult for coaches to help your kids.
Rick Johnston, Head Instructor & Co-Founder - The Baseball Zone