There are three groups with which a coach cannot fail to communicate, not if that coach expects to have any success and buy-in on his vision for the team. Each of these groups requires a different level of communication, particularly at different levels of baseball. What’s below is a summary of suggested communication at the youth league level.
Communicating with Players. “If they aren’t learning, you’re not teaching.” That was the advice given to me years ago by a good friend and mentor during a time I struggled as a high school teacher and baseball coach. My excuse was that the students I had in class simply didn’t care and wouldn’t listen. His response stopped me in my tracks. As a coach, the same is true. If your players are not learning (adjusted to their skill level) how to play the game, then you aren’t teaching it to them properly. Wait, you say. I’ve taught them everything I know, everything they need to know. They just don’t get it. Perhaps this is true, but what will you do? Give up? Blame the players? Quit? What good will that do? Just figure out a new way to communicate it with them. Yes, it’s difficult. No, you don’t feel like it. But if they aren’t learning, you’re not teaching. Figure it out.
Communicating with Parents. This is particularly difficult for coaches who are very proficient at what they do. Why in the world should I communicate with parents who don’t know the game like I do, who don’t care like I do? Easy, they will either be your biggest supporters or your biggest critics. They’ll talk behind your back regardless, but wouldn’t it be great if you got benefit of the doubt when they do? What if their talk centered on how much you care about the kids, how much you want them to do well, how much you are willing to explain the game and your approach to coaching to anyone who will listen? Many coaches take a condescending approach to parents, not wanting them around. Why not try something different and help them understand why you do what you do? You never know, it just might win you a little support.
Communicating with Coaches. At the youth league level, assistant coaches make or break your team. If you have other coaches around, practice and games both go smoother. If you’re on your own, well, that’s just hard. Hold on, I hear you saying, I may have warm bodies to help, but they don’t know anything about baseball. You’re probably right, actually. But, what will you do? Be a Lone Ranger? Good luck with that. Why not recruit some dads (or moms) who are willing to help, teach them a few simple things about the game, and then get their help running the players through the drills and skills you just taught those new assistants? Seems much better than trying to be a one-man show. Trust me, I’ve tried the Lone Ranger approach. It’s exhausting. Plus, wouldn’t it be amazing if players learned at home what you’re trying to teach them in practice?
Communicate. And, then, when you feel like you’ve repeated yourself too much, communicate more. Your players, their parents, and your assistant coaches need it. And so do you.
For an audio version of this discussion, visit: https://turnershow.com/blog/2013/04/28/the-travis-turner-show-april-26-part-3-brad-burns/