There’s an old poster I remember seeing: “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” As much as I want to believe that’s true, kindergarten taught me nothing about coaching 9-year-old baseball players. Playing in high school and college taught me nothing about it, either. Honestly, I didn’t learn anything about coaching 9-year-old players until I started coaching them.

Now, I can say with confidence: “Everything I needed to know, I learned from 9-year-old baseball players.”

As the season winds down, I’m reflecting on what I did well, what I did poorly, but mostly on what I learned. Over the next few weeks, I’ll chronicle my journey of learning in the past year.

A few initial thoughts that stand out to me:

1. When coaching 9-year-olds, forget everything you thought you knew. Seriously. None of what you expect to happen will happen, until it happens, and you’ll realize you weren’t expecting it to happen anymore anyway. Forget those old traditional teaching methods, those old drills, those old terms and phrases, those old ways of motivating players. Nothing you thought you knew is going to work. Nothing. Until something does, at least for one guy on a certain day.

2. When coaching 9-year-olds, never forget that they are 9 years old. They will give you the most rewarding and baffling experiences of your life as a coach. And you just might have a blast along the way! Love them. Help them. Don’t assume you know what’s really going on in their lives and in their homes. Raise the bar for them, but hug them when they don’t reach it. You can be one the greatest influences and best memories of their lives. Or you can miss it.

3. When coaching 9-year-olds, remember that they aren’t trying to do anything “to” you. It’s really not personal to them. When they’re distracted, it’s really not because they don’t respect you or like you. When they need to be taught the same things over and over, it’s not because they just want to annoy you. When they forget where they are to be on the field, it’s not because they want to raise your blood pressure. This is perhaps what I love most about coaching 9-year-olds. They’re just kids. They haven’t learned how to make your life miserable on purpose yet. So, when they’re making your life miserable as a coach, at least it’s innocent. They have no idea they’re doing it, so refuse to take it personally.

4. When coaching 9-year-olds, remember that they might take everything you say and do personally. After all, you’re an adult. What you say, how you say it, when you say it…it all matters to them. They might be 9, but they aren’t stupid intellectually or emotionally. This is hard. But this is what a coach of young people must remember. If you want something easy, get a job coaching in the Majors.

If you were to write a series about what you’ve learned from coaching young kids, what topics would you include? Post a comment on the blog, Twitter, or Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.

Next Week: If you can’t teach it to 9-year-olds, you don’t understand it yourself.