Tips For Tee Ball Parents & Coaches
Any time an athlete, or athlete-to-be starts a new sport it is exciting. But when a child starts playing America’s Pastime for the first time, it’s extra special. Many coaches (and parent-coaches) first experiences running a team and a practice start at the tee ball level. It’s one of the rare occasions where both the coaches and the players are at the same starting point.
If you are just getting started coaching, or if you are a parent with a player just getting into tee ball, it can be a very rewarding experience, though it can be extremely frustrating. To alleviate that frustration and get the most out of your practices, follow these recommendations for smooth and productive practices.
- SHOW UP AND SET UP EARLY
Once practice starts, you will be surrounded by players, parents, and your assistant coaches and will most likely have lots of questions to answer and lots of coordinating to do. Get to the practice field early to find your bearings, set up different stations for drills, and work out the flow of your practice. Ask your assistant coaches to arrive early as well so you can discuss how practice will run.
- BE CLEAR WITH YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Be clear with coaches, parents, and your players on what you expect out of each practice, and be clear with your players on how you expect them to conduct themselves. It’s good to have this conversation with everyone as a group at the start of the season, and reinforce it with individuals as the season progresses.
- KEEP PRACTICE MOVING
This may come as a shock, but young kids have very short attention spans, so it is important that you keep the practice moving. Keep any speeches or comments as short as you possibly can, and make sure to rotate practice drills every 10 minutes.
We recommend having your players start practice by running the bases after warming up with stretches. This will burn off some pent up energy to allow for some better focus for any stationary drills that come later on. Running the bases is also a good way to conclude practice as well.
- FUNDAMENTALS ARE THE GOAL
Winning games is not the goal at this stage, making sure your players learn how to play the game and excel at the basics is the most important thing. If you focus on player development, then by the end of the season, you will have built several winning ballplayers and put together a future winning team. If each player ends the season playing at a better level than when they started, the season was a success, regardless of wins and losses.
- EFFORT BREEDS SUCCESS
Kids are going to fail a lot in their first season of tee ball. Hand-eye coordination has not yet fully developed and this leads to a lot of ugly swings with the bat and a lot of missed catches. It’s important to reinforce how important it is for your players to always try their hardest and give it their best shot on each and every play and each and every swing. Some players will develop faster than others and players do not have any control over that, but they always control how hard they try. While they might fail this time, encourage them that if they keep trying hard, their next swing or their next catch attempt can and will be better.
- KIDS WILL BE KIDS
There will be days where your players will drive you absolutely insane. Whether it be chasing butterflies in the outfield, running in the wrong direction, or simply not paying attention while you are speaking, kids will push all of the right buttons at times. It’s important to stay patient, and remember they are just kids. Be calm, reinforce your conduct guidelines and expectations, and understand that kids are going to do kid-things, and you aren’t going to change that.
- YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL
Coaches are among the first role models in a child’s life, so it’s important to always be positive when talking to other coaches or parents, talking about other players or teams, or addressing the team as a whole. Kids will remember you for a lifetime, so do your best to present yourself as someone they will want to emulate as they grow up.
- HAVE FUN
When we give tips to players, coaches, and parents, we always stress that this is supposed to be fun! So allow yourself to enjoy this experience and make sure the players are enjoying themselves as well. For many, this is their first time being exposed to the sport and first impressions can be everything. Make sure your players continue to play and love the game and remember to have as much fun as possible at both practice and during games.