Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Always Looking Forward in Baseball or "How to Survive Machine Pitch Baseball"


When you walk into a local association, you could close your eyes and find the machine pitch games....just listen.  About every 45 seconds you will hear the "clunk" of a ball being fed into a machine and usually every 90 seconds or so the cheer of a three-error double.  On base percentages for most teams are around .650.  Its exciting for the parents, kids, and coaches to score 15 runs on 32 "hits".  Watch some of the club teams play and you get to see offense and defense on display.   Most of the teams have 3-4 really good defensive players on display at the "golden triangle" (SS - 2B - 1B).

Its easy to play the 3 best players at those positions because doing so makes the team "better" and when the team is "better" (wins more) then its easy to overlook the weaknesses. How can a team with a great record be weak?  Here are just a few ways:

  • They cant catch fly balls
  • They don't really understand situations in the field
  • They really don't understand situational baserunning
  • They get away with sloppy defense
Frankly, I found myself in the same boat last year.  There were times were I got too caught up in getting that win that I lost track of one fundamental reality:


8U and 9U baseball have rules in place to allow boys and young men the opportunity to slowly uncover the "mystery of life" in baseball:  IT IS THE HARDEST SPORT TO LEARN WELL.  Many teams that were VERY GOOD at 8U will fail by the time they are 10U / 11U.  An excellent 8U team will have:  

  • 1 or 2 boys that can catch a fly ball
  • 4 or 5 good hitters
  • 1 good shortstop
  • 1 good 1st baseman
With that you can have a team that wins ALOT of games.

When you get to 11U baseball (the year the rules open up to full MLB rules) you will need AT LEAST the following to be successful in a 35-45 game season:

  • 7 consistent pitchers who can throw a fastball and change-up
  • 4 very good middle infielders
  • 10 players that can play the outfield
  • 2 solid catchers

  1. Find boys and families that are committed to learning the game the right way
  2. Teach the game to everyone....all the players and all the parents
  3. Teach your players to "think baseball", understand situations
  4. Teach your players how to play 3-4 positions
  5. Develop catchers early and place emphasis on this position early
  6. Teach good mechanics over performance
I think by following these basic rules a team can develop into a nice "plug and play" team.  (ie there are multiple options at every position)  Team spirit will be less about "Billy the stud shortstop" and more about a team that is solid from beginning to end.

Again this is a lesson I have recently learned (or at least "re-learned").  Its a rocky road, and I think it takes bravery to stay the course and avoid the easy win, but in the long run its better for the team as a whole.

Hopefully a little more clarity from the chaotic dugout.....

Coach Rich

Friday, January 16, 2015

The REAL problem with youth sports! (At least one of them)

Happy Friday to All!!

The look and feel of youth sports has changed drastically over the last several decades.  There really is no debating that fact.  The science of the game (any game but in this instance we are talking baseball!) has shown us how to teach young players better ways to throw a ball, to hit a ball, and to pitch a ball.  Professional instruction is readily available to realistically anyone that desires it.  There is no doubt that the players of today are better than the players of yesterday.  However one fact remains constant when comparing youth baseball of today to that of 30 years ago......


Children are amazing....Their ability to learn something new is awesome.  I am amazed by how fast my group of 7 and 8 year olds can pick up a new skill.  What children have in ability to learn they lack in the ability to truly handle stress and emotions.  

Baseball is a game a failure.  At all levels of this game you are going to fail more often than you succeed.  

Your child takes lessons.  He practices.  He is a good ball player.  You are a good parent.  You cheer for your boy, for his teammates.  The game is close and late in the game he commits and error to lose the game.  

If your son is like most athletes, he is going to be disappointed about the outcome.  He may even cry.  
If your son is on a good team, his coach will talk to him about the error and handle it in a positive way to encourage him to keep trying, to keep working, and keep his head up.

As a parent you have three responsibilities at this point:

1.  Give your kid a hug, a high five, or however you show love and encouragement to him.
3.  Drive him home and DON'T TALK BASEBALL.


The NCAA completed a 30 year longitudinal study on athletes that participated in collegiate athletics looking for cross-sport comparisons of successful athletes.  When asked about what they disliked the most about their experience as a youth athlete the resounding answer was:


It is my job as a coach to talk to your son about that error, that strikeout, or that performance on the mound.  

His performance is not a reflection of you.  Your job is to love your child unconditionally and help him transition from a disappointed athlete to a kid.  When and if he is ready to talk about it, he will come to you....But let it be on his terms.

This was exceedingly difficult for me to learn, and sometimes I fail to transition from a coach to a Dad.  But I promise you wont regret it......

Signing off....

Coach Rich

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why A Blog???

Howdy All,

I'm sure many people will say that blogging has already "jumped the shark" being surpassed by other forms of social media and outreach technology.  But why would I want to take precious time out of my day to put the "pen to paper"???

The basic trigger is this:  My hope is that blogging about coaching youth baseball will be therapeutic for me, and along the way people might get some enjoyment out of reading it (maybe some laughs too).  Maybe a discussion will happen surrounding the issues.....a discussion in your own mind, between friends, whoever...Mostly it's therapeutic for me!

I have been coaching baseball now for five years.....For the last two years I have coached my younger sons' (Kyle) team.  We started in the fall of 2013 with their 7U season and now we are getting ready to enter the Spring of 2015 playing 8U and 9U baseball.  I also am lucky enough to be able to help out with my older sons (Jackson) 11U team.  I say lucky only because I get to coach with who I consider to be a friend and personal coaching mentor, Brian Seigel.  He is one of the few men who has made a impact on my son Jackson, which is worth its weight in gold to me.  A man of character and someone I can call on anytime for advice, venting, or just to talk.  More about Brian later though.
I am the luckiest coach in St. Louis.  I have 10 great boys who LOVE baseball;  I have 20-something parents, grandparents, and siblings who LOVE to watch their relatives play baseball.

Over the last few years I have felt beaten up and frustrated by coaches and parents who don't understand why we are out on the field...I have became sickened seeing boys overused, parents and coaches psychologically beating up on their children and players, and overall a HUGE disrespect for this game.  I will be the first to tell you though that I am not perfect by any means and make mistake after mistake on and off the field.  Hopefully though I am man enough to admit when I am wrong, accept constructive criticism with pride, and learn from my mistakes.

I am a club select coach, and my boys are blessed enough to be able to play at a higher level, however I love baseball at all levels.  Baseball (in my mind) is the greatest game ever, because even the best players fail more often than not and the worst players will have their moments of glory, and frankly; every life lesson can be learned on a baseball field.

I think that's about all now. I hope this intrigues you enough to read the next posting.

Until next time....

Coach Rich
"A little insanity from the dugout"