I volunteered to coach Carter’s (my oldest) baseball team this spring. I would have the joy of spending 3+ months with 10 (yes, 10!) five- and six-year olds comprised of 9 boys and 1 girl. Organized practices started at the end of February with games spreading out from mid-April to the end of May. This particular league is a part of the Grassland Athletic Association, a great organization based in Franklin.
In the Grassland Baseball League, teams in the 5 & 6 year-old division are pitched to by coaches, play every player in the field on defense, don’t keep score (officially), and end each half inning after 5 runs or 3 outs. As you might imagine, the kids always ask at the end of the game, “Who won?” Telling them that both teams did has worked so far but my guess is that by the time they start playing in the 7 & 8 year-old league that explanation simply won’t cut it anymore.
So, what have I learned from the experience so far? Here are some thoughts:
- Getting frustrated doesn’t help. If a child doesn’t want to do something on the field no amount of frustration will change their minds. Instead, you’ve got to be creative in finding ways to motivate them to do what you want them to do. For example, if a player doesn’t want to hustle, challenge them to a race (and let them win).
- Yelling doesn’t help. Children (and all people, to a certain extent) have the ability to shut their ears to something they don’t want to hear. Simply repeating what you want them to hear over and over again and raising your voice in the process won’t help you either. Instead, get down on their level, look them in the eyes, and calmly explain what you want them to do and why. (If that still doesn’t work, refer to #1 above).
- Even if you don’t keep score, someone else will. As I said before, our league doesn’t keep score but, believe me, the kids have a pretty good feeling by the end of the game who’s winning and who’s losing. If you’re not careful, life itself can become a competition but we all need to learn (and we certainly need to teach our kids) that how you play the game is what is most important.
- Keeping control of the chaos on (and off) the field takes a team of coaches. I have been blessed with two assistant coaches and several parents that have volunteered for dug-out duty. Without the coordination and dedication of these men and women, our team would not have been able to enjoy the success we have. Too often we (I’m included in this list) try do too much ourselves when we’d be much better off focusing on one thing at a time while we delegate other duties to trusted associates.
So how will the season end? Who really knows. We only have two more regular-season games left and the All-Star game is behind us (which I also had the privileged to coach with Carter playing for me). So long as the kids learned as much from me as I’ve learned from them then I’ll be pretty happy and feel that the season has been a success.