Coaching Little League: Setting Expectations for Players and Parents

I have coached Little League for 7 years (soon to be 8) and I am often asked why our team is always successful. Success to me means: the kids have fun, the kids get to try out different positions, the kids have a positive baseball experience, and the kids win more than they lose.

Obviously, as a coach, I can't play the game. My job is to put each kid in a position to succeed so the team will have success. The following is a handout I give to each kid and parent at the beginning of each season:

Little league is a competitive league. We have umpires, we keep stats, we keep score, publish scores and standings on the web and hand out trophies to the winner of the World Series. The goal of the Team is to win. The goal of each boy is to do his very best to help the Team win. Remember these three things:

Safety: Nobody swings a bat or throws a ball without checking to be sure that everyone around them will be safe;

Fun: We are here to have FUN. If anyone is not having fun, let the Coach know and he will work to remedy that;

Winning: "Winning" is an Attitude. If you are Safe, having Fun, and have a Winning Attitude, the Score will take care of itself!"

We will be putting an emphasis on pitching and would like to get as many kids on the mound as possible. You must demonstrate the ability to throw from the mound to the plate with consistency to get into a game. For the first few games kids will pitch one inning. Then they'll pitch one and "earn" the next inning. Over the course of the season, pitching ability will become evident and the kids who can really shut the other team down will get 3 or possibly more innings in an outing- it will depend on the game situation. We will throw in a few "pitching potpourri" nights where we'll revert to the one inning philosophy for all or part of the game. This becomes necessary when we have games that are bunched close together. We will use the walk rule: walk 3 in a row and you come out, walk 4 in an inning and you come out. This doesn't mean you won't get another chance-it just means you can't help the team that particular day with your pitching. Getting the boys to understand the importance of the team will be an underlying theme in everything we try to do.

We'd like to do as much scrimmaging at practice as possible and I am working on a pre- season scrimmage or two. We'll also devote time to all the skills through a variety of drills and exercises. Infield and outfield defense can only be improved upon by getting a lot of reps and we will get as many as humanly possible. The boys will have baseball homework: they must play catch for 10 to 15 minutes every day until the start of the season. Good arms come from thousands of hours of throwing, SO GET STARTED. On game days, at least one of us will be at the field an hour prior to game time. I do infield before every game. Come early for extra practice.

Base-running and Batting:

Base-running: Little League allows you to steal a base once the pitched ball crosses the plate. You can continue to steal bases as long as the ball is live. The ball remains live until the pitcher has the ball in his glove AND his feet are on the mound. Team base-runners will EXPLODE off the base as EACH pitch crosses the plate and will decide to continue to the next base or return to the starting base from about two strides out. The runner will SLIDE into any base where there is the possibility of a play. AAA rules state that if you do not slide into a base where there is a play, the umpire will call you OUT for creating an unsafe condition - (possibly colliding with the defensive baseman). The Team will become expert at sliding and stealing bases! Therefore, you must always wear long pants. Sliding pants (worn under your long pants) are a very good idea. Your outer long pants will get dirty and torn. Expect to get dirty at every practice and game.

Batting: We will emphasize Pitch Selection, Batting Discipline, Bunting, and drawing Walks. The purpose of an At-Bat is to get On-Base. You cannot score from the Dugout!

Pitch Selection and Batting Discipline: We will learn the difference between a Pitcher's Pitch and Batter's Pitch. A Pitcher's Pitch is outside of or along the edges of the Strike-Zone. A pitcher is trying to strike you out. A pitcher will try to get you to swing at a (lousy) pitch that is either too high (pop-up into an out), too low (ground out into an out), or too far inside or outside (foul off for a Strike). We will not swing at Pitcher's Pitches unless you already have two strikes. If you have two strikes, you will learn to Foul-off Pitcher's Pitches until a Batter's Pitch comes along. A Batter's Pitch is a pitch pretty much down the middle that you can readily put into play to get on base and/or advance a runner.

Bunting and drawing Walks: Hitting a Home-Run is glamorous and exciting. You may think that bunting or drawing a Walk is not so glamorous and exciting. However, the 2005 Giants got into the playoffs because the smallest kid on the team drew a walk to get on base, and then ended up stealing home to win the final regular season game with two outs at the bottom of the 6th inning. The Giants then went on to win the 2005 World Series.

You will often hear Coach say: "If you bunt or draw a Walk to First, you can Steal Home on the NEXT Pitch, and you better be Home on the Third Pitch!"

Team Rules and Expectations

1. All league rules will be followed, NO EXCEPTIONS. We will go over the League rules in person.

2. All kids will play each game, sometimes they'll play 3 innings, sometimes more. Kids who are at games and practices consistently, do their homework and work on their skills will have the best opportunity to play more.

3. If your kid can't be at a game or practice, please let the coaches know ahead of time. Please review the practice and game schedules and alert us of conflicts as far in advance as possible. If something comes up last minute, please call

4. Uniforms are for games only. Wear comfortable baseball clothes to practice. NO SHORTS! You will not be allowed to practice in your uniform, you will not be allowed to play in a game without one. Uniforms will require a $25 deposit this year. You can keep the hat and socks.

5. Players are expected to remain in the dugout during games unless enlisted to shag fly balls or coach a base. If a player must leave the dugout, they must ask the coach first.

6. Parents and siblings are not to be in the dugout. NO EXCEPTIONS.

7. All trash must be cleared from the dugout. You bring it in, you carry it out. Spectators please keep the field clean.

8. No batting or bats in hand unless you are at bat or on deck. Safety is important! a. We will not swing a bat near any other people; b. We will not throw the ball if there are any people behind either player in case of a missed catch.

9. ¾ walk rule in effect at all times-3 walks in a row or 4 walks in an inning and the pitcher will be replaced.

10. ALWAYS be respectful of teammates, opposing players, coaches and officials. Disrespectful behavior by players or parents will not be tolerated. Umpires are Human. If there is ever a disputed call: Players will talk to the Coach; Coach will talk to the Umpire.

11. Wear a cup!

12. Show up at the field ready to play ball!

13. PARENTS PLEASE keep the on field commentary to the "attaboy" variety. Conflicting instructions from a coach and parent in a game situation undermines the team. Say it with me "ATTABOY_______"

14. WE ARE A TEAM, I EXPECT EACH KID TO BE PERFECT. ("Perfect" means you always try your hardest-if you can look your teammates in the eye and know in your heart you did the best you could, then you're PERFECT)

That handout has evolved over the years and will most likely be revised for this year's team. I believe setting the expectations from day 1 of practice so everyone knows exactly how the season will progress. In the past, I have handed this out at the parent’s meeting before the first practice. This year I am posting it on a team Blog before the parent’s meeting and telling everyone that nobody plays or practices until I get a reply comment stating they read it with their kid!

When we practice, we have 6-8 stations that cover different skill areas. We have 2 kids at each station for about 5 minutes and we rotate until each pair of kids has run through each station. I always keep my kids moving so they don't have time to get bored. I like to have as many pitchers as possible so each kid feels he's contributing to the success of the team. Bunting is also huge on my teams and the kids who aren't the best hitters will bunt a lot. This gives them the opportunity to get on base and be involved in the games.

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