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In reality pre-season tournaments are more important for developing coaching skills than for the players‘ skill enhancement. Why in the world would I say that?

1. A coach must develop the skill to be able to see into the future and evaluate player potential. He can’t base his judgment on whether a player is capable of playing center field because he misjudged 2 or 3 fly balls in a pre-season game. He must see that the player glides to the ball when he runs, which allows his head to remain steady and keeps his eyes from bouncing up and down as he tracks the ball. A born outfielder.

2. Instead of penciling a hitter into the bottom of the line up because of the four strike outs, the coach must see the fluid swing, the proper lock and load mechanics, the starting mechanism. In other words, the coach must be skilled enough to immediately recognize poor mechanics vs. a timing issue which will correct itself with more times at bat, moving the 9th place hitter into the clean up spot.

3. An honest and accurate Coaching maturity self-assessment is extremely important. Just because you win a 16 team pre-season tournament doesn’t necessarily mean your team is championship caliber. The 19-12 or 23-2 wins enjoyed in this tournament may very well become 1-0 or 3-1 games in the regular season.

(a.) On the same token, being blown out in your initial games does not doom the team to the cellar of the division.

(b.) Should you play in a league which ranks their teams from excellent to novice, in an attempt to play equally talented teams against one another, this tournament experience could be Heavenly sent. Again, if you’re a capable coach you’ll be able to know if your team was truly and severely over matched in talent, which should alter your idea of where your team should be ranked, which changes a boring 12-0 season to a 6-6 record, but averts a disastrous 0-12 shellacking.

 

There are inherent dangers associated with pre-season tournaments and injuries, which coaches must be constantly vigilant of.

1.Pitchers should Never be allowed to throw breaking pitches.

2.Pitcher’s innings and/or number of pitches must be closely monitored.

3.Stretching drills, whether emphasized later in the season or not, must be strongly enforced.

4.Weather dependent, players should be required to wear layered clothing, such as shirts under the uniform jersey and jackets.

If it seems like I bounced around like a rubber ball in this article, you’re right, and that was by design. I wanted to demonstrate just how much can be addressed in a simple pre-season baseball tournament which can be beneficial to the coaching staff and the team.

 

Handling Pre-Game Stress

 

I was reading an article in a sports blog discussing the issue of young athletes, specifically baseball players in this article, freezing up when faced with pressure situations of the game.

I must admit I was somewhat surprised at some of the comments, quote “professional” unquote, coaches and sports advisors offered in order to deal with the emotional stress of performing in the “Big Game.”

Some blamed private tutorage from teachers and sports trainers who were excellent at teaching repetitive drills, but lacked the experience of handling the ill-affects produced by pre-game raging emotions, therefore ignoring the subject.

This was an interesting comment and I’m not disputing the validity of the claim, but the author offered no alternative solution. I’ve found in my years of coaching, anyone who trashes a coaching action, but offers no other option, normally is lost at what to do to solve the problem. I wish the writer would have expanded on his comment.

Some sang the praise of practicing visualization as a method of handling the ill affects of pre-game jitters and anxiousness. I’ve had my fair share of teaching visualization and it’s extremely important, but tell me how a youngster can visualize something they’ve never experienced.

Ever hear somebody say they didn’t like watching so and so sport on television, big screen or not, but would go to games because the atmosphere and action were so much different. I’m a huge fan of visualization, but it has it’s limits and I personally feel this is definitely one of those examples.

I’m in no way trying to discredit or argue with the “professionals” who addressed this blog question, but I’d like to offer a few suggestions and comments of my own on the subject.

Human emotions are designed to help us survive in life, such as the “fight or flight” instinct, and should be harnessed as a God given talent no different than an athlete’s foot speed. Having the fastest player on the field is useless if he/she is allowed to run with reckless abandonment with no purpose. The intense energy high emotions provide, properly controlled and applied, will have a positive effect on the athlete and should not be suppressed, only channeled.

(1.) Preparation is the key to stress control and that responsibility falls squarely on the coach’s shoulders. It’s his job to develop a plan to push his team to the next level through intense repetitive practice, from which the players themselves will realize their skills have improved. This instills confidence, and confidence breeds a calmness of knowing you’re up to the task.

(2.) I mentioned I’m a big fan of visualization and here is where I’d apply it. I loved the movie Hoosiers, when Gene Hackman, the basketball coach, took his team to the tournament arena and with a tape measurer, and showed the team the court was identical in size to their school gym.

A baseball coach can apply the same visualization technique with his team by measuring the distance between bases, pitching rubber and etc. etc. Explain to the team as you walk through this exercise that yeah, the stadium will be larger, but that’s for the spectators. Their field of battle is exactly the same, in fact probably easier to play on because it’s more professionally groomed.

(3.) Lastly, the pre-game instructions, which again falls to the coach. This shouldn’t be a rah rah speech, but rather a quiet recap of how they’ve done everything possible and are prepared for the game. They’ve proven they are winners by simply achieving being in this game and nobody can ever take that away from them. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, go play hard and enjoy it.

1. Preparation …

2. Visualization …

3. Mental Focus.

Remember pre-game stress and jitters can destroy a player’s focus and the ability to attain peak performance, a matter which requires addressing.

 

Jim Bain is a former Minor league player, Coach and author of the baseball



In Coaching Youth baseball and teaching others to coach, I always stress it can be one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life, but you must also realize it’s not all fun and games, as there are serious responsibilities which come along with the job.

Those responsibilities are to teach his players every possible physical, mental and emotional skill he can about how to properly play the game of baseball, and as if that wasn’t difficult enough, there is the other side which deals with integrity, morals, work ethics and growing up being a good person.

I congratulate you for obviously you want to become the best coach possible, or else you wouldn’t be here reading this, and I’m going to teach you by looking at some actual examples instead of boring theory.

<B> Being a Good Coach</B>

Coaching Youth and becoming like a Youth in order to coach, are quite two different matters, which can make all the difference in the world between having a good team or a great team, all other things equal.

A coach’s age is irrelevant, it’s their ability to think like a 10 year old which makes him a good coach. He must have the ability to realize the most basic and elementary baseball knowledge, which are second nature to him, are totally unknown to his players.

I’m going to teach you a basic outline of how to train a baseball team including some hard facts of where coaches screw up.

   

<B>I.</B> First things first … You must be of the mindset that you are responsible to teach the players virtually <I>Everything</I> about how to play the game. Assume Nothing.

<B>(A.)</B> This principal applies even should you be taking command of an older aged team, which I hate to tell you, is harder than coaching a younger team especially if you’ve had no prior experience with the team and its history.

1. The best advise I can offer in this situation is to <B>Observe</B> first. Only by setting yourself apart from the practice, you become too engrossed in the small picture, can you properly evaluate where the skill level of the team is in regards to the big picture. Then formulate a plan from there, which if you must tear down and rebuild, do it, if you need to take the team to the next skill level, do it. Observe, Plan, Execute Teaching.

   

<B>II.</B> Nothing Is Automatic:

A smart coach realizes when dealing with youth ball players nothing is automatic and nothing should not be assumed.

For instance, let’s be a little fly on the wall and observe a normal 10 year old center fielder as he mimics a professional ball player, adjusting his hat and maybe even checking the location of the sun.

He begins to narrow his focus, and as the pitcher begins his delivery, he’s solely concentrated on the ball, muscles tense ready to immediately sprint and catch any ball hit his way.

At the crack of the bat he takes an initial step in, then relaxes as he watches the ball shoot into right field, the right fielder begins running after the ball, but the center fielder doesn’t move.

You’re standing in the dugout biting your tongue as you see the ball skip by your right fielder and go to fence, while your center fielder stands idle and watches runners round the bases. Guess who is to blame for this …. <B>You</B> … the coach.

You and your coaches may have spent hours with your center fielder teaching him how to play the position, <B>But</B> if you failed to teach him he is the <I>Outfield General</I> and should back up every play regardless of field … well, he won’t know to do it.

Moral of the story: Take nothing for granted. Nothing is automatic. You <I>Must</I> communicate (teach, coach) everything you know, no matter how trivial it may seem to you.

Never be afraid to repeat yourself, it’s better players hear something 20 times, than not hear it at all. We’re normally telling our kids we’re not mind readers … well, neither are they.

<B>III.</B> Teaching The Intangibles:

I’ll be the first to say “This is a very challenging one,” and there is no book or instruction manual for this one, none that I know of anyway, yet it’s one of the most important lessons you can teach.

The intangibles are part of the <B>Mental</B> side of the game, which goes well beyond instinct, and includes the ability to think and quickly reaction, or more simply put: <I>Thinking Ahead.</I>

Bear in mind I’m no computer geek, you have no idea the problems I have encountered creating this website, but I would use the comparison of their minds being like a miniature computer, as the players seemed to readily understand this language.

I explained if they <I>Pre-Programmed</I> that computer, they’d eliminate the thinking part of the action, instead reacting immediately, cutting out the <I>Middle Man</I> shall we say.

Use very simplistic examples, which you’re welcome to use, and ask questions such as … a runner on first and a hopping ground ball hit to the shortstop’s left. How would he react .. What would he do?

If he had pre-programmed his mind before the pitch, he’d already know:

<B>1.</B> How many outs there were … which would dictate whether one out was needed to end the inning or a double play was required.

<B>2.</B> He’d know he was traveling towards second base and to step on the base for the easy force out … or attempt the double play.

Then I’d present the same scenario, except the shortstop had not pre-programmed,

<B>1.</B> The fielder’s forward momentum was going slightly away from the infield, which caused him to attempt an off balance throw to first base, which ended up being a wild throw.

Why didn’t he simply toss the ball to the second baseman for a force out? Because he forgot there was a runner on first which presented an easy force out situation.

Very simple examples, don’t make it rocket science, but very effective on demonstrating the importance of thinking ahead … pre-programming the mind. A mental intangible.

Along the lines of pre-programming, I always stressed team work and constant thinking, putting yourself in your team mates shoes.

For instance, an infielder should realize the outfielder who is watching and waiting to catch a high fly ball which has just been hit, has no idea what the runners on base are doing.

However, the infielder, or any other team mate, has a clear view of what’s happening and can yell directions to outfielder of what to do with the ball as soon as he catches it.

Yell “Home …home !!” before he catches the ball as he can listen while not interfering with his ability to catch the ball and you’ve eliminated his thinking process required after the catch.

(1.) Catch the Ball … Throw Home.

(2.) Not catch the ball … scan the field … decide where to throw the ball … throw the ball. Huge difference which can be the difference between a runner scoring or being thrown out at the plate.

I’ve thrown a lot at you in this segment, more than you probably realize.

(1.) The Coach is responsible for teaching all players A to Z about how to play the game of baseball….

(2.) Mental preparation is key to success….

(3.) Assume Nothing ….

(4.) Nothing is automatic ….

(5.) You must learn how to relate to your players in terms they understand.

 





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