Little League is not so little. Over 25 million children played baseball in 2018. That's roughly one-third of all children in the United States.
Little League baseball can provide some great memories, but it can also be disappointing. At some point, you will encounter flagging morale on your team, including before the season has begun. You need to keep things upbeat.
What should you do during outings and practice drills? What kind of language should you use to stimulate positive feelings? How can you help players cope with losing?
Answer these questions and you can get your season started with good vibes. Here is your quick guide.
A Little League team is about more than playing youth baseball. It's about trusting each other and forming relationships that will last for years.
Try to engage in some team-building activities that have nothing to do with baseball. You can take your youth baseball team camping, or you can go to the movies.
Send the contact information for each player out to everyone on the team. Everyone should know each other's names and favorite things before the season starts.
Do a few icebreakers during your first practice for the year. Start with name games, then select something like "show and tell" that allows children to talk about themselves in detail.
Many coaches focus on batting practice. It is important to teach players how to hit a ball, but that is just one component of baseball.
Make sure the players know how to pick up a ground ball. Line your players up and put some distance between yourself and them. Roll a ball toward them so they have to pick it up and toss it to you.
Teach them about catching a ball that is falling toward them and being thrown at them. They should learn to place their gloves in front of themselves and close the ball as it reaches the palm. Toss balls gently so they don't get hit too hard.
Many players feel discouraged because they can't perform one skill. Performing a bunch of drills will let them show off their various skills and encourage them.
You can encourage friendly competition amongst your players. An easy way to do this is to have an award ceremony where you give out fun prizes like baseball trading pins. Give an award for the best dancer and singer on your team.
You can also create a competition for fundraising. Whoever raises the most money for your team wins a special prize. You can give awards to the person with the most creative fundraising pitch.
You can get serious as well. Give a prize to the player you think showed the best sportsmanship.
But try to keep things as light as possible. If you are doing an award ceremony, give all the players on your team a fun prize. Then give out the serious ones toward the end.
You should praise your players as much as possible. Whenever they do something right, acknowledge it.
Be specific when you talk. "Great job" is okay, but "great job making that catch" encourages them to pursue a particular action.
You can give a child a reassuring pat on the shoulder or ruffling their hair. Some children do not like to be touched, or they prefer a high-five. Figure out if that would work for the child before doing it.
Other children do not like elaborate praise. A smile or a thumbs-up may be enough to give them encouragement. Be as personalized as you can be when you offer praise.
If you need to give critiques, keep them as soft as possible. Give the child some praise, then slip in your critique. Before they walk away, give them another word of praise or advice.
If someone is causing trouble, pull them aside and talk to them individually. Scolding them in front of the entire team can make them feel isolated.
The more you involve the players in your decisions, the more empowered they will feel. There are certain choices you should make on your own or with adults.
But you can consult the players on rules of conduct. You can ask them questions about what is and is not acceptable behavior. This teaches them how to handle responsibility and deal with ethical questions.
On a lighter note, you can ask them where they want to go to eat or sleep for overnight stays. They can also decide what drills they want to do on a given day.
If you want to give them more choice, you can set up a few different drills. You can then let the players go to the ones they want to go to. This lets everyone do what they want when they want to do it.
The single biggest detractor of morale in youth baseball is losing a game. It will happen sooner rather than later, and it may happen very often. Adopt a number of strategies to prevent your children from becoming sore losers.
Demonstrate good sportsmanship in front of your players. Play a few practice games with other teams, and walk up to the opposing coach and shake their hand. Tell your players to do the same thing with the other team.
Make it clear that games are a group effort. No one player can lose a game for their team, and several mistakes result in a defeat.
Do give your players an opportunity to deal with their emotions. They may feel very sad, and they may want to cry or talk to someone. This is okay, and it helps them come to terms with the loss sooner.
Little League can be an emotional rollercoaster. Create a unified atmosphere on your team through group-building exercises and drills. Have your players practice many different skills.
Give out fun awards and prizes throughout the season, and praise your team whenever possible. Allow your players to exercise some power in group decisions.
Tell your team it is okay to lose. Encourage good sportsmanship and promote a group mentality. But do not scold players for showing emotion, even negative ones.
Little things can help create a positive environment. Baseball Trading Pins offers premium trading pins. Get a quote today.