Youth Baseball Coaching – What's Your First Priority?

My time spent in youth baseball coaching is some of the best times of my life. With very few exceptions every minute I spent with the kids and their parents was enjoyable and rewarding.

And the few times I did run into a bump in the road they were not big jarring bumps. Somehow I was lucky and had very few problems with moms and dads.

An upset baseball parent

Just recently a friend of mine was telling me about problems he is having with his eight year old machine pitch team. He is a good friend and I have been to a few of his practices and games.

After a recent game one of his assistant coaches was very upset and gave him a call. His son had played right field for a couple of innings, and then sat out for the rest of the game.

That made two games in a row that his son had sat out for half the game. He was not happy with my friend's youth baseball coaching.

Playing Time Based on Performance

My friend explained to him that playing time was based upon performance, and his son was lacking in his fielding abilities. 

Of course this just put the dad over the top.  Things went from bad to worst and I could go on with this story, but let’s just say the rest of the season is not going to be fun.

There are a couple of red flags that pop up right away with this story. And there are even more red flags since I’m close to the situation. This was not an example of youth baseball coaching at it's best.

First, eight year old machine pitch teams should not be playing kids based on ability. You would probably bat your better hitters near the top of the batting order, but to sit out the same kids game after game is wrong.

Here’s the behind the scenes happenings that I know about.  

My friend started out the season with good intentions. The first few games he was giving every player equal playing time, and rotating the fielding positions.

 Then something happened that causes lots of problems for youth baseball coaching, his team started losing.

His Team was Losing Games

Hmm, win games or player development?

My friend’s team was losing to teams that he felt were not as good as his team. And his belief was that the other teams were only playing there good players in key fielding positions.

His conviction to equal playing time was now wavering. He started the season with player development as the number one priority, but losing was tough to stomach.

After a couple of close losses he had enough. Without informing anyone, he changed his priority to winning.

When coaching youth baseball, sticking to player development is a tough thing to do. His justification for giving it up was that his players hated losing.

 What the players really hated was their coach after losses. He had lost his upbeat approach and had become the yelling, negative type coach.

And of course this led to parent problems, like the one described above.

There will come an age when playing time is based on ability. No doubt that will happen in high school baseball.

And I’m sure 13 and 14 year old competitive teams base there playing time on performance. But an eight year old machine pitch team should not be using playing ability as the basis for playing time.

I had this discussion with my friend and told him I felt it was wrong what he was doing. He justified his strategy by saying every team should do what thy can to win games.

Ugly Idea of Win at All Cost

And that is the root of many problems with little league baseball. The ugly idea of win at all cost seeps its way into youth baseball coaching.

Like my friend, many coaches start the season with good intentions. But once they lose a few games their good intentions go out the window.

Try not to be that guy. I know it is a hard thing to do, losing games that you know you could have won. But remember that player development (all players) is your number one priority.

Trust me, a few years form now you will know you did the right thing.

Here is a listing of the drills under the Team Drills Section:

Team Drills:

Infield Drills:

Outfield Drills:

Coaching Tips and Misc Drills

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