The Best Defense Starts with the Core

Whenever athletes start a workout program, experienced coaches or trainers always begin with core exercises to provide a great foundation that will help make the other parts of the body stronger.

We can correlate that with building a sound baseball defensive philosophy.  

The best defenses in baseball start with great up-the-middle play. Whenever possible the best players on any baseball team should be playing the most challenging positions on the field: pitcher, catcher, shortstop, second base, and center field.

And like the core, if you are strong in the middle the other parts of the team will likely be stronger too. The best teams play championship defense.

Teaching Responsibility So Accountability is a Non-Issue

 Diligent coaching starts and ends with teaching players responsibility from a team and individual standpoint. Every player in an athletic program must be taught team philosophy, team strategy, proper interaction with other teammates, respect for the opposing team and roles for each player on the team depending on talent level.

It should be explained to athletes on the first day coaches and players are together that any deviation from the team concept will hurt the performance of the team.

Where accountability comes in is when players knowingly or unknowingly break team rules. Young players usually have not been in a true team setting and do not know how to be teammates.

It is up to coaches to find out if players can be great team members or if they are more suited to individual sports such as golf or tennis. Coaches should not accept excuses after explaining and demanding team play. If players are not accountable for their non-team actions, parents should be informed immediately when such behavior is seen or identified.


Mental Toughness is Essential in Youth Baseball

Aside from innate baseball talent and pure baseball instincts enhanced by playing a lot, the best attribute a player can have is mental toughness or the ability to cope, adjust, and learn from tough situations and failure on the baseball field. Many professional baseball players have not lived up to their own or others' expectations because of their inability to handle stress and failure. They were stars or the game came easy to them and didn't encounter failure.

When they became pros and everyone has the same skill sets, these baseball players failed because they could only express themselves physically. The mental side of baseball escaped them. They never learned that success is a result of outworking, outthinking and outtoughing the competition.

As a youth baseball coach, you must identify what players can handle failure and turn it into positive performance. Find the mentally strong players who can remain coachable and learn through game experience while keeping their heads in the game.

The players who are weak mentally must be taught errors and strikeouts happen. Help these players avoid internalizing a failure. Tell them anyone who has ever played baseball has never gone a complete season without making errors or striking out. Internalization will always hurt the team. That's why we say "the play is over, next."

Fragile players can go either way. You need to stress the positive while working with them to help their mental and physical performance.

Withdrawing, sulking, blaming and name-calling are all signs of weak mental players. As a youth baseball coach you need make these players accountable and accept responsibility. The result will be mentally stronger and better baseball players.

Real baseball players never quit and never give up. All baseball coaches love those players, no matter the talent level. They always find spots in the lineup because they make their team better.

Coaching D.E.P.T.H.

Any great youth baseball program follows the D.E.P.T.H. program--an acronym for discipline, execution, preparation, teamwork, and hustle. Discipline: Convincing players to trust what you have taught them and to keep believing it despite wanting to do it their own way in the heat of the game, which usually results in failure.

Execution: Executing plays, strategies, and skills by proven methods, through repetition of instruction without deviation.

Preparation: Getting your players ready for any type of situation or team.

Teamwork: Teaching every player their role within a team framework, and telling them to root for each other. As a coach, you need to make it known to parents and players from the first day of practice that team play is the only way.

Hustle: Making all players understand that they must go all-out on every play and letting them know that a less than 100% effort is unacceptable to everyone involved with the team.

If coaches preach D.E.P.T.H., the eventual result will be both team and individual success.