You get that email that says they need a few more coaches for the program. You didn’t originally sign up but now you are thinking about it. Should you do it? If you are even considering it I think you should! Your kids will think it is so cool and hold on to that feeling as long as you can because it goes away for a few years, trust me! I coached t-ball and coach pitch for a few years for my boys and I started from an email needing coaches. I had played myself but even I hadn’t I knew enough and so I went for it! Here is my advice to you.
The most important schedule to keep for this age is the snack schedule! The kids in tball are generally just turning 4 and may not be in a formal preschool yet to some experienced first graders. Once year can make a big difference too! You will see a difference between the boys and girls (usually this is mixed gender). I am not implying you will see a difference in skill but more in attention. You can tell those who are the least bit interested and those who have been working in the backyard or have older siblings, and then you have those who are just naturals. The naturals are fun to watch because they are these tiny ones out there hitting it to the fences and the ones who you have on first base every game because they can make a catch.
Most of what you need to know when coaching tball is how to communicate with parents. You have all levels of parents too. You need to explain everything, every detail just like they are learning everything for the first time. Some are. Over communication is best. Your communication skills will have to be extra for your time on the field too. You have to assume no one knows anything and start with the basics. Also know you barely have one hour to keep the kids’ attention so come prepared. That means pretend you are a teacher and plan a syllabus by each 10 minute increment. You can use Youtube or internet to get ideas as you progress in the season. Of course if you played or coached before you can use your own experience but sometimes you might forget what kids this age generally know and just because you did something doesn’t mean you can teach it elementary level.
The basics are letting them know how to your practice runs. Start by having them toss with a partner. This is hard for some. You start the same drill every practice and hopefully other parent helpers are able to assist. You let them throw and make sure each of them know the basics of throwing. Also the basics of catching with which way to turn their glove. This gets better for most as the season progresses but is a challenge at first.
I always researched drills and made them games for this age level. You typically have 12-13 kids on a team and if you have ever tried to teach that many 4-6 year olds at the same time it doesn’t work too well. Even harder is for them to sit still until its their turn. I would normally split them in 2-3 groups or stations. One station would be batting on the full field. When all kids in each gropu finished that would be when we rotated stations. In tball multiple helpers/coaches are essential. You don’t even have to have played baseball. Some jobs are just to help keep the kids on the bench and wait. If you have a parent they know how to do this.
Another piece of advice is to understand you are teaching basic skills and then explain to the kids what your goal is…to play another team. After they get the basics they do need to have some practice just standing on the field. For some of them this will be the hardest thing they do..stand still. You could share some videos with parents to show their kids or give tips for your parents to help the kids understand what they are talking about. You only have so much time. At the end of the first game you will feel like you just talked tiny people through a whole game, every single move, where to look, when to stand up, don’t pick grass, etc. It will be amazing and it will be exhausting! Those who have done this before will be your prized pupils and those for the newer ones to watch and copy.
At the end you need to make sure your enforcement is positive, redirect negative behaviors, no negative comments, and affirm everything will be ok. Explain why a behavior is bad (ex: swinging bats in dugout is dangerous). Lots of high fives, lots of positive encouragement, and most important of all end with good snacks!