Effective Communication Is Important For Coaches

Effective communication is important for coaches

to make baseball rewarding and fun for young players

Jack Perconte Hitting Instructor & former MLB Player

Jack Perconte Hitting Instructor & former MLB Player

Chicago It was the chance I had waited for since I was a 16th round draft pick drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1976. As a second baseman, I had cups of coffee with the Dodgers in 1980 and 1981, but the organization decided to replace Davey Lopes with Steve Sax and dealt me to the Cleveland Indians.

During spring training in 1982, the Indians were giving me my first real shot of being an everyday player in the major leagues. I had success in spring training, but early in the regular season I lost confidence and never recovered. I was pitched inside during spring training, but then I was pitched away during the regular season, and I never adjusted.

Confidence is important to every athlete. Without it, he will play tentatively and be scared of making mistakes This usually leads to more mistakes. It is crucial for young players to develop confidence, which is why the actions of coaches and parents are so important. They can help their young players develop confidence by creating an environment where it is alright to make mistakes as long as they learn from them.

After playing 12 years of professional baseball (including seven in the majors for the Dodgers, Indians, Mariners and White Sox) posting a career .270 average in the majors and a .311 mark in the minors, I recently wrote “The Making of a Hitter: A Proven and Practical Step-by-Step Baseball Guide (www.themakingofahitter.com). It is a book that details how parents can teach hitting to their children, and coaches can teach it to their young players. Before they teach young hitters the proper techniques, coaches and parents should understand the value of effective communication.

Here are seven keys to help coaches and parents be effective and make the game enjoyable for young players:

  1. Knowledge of Hitting – There is no substitute for understanding the fundamentals of hitting. Learn as much as you can. Read books like “The Making of a Hitter.” Watch video of good major league hitters. Talk to established coaches, and ask plenty of questions about hitting.
  2. Developing Trust – Young players will not learn from you if they do not trust you. Earning that trust involves more than your knowledge of baseball. It is even more difficult when the student if your own child. Before you point out the flaws that needs correcting, compliment the hitter when he does something positive. Say “good hit” or “nice swing.” Don’t immediately start barking out instructions. Remember, trust is developed by offering advice in a positive way. Keep your voice in an instructional tone, not emotional. Remain optimistic and encouraging.
  3. Patience – Hitting is arguably the hardest feat of any sport. Remember that each player has a different personality and attitude. It takes time for a player to learn proper techniques. The player will need to perform the correct habit a thousand or more times to overcome the hitting problem. A player’s muscle memory will not change overnight.
  4. Homework – A good coach will give the student something to work on or think about when he leaves practice. Involve the parents as much as possible, unless you notice that a parent places a lot of pressure on the child. Have the young hitters watch good major league hitters and/or observe photos of proper hitting techniques.
  5. Challenge – Challenge hitters according to their respective skill level. If you are the coach of a team, remember that different players will have different skill levels. Changing speeds and locations of pitches provide a challenge. When you sense a player is getting frustrated, back off and get their mind away from what he is doing. Challenging players keeps them from getting bored, especially players with advanced skills.
  6. Developing Aggressive Hitters – Aggressive hitters are not afraid to swing the bat. They think “swing” until the last possible second when they may hold up if it is not their pitch. They want to step to the plate with runners on base, and they want to be at-bat with the game on the line. When you are teaching a hitter to be aggressive at the plate, remember not to get upset when he swings at a bad pitch. Teach him what pitches are best suited for his swing and have him ready for those pitches. During practice, put hitters in game situations as much as possible. This helps them learn when to be more aggressive and when to be more patient at the plate.
  7. Developing Intelligent Hitters – Situational hitting is important for young players to learn. This means that a particular situation in the game calls for a batter to perform a task besides just hitting. Take signs, bunting, hit and run, hitting with a runner on second with no outs, getting a fly ball with a runner on third and less than two outs, hitting with runners in scoring position and the squeeze bunt are some of these situations.
  8. Dealing With Parents If all goes well with the parents of your players, the season will go smoothly and your sanity will remain intact. However, even coaches with the best of intentions can encounter problems. The key to a healthy coach-parent relationship is a pre-season meeting with all parents and coaches. Express your philosophy of coaching, and let the parents know about your background. Explain when and how coaches can be approached during the season so it can be done in a non-confrontational manner. Make the meeting a discussion where parents feel free to ask questions and provide input.

Jack Perconte played 12 years of professional baseball, including seven in the majors for the Dodgers, Indians, Mariners and White Sox, posting a career .270 average in the majors and a .311 mark in the minors. He was a 16th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1976 and made his big league debut with the Dodgers in 1980. After retiring from professional baseball in 1987, Perconte opened a baseball training academy in Naperville, Ill. The hitting drills, mental training and coaching tips found in “The Making of a Hitter” (www.themakingofahitter.com) were culled from the 60,000 hitting lessons Perconte estimates he gave while operating the academy.

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