Wellesley Youth Baseball & Softball

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WYBS AA-Ball Coach Guidelines

Thank you for coaching!  Providing an enjoyable and engaging baseball experience to young players is a challenge!  In order to accomplish this, we have modified traditional baseball practice routines and game rules.  These revisions have been developed based on many years of experience.  Regardless of your level of baseball experience, we ask that ALL COACHES FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES.  WYBS has partnered with DC Baseball this season to supplement the instruction of our coach volunteers with professionally run clinics in our AA and AAA programs.  We are very excited about this partnership and believe it will facilitate a great season! 

Coach Expectations

·       Maintain a positive attitude and cultivate one on your team!  We want kids to have fun and learn to enjoy the game.

·       Pre-season

o   Read and understand the rules

o   Attend a pre-season coaches’ meeting to go over rules and ask questions

o   Pick up uniforms from commissioner

o   Pick up equipment from the WYBS shed

o   Send welcome email to team

·       In-season

o   Communicate clearly with team about scheduling and any other team issues

o   Follow gameplay rules

o   Show up on time (at least 15 min. early for games)

o   Run a weekly practice; the vast majority of reps will happen in practice, not in games, so these are crucial for development

Assist DC Baseball at your team’s bi-weekly clinic; these clinics should be thought of as a team practice/scrimmage; although DC Baseball will take the lead on instruction, they will rely on coaches to help run sessions

o   Report any concerns (rules violations, safety concerns or incidents, etc.) to league commissioner

·       Post-season

o   Return equipment to WYBS shed

o   Fill out player evaluations; these are crucial for building balanced teams in future seasons

o   Fill out coaches’ evaluations; coaches know best what is working and what isn’t, so these are crucial for continuous improvement of the league

 

Schedule

  • Each team will have a Saturday game, scheduled by the league; there are no games Memorial Day weekend
  • Each Saturday session will be approximately 90 minutes comprising a 15-20 min. warmup followed by a game; you will have the field for 2 hours, but a good rule of thumb is to not start a new inning after the 90 min. mark
  • Each team should schedule an additional one-hour, weekly practice; these practices are crucial for skill development; each head coach will receive an invite to a shared practice calendar that will allow for scheduling flexibility while minimizing field conflicts
  • In addition, each team will have a bi-weekly 90 min. clinic led by DC Baseball focused on skill building and situational play; coach attendance at these clinics is needed to help run the sessions; this enables us to provide professional instruction at a reasonable cost
  • In addition, a weekly, optional pitching clinic will be made available to all league participants for a supplemental fee

Gameplay

  • Games will be full-sided
  •  All players will bat and play in the field (i.e. nobody sits on the bench)
  •  Every position will be manned by a player

o   This includes catcher

o   Extra players can be positioned in the outfield

o   With fewer than 9 players, it is suggested to fill the infield first and leave outfield positions vacant

·       Outs will be recorded

·       Teams will bat until 3 outs are recorded or until they bat once through the lineup

·       Score does not need to be kept

·       Baserunners may only advance on balls in play (i.e. no stealing and no advancing on wild pitches/passed balls)

·       The first four weeks of the season will be coach pitch; during this period there are no called balls and strikes, but three               swings and misses is a strikeout (we will not be using the tee in games)

·       The final three games of the season (i.e. after Memorial Day) will be modified kid pitch, with the following rules:

o   Pitchers do not need to stand on the rubber; it is suggested to pitch from the front of the pitcher’s mound to shorten the distance and help with throwing strikes

o   A coach from the fielding team will stand behind the pitcher’s mound to call balls and strikes and offer assistance to his or her pitcher as needed

o   Balls and strikes will be called

o   There are strikeouts, both called and swinging

o   There are no walks; after four balls, the coach at the pitcher’s mound should pitch to the batter, starting with a fresh count and using the coach pitch rules above; this will help produce more balls in play, which is helpful for both batters and fielders

o   Each player may pitch a maximum of two innings or 40 pitches per game

o   Coaches should provide opportunities for kids to pitch, but it is not necessary to provide equal opportunity as many kids will not have the requisite skills to pitch in a game;  coaches should use discretion to balance pitching opportunities with pace of play and continue to work on pitching skills during practices with those who are interested

Coaching Tips

·       You MUST recruit at least 2-3 assistant coaches to provide a good experience; the more help, the better

·       Coaches should arrive a minimum of 15 minutes before scheduled game times

·       A few notes on kid pitch:

·       All teams will move to modified kid pitch in Game 5 (after Memorial Day); in order to make this transition smoothly, teams must begin working on pitching from week 1 in practice!  Pitching skills can improve rapidly for new pitchers at this age.  If you begin working on pitching in week 1 you will have time to identify and develop kids who can throw enough strikes to produce a good game experience by the 5th game (6th week of the season).  If you wait until the last minute you will find it very challenging, to the detriment of your team and your opponent.

·       Catcher is a tough position at this age; the best approach is to use kid catchers from week 1, during coach pitch, to help players learn the position in a more controlled environment than kid pitch.  We would recommend that coaches bring a bucket of balls to the mound and not require catchers to retrieve every passed ball in order to maintain pace of play.

·       Communication is critical during this transitional year.  It helps immensely for kids and parents alike to be aware of the above changes in gameplay so they can be mentally prepared for things like strikeouts, hit by pitches, etc.  It’s all part of a natural progression in the sport but clear communication is key to providing a good experience for families.

·       Please let parents know about the optional pitching clinics WYBS is making available through DC Baseball; work with your team to identify players who would benefit from such instruction

·       Practice Plan

o   N.B. – this is a rough schedule that can be used as a template for coach-led practices

o   Base Running (5 min.)

§  Home to 1st (run hard through the bag; can high five a coach 10 ft. past 1st base to encourage this)

§  Home to 2nd (take the turn at 1st; can go around a coach, cone, or glove to learn a proper turn; practice sliding at 2nd)

§  Home run (good turns all the way around; burn off excess energy!)

o   Throwing (10 min.)

§  N.B. – as necessary, demonstrate proper throwing mechanics and have players practice without a ball before starting live throwing

§  Get a partner; one partner on the foul line, the other in the field; ALL kids throwing in the same direction and spaced apart to avoid injuries

§  Coach hands ball to each player on the foul line

§  Focus on proper throwing technique:

·       Glove shoulder points at target; feet lined up with target; eyes on target!

·       Step straight toward target, extend glove toward target, throwing arm up to “L” position; fingers on top, ball away from head (i.e. no “cupping” the ball)

·       Pull glove in, back shoulder drives to target

·       Good follow-through

·       Don’t throw until partner is in ready position!

§  Focus on proper catching technique

·       Ready position:  feet apart, knees bent, glove up

·       Use two hands; but catch the ball in your glove not your bare hand!

·       Move your feet and catch the ball in front of your body

·       Ball up, fingers up; ball down, fingers down

·       Watch ball into glove

§  If you miss a ball, run to get it and run back to your original spot; don’t just launch it from wherever it ended up!

§  Make it a contest

·       Which partners can catch the most throws in a row?

·       Which partners can reach 10 catches in a row first?

·       Back ‘em up:  all partners line up at same (close) distance; players throw ball on coach’s command; if the ball hits the ground (dropped catch, wild throw, etc.), both partners sit; after a clean throw and catch from each partner, the players in the field take five steps back and go again; the game continues until only one pair remains standing

o   Fielding (10-15 min.)

§  N.B. – fielding drills can be done in multiple lines anywhere on the field or can be done by taking infield with throws to first

§  Ready position:  feet apart, knees bent, head and chest up, hands ready

§  Move your feet:  glide left and right, charge the ball if slowly hit

§  Receive the ball:  knees bent, hips down, glove down, hands in front, use two hands

§  Point body at target and throw using good mechanics

§  Focus mostly on ground balls for this age, but spend some time on pop flies as well; for pop flies, get under the ball and catch it over your head (no basket catches)

§  Make it a contest:  break team into two lines and see which group can reach 10 clean catches and throws first

o   Hitting (20-30 min.)

§  N.B. – hitting can be done off a tee as a drill station, as live batting practice on the field, or both (e.g. – warmup off a tee with one coach, then live batting practice with fielders)

§  Stance

·       Feet a little wider than shoulder width apart

·       Feet lined up with pitcher

·       Stand close enough to cover the plate, but not on top of it; good rule of thumb is you should be able to reach down and just touch the outside corner of the plate with the bat

·       Knees bent

·       Weight on balls of feet

·       Hands together on bat

·       Hands up and relaxed

·       Knob of bat pointed at catcher

§  Load

·       Stride straight at pitcher

·       Maintain balance

·       Hands move slightly back, away from head

§  Swing

·       Watch the ball

·       Turn your hips; power comes from the hips – explode!

·       Hands follow the hips through the strike zone; arms fully extended

·       Good follow through; “squish the bug” – back foot turns and heel comes off ground like squishing a bug

·       It is easier to make contact if you swing hard, not if you “guide” the bat toward the ball – let ‘er rip!

·       Game Tips

o   Hustle!  Run on and off the field, run fast on the bases, run for overthrows, etc.

o   Make it fun – team chants between innings, encouragement, etc.

o   Runners can advance on overthrows; players get all overthrows, not coaches!

o   Teach fielders to get the ball ahead of the lead runner; this is good practice and will minimize non-stop overthrows/circling the bases/”little league homers”

o   Work on covering bases and understanding force outs; understand the situation before the pitch; where are the force outs?

o   Rotate players through different positions, but be mindful of safety for those who are still working on basic catching skills

o   Make sure kids drop the bat after hitting the ball; don’t throw it!