Celebrate the Season
The close of the youth baseball and softball season can be a bittersweet time. While there's still plenty of summer to look forward to, coaches and players alike are bound to feel a little bit disappointed the season is over. Here are a few ways to help ease the transition and celebrate the close of a great season.
Throw a Party
An afternoon barbecue or pool party is a nice, casual way to bring the team together if you have enough room for everyone. If space is an issue, or if you just want to plan something a little more special, check out local venues for youth gatherings. And if the grownups are up to it, host a friendly skills competition with the kids vs. the adults – like a home run derby, running the bases, etc.
Go to a Theme Park
Most kids would fall all over themselves for the chance to visit a theme park. If there's one within a reasonable driving distance, why not treat the kids to an unforgettable day of fun as a reward for their hard work? Look for group to make the trip more doable.
Hand Out Amazing Goodie Bags
Aside from all of the great life lessons, what could your players physically take away from their Babe Ruthe League experience? Think about the special moments of the season and find items that will reflect those moments. It could be a framed picture of extraordinary moments from the season or maybe it’s a special ball that you decorate in some way to show how much you appreciate your team. Perhaps a commemorative shirt.
The possibilities for celebrating the season are endless. Whatever activities you choose, always remember to continue to stay safe!
Avoid Adding to Tournament Pressure
For Babe Ruth League, tournament time is all about the experience. It’s about giving kids the opportunity to play on professional-quality fields, to make new friends, be exposed to new cultures, understand a new level of sportsmanlike behavior and compete to the best of their ability… win or lose. If the kids walk away from our tournaments excited and energized about the game, we count that as a victory for us.
As coaches, you have to keep the big picture in mind. The goal of youth sports is to develop players. Sure, any time you enter a season or a tournament, the goal is to be as successful as possible, and winning certainly is more enjoyable than losing. But, in the final analysis, there are two things that should count more than wins, losses and trophies; the improvement of your players and their overall experience.
What we often see among youth sport coaches is a tendency to add unnecessary tournament tension through “over-coaching” - misaligned priorities and an overemphasis on winning.
We’re talking about the coach who alters a philosophy or strategy that has been successful throughout the entire season but because the league calls the last weekend of the year a “tournament,” the coach suddenly alters his or her plan.
Players get placed only in positions for which the coach thinks they’re best suited, and playing times are skewed in favor of the more skilled players. Players are placed in unfamiliar situations for extended periods of time and parents suddenly begin questioning umpires’ calls… shouting more instructions from the sidelines. An air of tension and competitiveness that did not exist during the season is now created. Despite the success the team might have enjoyed during the regular season, the subliminal message sent by the coach to players and parents is it’s all about the winning. The smiles that had been there all year are now gone. The end result, predictably, is a so-so performance by the team.
Youth baseball and softball can’t afford to lose more players and/or coaches right now. Without committed coaches who are armed with the best tools to help ensure the best possible player experience, young players will continue to gravitate toward other sports. At Babe Ruth League, we encourage coaches to communicate a philosophy of ongoing player development and then to stick to it, no matter the perceived importance of one game or tournament. Any deviation from your stated plan can ruin what otherwise will be a successful and enjoyable season for both your players and parents.
If you can keep these objectives in focus and run your Tournament experience based on them, winning is a bonus. When a coach asks one of his or her players at the end of the season if he or she is upset about losing the final playoff game and hears this reply, “I’m not mad that we lost. I’m just mad that the season is over,” that coach should consider the season a rousing success!