2 summers ago I attempted to coach a pee-wee baseball team. After the first practice, I quickly realized that I was in way over my head. Not only did I not remember any drills from my days as a 12 year old, but I had trouble keeping the attention of a group of 15 boys and girls who were hyperactive and had no attention span. Luckily, while strolling through Chapters, I came across this coaching book by Hall of Fame Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother Bill Ripken.
This is a thoroughly illustrated instructional book that clearly explains proper baseball fundamentals and it is based on the teachings of Cal Ripken Sr. who was a player, coach and scout for the Baltimore Orioles for 37 years. The book is divided into 9 sections or “innings” if you will. Each inning covers a specific baseball fundamental such as hitting, baserunning, pitching, fielding, etc. Not only that, but the most valuable part of the book is the teaching philosophy and how to instruct kids, skills in which I was sorely lacking.
The Ripken baseball approach consists of the following principles:
1. Keep it Simple: Teaching that is too complicated is difficult to remember and can result in frustration. This is especially true with a pee-wee group of ball players.
2. Explain Why: A teacher who cannot explain why is not truly teaching. Lessons that make sense will stick with the players.
3. Celebrate the Individual: No two players are alike, so why treat them as if they are?
4. Make it Fun: The game gets serious enough quickly enough on its own. Drills and instruction should be structured so that players can enjoy themselves while learning.
I also found it extremely useful in helping me sleep at night, knowing that I was teaching kids how to throw, field and hit properly and not just giving them the same old advice a coach told me (how many times have we been told to keep our elbows up when hitting?) because “that is the way I was taught and thats how you should do it too.” Now when a player asks me why I am teaching them a certain way, I have Cal Ripken Jr. to help me answer.
When coaches are coaching, they quickly realize that they are not just teaching kids on how to play baseball the right way, but they are also teaching them how to grow into being young men. The Ripkens have this part covered too – including how to deal with tantrums, sulking and the like. The only thing I would have liked to had added to the book would be on how to deal with over-zealous parents. Other than that, this is a comprehensive guide to coaching and a must read for the first time coach to the veteran coach.