There is little question that winning games is more fun than losing them. And as players leave the Little League fields and begin trying out for various travel teams, they also want to be a part of a winning team.
So for the coaches, the goal is to put together a truly competitive team. Not only will that be more fun for the coaches, players, and families, but will also teach the players what is most important in making the team successful.
In fact, baseball is a TEAM game, and it takes many ingredients, both mental and physical, to make the team truly a team.
So first, let’s take a look at some characteristics that are not necessarily talent specific but are important factors to look for in players and coaches.
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Attitude and Commitment
Talent is great, but having a teammate with a poor attitude or one who feels he is somehow above the team can tear it apart. Coaches will greatly benefit from having players who are committed to the team, have a good attitude and will do whatever is expected of them.
Strong Leadership and Good Coaching
Youth players can sometimes be difficult to get through to, but good coaching and leadership can make a big difference. A good coach is really like a good people manager in the workplace. They need to have the ability to be compassionate and empathetic, but also be tough at times and hold players accountable to the team goals and expectations.
Players Who Understand Their Role
Each player on a baseball team should have a role, and they should understand what it is. Whether you are a starter, bench player or relief pitcher, players should buy into their role and try to embrace it. As they improve, they need to understand that their role may change. You never know when you may have to step into a new role due to an injury or other factors.
Now that we have covered a few important character traits in building a good team let’s review some key skills on the field you should have.
To be competitive, you need to score runs. And to score runs, you need at least a few good hitters. Some players are naturally good hitters while others need a little coaching to be able to consistently make good contact. Coaches should make sure they have a few strong hitters in their lineup.
Baseball, like other sports, can be a game of inches. Whether you are trying to beat out a hit, steal a base or catch up to a flyball, speed is an asset that any team can use. So when putting together a team, it’s a definite advantage to having good overall team speed. This is one trait that simply cannot be coached. You either have it, or you don’t.
The old saying, “Good pitching will beat good hitting,” cannot be disputed. Whether it’s in Little League ball or all the way up to the Major League’s, good pitching will prevail. So in building a competitive youth baseball team, coaches need to find a few quality arms.
There is a lot that goes into being a good pitcher. Sure it helps to throw hard, but they need to know how to throw consistent strikes and be calm under pressure. Coaches may also want at least one pitcher who throws left-handed to negate any strong lefty hitters on the opponent’s team.
This one can be a game-changer. A team that can make plays in the field and limits errors can have a big factor in limiting runs. Some of this can come naturally, but players can also be coached up on the proper defensive techniques to improve their defensive skills.
Successful teams typically have players who can play multiple positions. Maybe they pitch one day but play the outfield the next. Or they can play an infield position but if needed can move to an outfield spot when needed. By having versatile players, a team will not see a drop in production when the coach needs to make some changes in the lineup.
We have covered a few key factors in building a competitive youth baseball team. Certainly, you may not be able to have all of these traits but trying to put together as many as possible will help your team succeed.
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