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Help me manage a 12-13yo Fall Team

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  • Help me manage a 12-13yo Fall Team

    Ok, so I had signed son up to play in fall league. He was trying to play with a group of kids from our local town, but their roster was already filled. We were just going to get assigned to a team. League was looking for 1 additional manager and I said what the heck, sure, I will offer.

    So, anyway, I really want to make this laid back, fun and let the players be more involved with some of the decisions like picking positions, roster lineups, etc.

    Here are the details:
    • "Pony competitive divsion"
      • 54'/80' dimensions
      • Several teams will be full travel teams brought in from local towns
      • Rest of rosters get assigned or can be requested if you know the coach and want to play on that team
      • Almost all of the players come from travel or allstar level experience
    • 6 week, 12 game season
    • Games are only on weekends, either 1 on Sat/Sun each or a single day double header
    • Would like to have at least 1-2 practices a week, maybe more before season starts
    I know the game pretty well, but don't have a lot experience teaching very intricate strategies or positional coverage. But fall is a very short season and wouldn't have much time to dedicate to that anyway.

    My goals:
    • Have fun
    • Make it about the players
      • Let them be involved in decision making
      • Let them pick positions (within reason), especially positions they didn't get much time in during regular season
    • Continue to work on the basic skills, but focus on being aggressive and not afraid to make mistakes.
    Love to hear comments and suggestions on how to make this a success, thanks.

  • #2
    Do you already have a team of players? I think you’re at a big disadvantage if you’re going to take random sign up kids and play established travel teams.

    I foresee a lot of issues if players get asked what positions they want. I imagine you’ll have everyone want to pitch and play infield at that level, so you’ll still be in the position of having to pick which kids go where, you’ll just have more hurt feelings when some get what they want and some don’t.

    From coaching 12u, you’re prepping kids for HS in a couple years, you want them in positions where they will play in the future, not just where they want to be. I always have a couple big slow kids who better get used to playing first or catcher. A number of local coaches do significant strength and conditioning with that age group, like two days a week in the gym. (Especially at 13)

    As far as it being fun, we try to make as many things a competition as possible. We play games to break up the drills, like we have my ball bucket set up at first base with a helmet on it and the kids have to field balls at third and hit the helmet. We sneak onto the 8u field and play HR derby. We have tagging up practice where I hit the ball to LF with a runner on third and the runner has to try to beat the throw home. We play a lot of 6v6 intrasquad scrimmages, sometimes we play with bunting only. I play music at practice and try to keep the atmosphere relaxed. I also coach with a bunch of long time friends so we can break the kids into pretty small groups and work specific skills. Having at least one solid assistant is good and two is better.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think you're playing with fire with the idea of letting the players pick positions. IMO, it's better for you to be the big guy in charge. Ask the players what positions they want to play, then slot them into those positions as you see fit.

      Otherwise, you're going to have the alpha guys running the show and the less leader-y players are going to be unhappy/resenting. IMO. You be the alpha and keep the big shots in line and keep the meek players engaged.

      Figure out who can pitch and who can play catcher, and everything else will fall into place. Who can catch is IME the trickier of the two to sort out.

      It is possible that you have the deck stacked against you already. But... I have stepped into random teams and we won more than our share of games... may the odds be ever in your favor.

      Comment


      • #4
        You can teach base running decision making by not having a first base coach. Most of the time a hitter goes for two he’s decided long before the first base coach is waving him on. When a pitcher throws over it trains the entire dugout to yell “back.” It gets everyone paying attention and observing pitcher’s moves.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by bbrages View Post
          I think you're playing with fire with the idea of letting the players pick positions. IMO, it's better for you to be the big guy in charge. Ask the players what positions they want to play, then slot them into those positions as you see fit.

          Otherwise, you're going to have the alpha guys running the show and the less leader-y players are going to be unhappy/resenting. IMO. You be the alpha and keep the big shots in line and keep the meek players engaged.

          Figure out who can pitch and who can play catcher, and everything else will fall into place. Who can catch is IME the trickier of the two to sort out.

          It is possible that you have the deck stacked against you already. But... I have stepped into random teams and we won more than our share of games... may the odds be ever in your favor.
          Great post.
          Skip

          Comment


          • #6
            Right now, we have 5 known players with more being added. I understand it will be a disadvantage to a fulltime travel team that has played together. Not a big concern to me. I will set expectations with parents and players that this fall session is to have fun, allow them to continue to develop and face good competition. We will try to win games, but that's not the ultimate goal.

            I don't plan to let them choose positions all the time, but work in some opportunities to play positions they normally don't play.

            Catchers won’t be a problem as my son and another player are very capable. I look forward to having another player or two want to increase catcher skill set knowing we have solid catchers if we need them.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by JettSixty View Post
              You can teach base running decision making by not having a first base coach. Most of the time a hitter goes for two he’s decided long before the first base coach is waving him on. When a pitcher throws over it trains the entire dugout to yell “back.” It gets everyone paying attention and observing pitcher’s moves.
              I think this is an interesting idea. This past year, my son's team had several games where there wasn't another coach at the game yet and no 1st base coach. I don't recall it ever being a detriment to the team.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by flyingmachine3 View Post

                I think this is an interesting idea. This past year, my son's team had several games where there wasn't another coach at the game yet and no 1st base coach. I don't recall it ever being a detriment to the team.
                Hey - I resent that remark! (smiley, wink emoji here). Being a middle school first base coach, (and when we have the third-base dugout), who else are the players going to hand their batting gloves and elbow/ankle guards to?!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Well, its funny how word spreads. We now have 3-4 other very solid kids that are coming on board and several have played together. That should help with being competitive.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Having fun is a top priority, but it's not much fun for the rest of the team if players are put into positions they're really not qualified to play.

                    By 12-13 age group, players should start having a specific idea of what positions they are equipped to play, talent-wise.

                    i make sure to run a number of competitive skills drills, so the players know who is that fastest, best fielders, who has the best arm, etc etc. I don't make a big deal or fawn over the "winners," but the kids know who's who.
                    Last edited by StarStar00; 08-05-2018, 09:50 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Update...

                      So as of tonight, we have 9 confirmed on roster. I expect two more players to be added from the rest of players signed up without teams. Managers meeting is end of this week and I plan to do some practice this upcoming weekend.

                      There actually should be some considerable talent from the kids I know and from some “scouting reports” from a friend that knows many of them. 4 on the roster including my son are on same travel team that competes at AAA/majors level.

                      From what I understand, we have 4-5 kids that can pitch well. As I mentioned, catchers won’t be a concern.

                      For the first practice, I plan to run it kinda similar to the skills events they do in tryouts to evaluate where everyone seems to fit in with expected roles. I will be asking the players what primary and secondary positions they play and if there are any positions they would like to try. If these line up with what we see in practice evals, we can start laying out anticipated positions. If Bubba says he wants to play SS and he boots every ball, well, we will need to have a discussion...

                      I’ll keep this thread updated as the season goes along. Thanks for all the suggestions and comments.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        We had our first practice on Saturday. There are 11 on the roster and 10 made it to our first practice. I had 3 coaches with me helping with one having quite a bit experience coaching youth travel teams. The practice went along well enough trying to run them through just about all the basic skills so we could get idea where we stood.

                        90min practice

                        -Introductions for coaches and then let kids give some quick background to each other. Talk about goals/expectations for the season.10-15min
                        -Hit flyballs to LC, player had to hit cutoff man, then cutoff had to make a throw to 3rd. Rotate through for about 20 min.
                        -5 min water
                        -Infield work, had one coach hitting to 2nd and they would throw to home. Other coach hitting to SS and they would throw to 1B. Rotated as much as we could for about 20 min.
                        -10 min water, recaps of the outfield/infield work
                        -single coach BP, rotating hitter and on deck player with infield positions. During this time, also had kids that we don't know pitching history to throw for 10-15 pitches each to catcher. 25min

                        I was a little disappointed in the BP session as hate when kids are out on infield for a single hitter, but we tried to move it along fast enough for them. My one coach was struggling to be consistent with pitches. But I at least got to see swings on kids I haven't seen before.

                        We practice Tues evening and then will have a scrimmage game/practice on saturday.

                        Nice group of kids. Our mix is about half with many years of travel experience vs some kids that have been in Rec programs. The age cutoff was 13yo before april. There are actually two 14yo that are going into HS on our team as well as several 8th graders. Honestly, to prepare for HS, they should be in Colt leage with 60/90, but it could be just a case where parents signed them up and their age fell into the league we are in.

                        The scrimmage game will be against a 2019 13u travel team where majority are all 7th graders, so it will be interesting to see if the older kids on our team balance out some of the lack of experience on our team.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thought I would give an update after first weekend of games. Here is the general makeup of the team:

                          5 players that have fairly extensive travel experience
                          -3 players that will be on same AAA/Majors 13U travel 2019 team (including my son)
                          -2 players that knew and/or played with the other 3 mentioned above in 2018
                          -3 7th graders and 2 8th graders

                          6 players varied experience, 1 or 2 maybe played a year in travel, few in inhouse allstar team and couple that only have rec experience.
                          - 1 7th grader, 3 8th graders, 2 9th graders

                          -Stressing to them to be aggressive in all phases of game
                          -No pitcher has gone more than 2 innings, even if they seemed able to. Want to make sure everyone is getting mound time, especially early season.
                          -There are no take or bunt signs, continuously asking them to be aggressive. Green light on 3-0
                          -Catchers are told they can throw runners out on 1st/3rd situation. We surprised a team with this as they tried to send 3rd home on the throw to second and my SS fired a ball back to catcher and got guy out.
                          -I post a full 6 inning positional lineup at the start of game. They are aware it might get modified as the game goes along, but trying to stick with planned positions.
                          -Try to get each player 2 continuous innings at the same position and trying to balance infield/outfield playing time
                          -No one sits more than one inning a game
                          -I've been asking our coaches to be mindful of limiting their on field "heat of the moment" instruction. Let the players communicate and looking to our experienced guys to take help take charge on the field

                          We played 1 game Friday night and 1 game Sunday, winning both. We had good matchups with fairly close games including Sunday coming back down 1 in 5th and then walking it off in 6th. I believe there will be greater matchups to come for our team, but I have been really pleased with the games so far. It's great to win, but I have seen contributions for all players.
                          Last edited by flyingmachine3; 08-27-2018, 12:25 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            We had 3 games over the weekend and won all 3 to put us at 5-0. Mixed competition level against us with one game that we had to come from behind to win.

                            All 11 players have pitched in at least 1 game. Some notables:

                            -One of our weaker defensive player was playing 2B and my son playing SS late in close game and it was bases loaded with 1 out. Hard grounder right at SS and he feeds 2B and they turn a 6-4-3 DP. Great moment for the kid.
                            -Big 8th grader who has only played Rec is becoming one of the best players on the team. We are getting him time at catcher and very raw, but showing great promise.

                            We play the other 5-0 team next game this weekend and it will be a challenge. Its a full 14u "A" travel team and have been mopping up the games. Not sure why they aren't playing Colt with 60/90 fields, but oh well.

                            Anyway, its been a fun fall so far.

                            Comment

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