Wednesday, February 27, 2008
We were on a conference call the other day comparing notes with our warm weather colleagues on high school games they have seen the past two weeks and several including myself, were a bit underwhelmed with the knowledge of basic fundamentals. What really stood out was the lack of "coaching" during the game. In most travel teams we have had the pleasure of watching over the past several years, those coaches would be involved in every aspect of the game, yelling out situations, adjusting a hitters position in the batters box or moving a fielder over to compensate for a certain hitters statistical preferences. Many will huddle with the fielders before they enter the dugout after a defensive half inning and talk about the way they handled certain defensive situations and then pump them up with a player led "break". Their philosophy...and we have talked to plenty of travel coaches...is that this game has hundreds of situations and in order to build instinctual reactions on the field and at the plate, they need to be constantly reminded until it becomes second nature to them.
Face it, even the pro's need constant reminders of how to play the game. What do you think they teach in Rookie League? Why do they call it Instructional League? Why do they have four different layers of Minor Leagues? Because the game is hard...and it takes a lot of game knowedge to make it to the bigs (talent helps of course)!!!
So, why would any coach, High School, Little League, or Travel, assume that his players should know the game like the the guys in the majors? There IS a lot to know about this game and it is easy to have a brain freeze every once in a while. One of our contributors said that one high school coach just sat on his bucket the whole time and never said a word...then after the game, he yelled at the top of his lungs and dressed each one of them down about the things they did wrong. Now the team lost, but wouldn't it have been better to anticipate those situations and yell out a reminder to his players on what to do or not to do? You can't predict outcome no matter what you yell, but for goodness sakes, play the percentages and maybe one of those reminders could prevent a missed assignment and maybe evenbring home a "W". As one of our guys said, It's called "Coaching" not "Bucket Sitting".
Part of the advantage of playing in high school is the opportunity to practice everyday. But how do coaches run their practices? Again, we relied on our network of baseball snoops and some coaches just hit and field, hit and field. That's fine, but how about half a practice of fundamentals one day, defensive situations the next, base running the next, reading and performing pick off moves the next and while they are hitting, hitting situations by pitch type, count and with RISP.
Now, their are some outstanding high school coaches out there. One such coach spends the first two weeks teaching his kids how to hit to the opposite field. Anything hit to the left of second is five pole to poles. Do you think that team knows how to go oppo at the end of the two weeks. You bet. There is so much to learn about this game than just cage hitting and conducting infield drills. Good team defense takes practice. Player's must know their role and the objective of each play. Since each play called relies on more than one player for proper execution, timing is essential. As a coach you want your team prepared for every situation. Good team defensive involves having a good strategy, practicing the plays that are part of that strategy, and then calling those plays in the game. The same goes with offense...knowing what to expect whatever the pitch count....where to try to hit a ball with runners on base, reading a pitchers pick off move, when to run based upon where the ball is hit when not in a force situation, etc. If you're team is well prepared then a coach will feel confident calling plays during the game, and he may actually look to take advantage of other team's offensive weaknesses with his defensive strengths or offensive knowledge of the game. More about this subject later.