To avoid falling into the winning-focused trap, start by talking to the parents. Nothing is more important in youth sports when learning how to coach baseball than the attitudes of the parents, and they often prescribe to a “win at any cost” mentality. While this may be based on their own past experiences, it could also be a method of showing their pride in their children and wanting them to succeed at any cost. Unfortunately, when parents become winning focused, children do not see that their parents are proud of them or that they want only the best for their children; kids only see that if they do not win, they have disappointed their parents. This changes the entire meaning of sports and makes it harder for youth to perform well. They need a loving, supportive environment to truly thrive.
As the coach, when speaking with parents, make it clear that the point of the baseball season is to learn the basics of technique, develop the discipline of practice and repetition, and focus on working together as a team. Remind parents that their attitudes are a huge influence on their children, and ask them to behave appropriately at sporting events and at practices. Ask them to keep competitiveness to a minimum and to encourage their children, regardless of the outcome of the games. When you set a good example for your athletes, parents will feel compelled to follow your lead, creating the best kind of environment for your athletes.
To create a season focused on learning and fun, you must also speak with your athletes. At the beginning of the season, speak with all athletes and tell them your goals for the season. These goals should be achievable but not focused entirely on winning. Instead of saying, “I want us to win 7 games this season,” say something like, “I want everyone to personally improve 3 things about their technique in the game. I’d also like to focus on keeping a positive team attitude and working together. It is important to me that you support each other instead of competing against each other. The point of a team is to work as one to achieve a common goal. Our goal is having fun, playing well, and hopefully winning the game!”
By keeping your team and your parents focused on the positive benefits of youth sports, everyone will pay less attention to the results of the game and more to the personal improvements the athletes receive.