In the off-season, your mind may frequently wander back to last season.
You may think of tactics — the time you left your top pitcher in too long, or the way a batting order experiment worked out so that a player’s confidence rose, and he became a middle-of-the line-up fixture.
You might remember losing your temper with an umpire, or the occasion that you and “blue” worked together to explain a fine point of the rules to your team.
You could even dwell a little on how frustrated you were with all of your players during a practice and that break-through moment when you all sat together and became a team.
Not all of those scenarios were pleasant at the time, but the fact that those experiences stuck with you, so that you would reconsider them in the offseason, is a great sign. It means you love coaching Little League and care deeply about how you help develop – as players and as people – the youth you serve.
As those thoughts come to you, note them and, when you have the time, give them some more consideration, so that you can capitalize on those “teachable moments” for you as a coach, which in turn will help you next season capitalize on more teachable moments with your players.
Here is a checklist for the areas to consider and a few possible questions you can ask yourself:
Did I run a great preseason parent meeting? Did we communicate well about practice and game schedules and locations? Did players, equipment, and snacks show up on time?
Health and Safety:
Did we check equipment and field conditions before and after every practice and game? Did we keep our first-aid kit handy and well-stocked? Did we follow all the rules and best practices for wearing batting helmets and using L-screens? Did we keep everyone hydrated?
Did I review the rule book or download the Little League app? Did I teach players to honor the letter and spirit of those rules? Were there any slip-ups with minimum play? Did I go beyond minimum play to help each player have fun, increase skills, and feel like a contributor? How did I relate to umpires?
How did we do with batting orders, position assignments (again, lending to fun, learning, player development and line-up flexibility), signals on the base paths, etc.? How well did I convey this information to players? Did they really understand, so that they could now make these decisions and execute even without my guidance?
Interpersonal: Was I consistently calm, cool, and collected when speaking to players as individuals and as a team? How deeply did my players connect with me and with each other due to the culture we created? What life lessons did I teach? How did I treat players’ parents?
As you consider all these areas, likely the good memories will outweigh those where you feel you lapsed. If you care enough to honestly review last season and stay open to learning and improving, you probably were caring enough last season to have done very well by your players. With that encouragement, you can continue down a path to improvement that makes next season even better!
For more ideas on getting the most out of your players while teaching life lessons, take the free Little League Double-Goal Coach® Quick Course at http://staging.littleleague.org/pca.