Expectations of a Coach

January 01, 2012
By Al Price

Expectations of a Coach...

The easiest way to predict whether a Little League team is going to have a positive and successful season is to listen to the expectations of the coach.

Coaches, it is critical to set goals and expectations that are reachable and focused on the developing your players and the team.

When you are talking to your team be careful not to use “I” statements. Here are a few I have heard; “I want to win the league this year.” ...or… “I have always had a winning season, and I expect you to give me another one.” …or… “I expect you to win today and so do your parents…don’t let me down.” …or… “I can’t believe you are not blowing these guys away today…you are embarrassing me out there.”

You see, coaching a Little League team is not supposed to be about you. You can’t go out on the diamond to field a ball, pitch or step up to the plate to hit, so how can you get credit for a win? I have never seen wins and losses recorded next to a coach’s name in the league standings and I hope I never do. Winning and losing is what teams do and as you know there are so many things that influence the outcome of a game and most are completely out of your control.

The longer you coach the more you realize winning looks after itself, so just step up and support your team on game day and enjoy watching your players compete.

Here is how I set and shared my expectations with the Little League teams that I worked with:

First, you don’t have to tell your players that one of your goals is to win. The players already have that one covered, they want to win every game and the championship.

Each pre-season I would work with my assistant coaches and assess the talent and experience on our team. Then we would estimate the number of wins we believed the team could achieve during the season and set our expectations accordingly. Here are a couple of typical scenarios coaches will experience:

Scenario #1 - Setting expectations for a team with average talent and experience

We have a look at the team and predict we should end up in the middle of the pack and win about eight games in a 16-game schedule. Knowing this, we would set expectations at a level we are pretty sure the team will reach. I would tell the players; “Given our experience…and how solid the other teams are in the league… “I am going to be excited and proud you guys when we win our fourth game”. If you pick a goal that is well within reach you take the pressure off the players. In this case your team will probably meet your goal of winning four games early in the season. When that happens, I let them know how excited I am and we have a little mid-season celebration. Of course you have bigger goals and so do the players (and their parents) but approaching team goals this way builds confidence and momentum early on and will likely spur them on to several more victories during the balance of the season.

Scenario #2 - Setting expectations for a team with lots of talent and experience

The toughest team to coach, by far, is the team that is favored to win the league championship. I use the same approach and set expectations at a level that I know the team would reach. If I had a team with lots of experience, several of the best players in the league, with solid pitching and hitting I would set my expectations at winning eight games of a 16-game schedule. In this case we should be able to celebrate the eighth win as a team well before the end of the season and then go out and get more wins and build some momentum for the playoffs.

Over the years, I have learned, it is a big mistake to set expectations too high, especially when you think you have a great team. If the team performs below the coach’s expectations everyone gets frustrated. The coach, players and parents and it is no fun for anyone. In Scenario #2, coaches often fall into the trap of saying things like; “This is our year to win the championship.” Players interpret anything short of winning the championship as a total failure, and it shouldn’t be. A team could go 16-0 and lose a close playoff game on an unlucky bounce or when they run into a hot team and they feel like losers. Going 17-1 is a tremendous year and goes way beyond the expectation of 8-8. Of course players are always disappointed when they lose but should be very proud of their accomplishment.

Coaches, remember players are very motivated to reach your expectations as long as they are within reach and at the same time are never limited by them.

Written by Al Price (for al and AL)

Al Herback and Al Price, authors and instructors of the Little League Education Program authored this coaching tip. The training materials they have put together include hundreds of drills, competitions and fun activities. They also include progressions to help you teach the fundamental skills and guidance on how to plan practices for all levels of play. Please go to www.alandalbaseball.com for more information on the complete program library and to order your own set of training materials. To date, thousands of leagues and over one million coaches, managers, players and parents have taken advantage of the training materials.


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