When coaching youth baseball, you often end up with a bunch of boys who may not know each other. Team building is very important to ensure a cohesive team, one where the players support each other rather than compete with each other.
At the first practice, you need to break the ice with the players. Some will be very outgoing, some will be shy. Try to gently get all the boys to introduce themselves and share something simple about why they like to play baseball, or perhaps what position they like to play. This will help you get a feel for the boys as well.
Here are some great ideas to help the boys become a team that plays well together:
1. Have activities outside of practice. One or two pizza parties or hot dog picnics gets the families together and lets the boys get to know each other outside of baseball. Have a few gifts (packs of baseball cards) to hand out for drills that center on knowledge of the sport. During the event, ask questions to generate conversation.
2. Pay particular attention to boys who are not fitting into the team during practice. Figure out ways to gently include them into the practice routines. For instance, if you are doing hitting drills, make this boy catcher for the day. Or put him in charge of counting or measuring. This can be difficult to do without being obvious, but with some thought a good coach can make it happen.
3. Have a rule that during games, the players in the dugout pay attention to the game. They should be making a lot of noise in support of team members who are on the field.
4. Make it clear, in your initial meeting with the boys, that you will not tolerate whining, bullying, or meanness. Point out that in order to win, all the players must support each other. Establish the consequences for unacceptable behavior right away, and stick to it.
5. Have some team-building activities during practices. For instance, have the players stand in a circle and pass the ball around the circle. Time how long it takes. Then ask them to try again and beat their time. Watch them work together to figure out how to go faster.
In coaching youth baseball, if you successfully build a strong team spirit, your team will play better and have more fun during games!