“What will have the biggest impact on kids and last the longest?”
If we don’t focus on this as coaches, we just miss a big opportunity. Simple as that.
Many kids will play ball through HS if they work hard and pay attention. Beyond that, few will play ball. So while teaching kids baseball skills is mandatory, obvious, and expected, teaching them something that’ll last their entire lives is a way to make your time as a coach…and player’s time…even more worthwhile.
That’s why we try to teach “character stuff” around every corner and at every natural pause throughout the season.
One of the most effective ways I’ve found to teach character is rather simple: choose a yearly theme.
Here’s some quick benefits to choosing a yearly theme:
- It becomes a simple mantra that will stick into your players heads for the rest of their lives.
- It gives you a place to hang all your “character talks.”
- It builds unity and a sort of insider language within the team.
Tips for choosing a yearly theme.
- Simple and short. Don’t make it a sentence or a mission statement. Make it 1-3 words. A memorable phrase is what works best. Last year our theme was Fight for Character. This year it’s Next Level.
- Make it relevant. Over the off season, a handful of dads on our team converted an old barn into a batting cage. We ended up spending way too much money (haha) but it has become a place of pride. A sanctuary of sorts. When we finished we looked around and said “this is next level.” In the meantime, we know we’re preparing our kids for the next level of play (next year will be their first opportunity to try out for the “A” team in Junior High ball). Next Level made contextual sense, and we’ll be able to apply that phrase to everything, which leads to the final point:
- Make it broad. You want to be able to apply your theme to many areas. For Next Level, we can apply it to everything. What will it require to take practices, nutrition, rest, preparation, responsibility, attitudes, vocal leadership, servant leadership, teamwork, coach-ability, competing…to the Next Level? All of these topics (and more) will be weekly themes throughout our season. But because Next Level is so broad, each weekly theme is easily connected to our Next Level mantra.
All right. Tell us what you think in the comments. Would also love to hear some of your yearly theme’s from the past or some that you come up with!