Here’s how we put together PGRoyal for the WWBA tournament in Marietta a few years ago.
We picked the best players we could find at every position and about 8 pitchers who could throw in the 90s with good breaking balls. 9 of the players on that team later became first rounders including all three outfielders. That team went 3-3 in the tournament… Bad coaching, I guess!
Of course, this team only played together for one week.
Our method, because we play from August to October, is a bit different.
We like to have a cadre of strong underclassmen so we have returning leaders every year.
We look for "players" who are team oriented-- for us the key is pitching and defense and we figure in most cases the hitting will take care of itself. We will even go so far as to select players who may be just a DH if their bat is good enough and lack a bit on defense
Traveling and living in hotels together each weekend was we do, personalities of the players is key. We cannot afford to have any "bad apples" be it a player or a parent. We don't like baggage.
TR, great topic. I'm surprised more haven't chimmed in. I think I'd start with pitching at any level. Naturally, pitching requires a top of the line catcher. Good pitching and poor catching is a recipe for disaster. Next, you have to consider who your middle infielders are. You have to be strong up the middle. I think that a good team typically has a 1st baseman that can flat out hit. I would say this is true for 3rd as well. Oh, I forgot, in a perfect scenerio, that SS is a stud. In the OF, you have to consider both offense and defense but you have to make sure you CF can flat go get the ball.
TR, you've done this for a long time. I think you would agree that athletic abilities are important but the drive to excell has to come from the kid and not the parents. I think this has to be another factor. I don't know if you do interviews with the kid to determine their motivation or if you just watch them for an extended period of time. Again, I'm not telling you anything you haven't learned over the numerous years you've given back to your community but a child that isn't coachable will destroy your team. I think you HAVE TO BUILD A TEAM COMPRISED OF KIDS YOU REALLY LIKE. I've always been blessed in that regard here.
I am not looking for a war here--we have a load of coaches here on the site from various age groups--this topic has nothing to do with GURUS and WEBSITES --it has to do with sharing ideas as to how each of us puts a team together at the level we are coaching at--not what is right or wrong but what how you do it--and draw ideas from each other and hjave constructive discussion--it is not even debate !!!
Blue Dog--you get the freaking point ??????
Coach --I am with you--you have to like the players you select and fortunately we are able to have that sort of selection-- we dont have tryouts we watch and invite-- and we usually have talked with the player and the parents
I made the mistake many years ago of thinking that an 11 and under AAU team would be easy to form and mold to the style of play that I would have liked.
I had a bunch of gamers but not enough to field a strong team. I also had a bunch of kids who were receiving 'professional instruction'.
The four kids that showed good speed and strong arms, I used to form an outfield. I taught them how to cover the infielder and cover each other. They played so well together that sometimes they would short hop a base hit and make the play to first getting the runner before he got there. They could gamble on charging the ball because they had confidence in the outfielder next to them covering their back. Even with balls hit to the fence, no team managed a double unless the infielder dropped the throw.
The infielders and two pitchers were receiving 'professional instruction' for hitting and fielding. That is with the exception of the catcher. The shortstop and third baseman could catch a grounder occasionally but couldn't reach first base. The second baseman would always come up without the ball on a grounder.
We didn't win a game.
I learned big time not to take a parent's word on their child's ability. Most importantly, I learned that 'professional instruction' means little to nothing in most cases.
When my son was 8, our Little League was invited to send a team to a first-time, 8u, kid-pitch tourney. A VP in our Little League approached me and two other dads who had been coaches in the instructional leagues about going through the league's rosters and deciding whom we would select to put a team together to enter. We sat down over a few cold ones and worked it out.
The tourney was a disappointment, to say the least. We came armed for bear. The other teams weren't up to us. Every game was won by slaughter rule. It was fun at first but then it got sad. We were playing everybody equally, but we couldn't keep our kids from hitting or our pitchers from striking them out.
We decided maybe we had something here, so we started a 9u team. We started with a big roster. Over the years we lost kids who moved, who decided it was too much of a commitment for them, etc. And on a few occasions, we did the most important thing of all: We parted company with some kids who, though good kids, had parents who were simply poison to the team.
In the ensuing years, we didn't always win and of course the competition got a lot better. But our kids learned a lot about baseball and most importantly, it remained a positive experience until the team disbanded after its 14u year. That's right, we kept the same nucleus of kids together for six years!
Moral of the story: Never let the stud kid with the obnoxious parents play for your team. He may be a stud, but his parents will sap all the fun out of it for everyone. Other good players will leave your team to get away from them. In the end, this one stud player will cost you more than he brings to the table.
Same goes for the kid with the bad attitude, though truthfully, in 6 years I think I came across exactly one case where the kid was the problem as opposed to his parents.
Today we play with and against the kids who were on our team all those years. We still sit and talk in the stands and even when the kid's on the other team we root for him to do well.
At this point our kids are 16 and some of them are heading for D-I ball, no question. All of them are playing varsity or heading there by next year (junior year). Most of them are starters.
Sometimes the game itself is disappointing. For every game played someone wins, but someone also loses. Somebody racks up a lot of K's on the mound, somebody racks up a lot of K's with the bat. Somebody got the big hit, somebody made the key error.
Kids can learn to live with all that if you teach them correctly. But if you put a lot of unnecessary anguish into it, through all the parental stuff and coaches who act like the world will end if we don't win this one 11u game, don't be surprised if over time your kids don't learn what they need to advance.
For all the time spent on this site talking about the mechanics of hitting and pitching (though curiously, not so much about DEFENSE! -- why is that?), we overlook the most important thing of all. There is a lot of failure in baseball. As a kid matures, he has to learn how to deal with failure and and how to bounce back from it, learn from it.
In my mind, that quality marks the true ballplayer more than anything else. The pitcher who can get shelled one day, or not find the plate one day, and still come back the next time and do well -- I want that kid on my team. The boy who makes the key error, then comes back with his head up and makes a hustle play -- I'll draft HIM. The boy who has a bad day at the plate but finds another way to contribute on the field, then rebounds to get the key hit in game 2 of a doubleheader -- make him your team captain.
The kid who sulks or whose parents are undermining the coaches at every step will never get there. The kid whose parents tell him that his every misstep is somehow the coaches' fault, will never get there. The kid whose dad coaches just to make sure his kid pitches all the time and bats cleanup, treating the other kids like a supporting cast and blaming the cast whenever things go badly, will never get there.
Hitting technique and pitching technique (and DEFENSE!) are the coaches' jobs to teach. Start with the right kids and the right families, then do your job and you'll have the team you're looking for.
my story is similar to Midlo's, with the exception that we are still together. most of the kids are the equivalent of 15U (mostly freshman), and we'll be playing Jr. Legion this year. The freshman team went 5-12 this year. My goal for Legion is to finish above .500. we'll see. half the team has been together since they were 8. the other half has moved out, quit, moved in, got better, etc.
After almost packing it in after last year, I feel rejuvinated. I've seen quite a few of the freshman games, and almost every loss *could've* been a win except for an error here, an error there, or a bonehead move (or lack thereof) by the coach (for example, won't let kids swing until at least strike 1 during their first trip to the plate).
Our first practice is this Sunday morning. 3 hours. can't wait!! season starts 5/30.