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Coaching eventually has always been part of my son's plan. We were talking last night and started debating what experience matters for coaching. One question in particular — is there any preference between someone who pitched versus playing a position as an overall head coach at any level?

What other background and skills should people try to acquire when they want to enter the coaching ranks — whether at high school or college? And what do they need to work on to move up the ladder?

Another area I know little to nothing about, but suspect I'll be learning a ton in the next few years, so any pointers are appreciated.

 

Original Post

I was 13 years old and lived in a very bad place.  The only positive was the park and rec league.  I did well.  One day a HS coach came to me and asked me if I would coach his son's team.  They were 10.  I have always loved baseball and I said yes.  I got books, I listen to any and all things baseball and I coached that team.  We were not very good that first year.  The HS coach who's son was on that team told me he would buy treats etc. if we won and he wanted his son and the others to have the same enthusiasm I did for the game.  The next year, we won our league and won our league every year until I stopped coaching them when they were all seniors in high school.  This "rec team" ended up having 8 players who made all conference teams.   Oh, one dad was a professional wrestler.  He told me that he would take care of anyone who wanted to give me trouble.  LOL  His son went on to play professionally.  (Big strong kid.)  I was awarded an award for coaching and my high school coach presented the award to me.  

From there, I wanted to be a teacher/coach.  I asked to go to a particular high school where the head coach was said to be crazy.  He was also a great baseball man.  I knew him because he umpired in the summer.  He umpired games I played in and games I coached in.  I got in and the rest is history.  I became a hitting "expert" and he let me run with what I taught.  We won a few games by averaging 33 wins a year for 12 years.  We won a few state titles.  I was asked to coach baseball in the former Soviet Union.  I still exchange emails with those guys.  I then became a HC and took a program and made it an area power.  (Really the players did that.)

The point is if your son wants to coach, learn the game.  Teach the game but understand that a coach can never stop learning.  I put the word "expert" in quotes because I found through the years that those who think they know it all know very little.  I am now an "ex expert."  I hope your son gets out of this what he wants.  I look at all that I have now and know that I owe so much to baseball and coaching.  I am glad that that 13 year old kid didn't run away scared and took on the challenge of becoming a coach.  

 

Last edited by CoachB25

I heard Kyle Body discuss this matter on DL’s podcast.  I am sure he was thinking more about coaching at the college and pro levels, but he said that if you want to set yourself apart from the crowd, learn three things: 1) how to throw BP 2) SQL (I’m sure Python or R would work too) 3) speak Spanish.  If he can help players translate and understand analytics, and how they can take advantage of them, he will have a very long and successful career.

Oh, boy. Where do I begin?

CoachB25: GREAT post! ...and, illustrative of the fact that fine coaches can come from a variety of directions.

For the purpose of this post, I'll list a "brainstorm" of factors that I think tend to be present for most young coaches; virtually regardless of the level. If you or anyone else would like to discuss the topic more specifically to you or your child, I'd recommend that you start by PM'ing me. I'm always delighted to try to help young coaches to the extent that I can.

Common denominators for successful young coaches:

(1) Absolute passion for the game and a related commitment to developing their players into the best players they can become while coaching them.

(2) Constant devotion to learning whatever is relevant to developing their players and succeeding on the field. Ongoing sense that knowledge is dynamic, fueling a constant need to learn and keep up with the best minds in the sport.

(3) Willingness to sacrifice and devote long hours to doing what it takes to succeed as a coach. If a partner is involved, having a partner who truly understands and is equally committed to her partner's mission and objectives.

(4) Commitment to constant improvement as a coach, leader, and person.

(5) Capable of demonstrating organizational awareness and executing effectively in line with it. Adept at effectively communicating his program's needs to his superiors and having that translated into a budget that is sufficient to fund the program's necessary initiatives.

Those are a few that come to mind most readily. The sport needs a constant infusion of qualified new coaches. Once the playing days are over, there are a variety of quality ways that a former player can give back to the sport. I can think of no better or potentially influential than that of coaching.

Last edited by Prepster

Wow, great post Prepster!  #3 above is so important.  I coached 4 HS sports and was the HC in 4 HC Sports.  I could have never done that without my wife.  We were blessed with one child.  In coaching Basketball, I would put her in her car seat in the middle of the gym floor and we would practice.  I'd remind my players to keep their heads up because she was out there.  At no time in my child's life did she know anything else but sports and competition.  She had all of these HS kids, boy and girl, influence her life.  My wife supported that and wanted her raised that way.  The kid started going to my baseball camps at 8 years old and never missed a beat.  She could outplay the boys and was, in fact, bigger than they were.  She could dominate in basketball anytime she wanted.  Again, my wife had to support all of this and we had two professional careers that were demanding.  

The trend I see nowadays is that HS coaches are getting out because they just can't accept the time away from their families.  With both parents working, it is hard to know what is right for the family.  I'll wrap this up by mentioning that when I was coaching a basketball game for our conference title, we were battling a little sickness, had some foul trouble, ... and I decided to hold the ball some to enable some of my players to get their air back.  My wife and child were in the stands.  My best friend had driven them to the game since we were in a snow storm.  The things my parents said when we pulled the ball out shocked my friend.  My wife asked to leave since I was being cussed at.  My friend, who is very loyal started yelling at these parents some not nice stuff and mentioned that my wife and child were sitting right there.  They left.  We won.  After the game and conference.  It was the first time our school won the conference.  Man, the parents were glad handing me.  When I got home, my wife was in tears and begged me to quit.  That is what it is like to be a coach.  

@Iowamom23 posted:

Coaching eventually has always been part of my son's plan. We were talking last night and started debating what experience matters for coaching. One question in particular — is there any preference between someone who pitched versus playing a position as an overall head coach at any level?

What other background and skills should people try to acquire when they want to enter the coaching ranks — whether at high school or college? And what do they need to work on to move up the ladder?

Another area I know little to nothing about, but suspect I'll be learning a ton in the next few years, so any pointers are appreciated.

 

Hey Iowamom,

Great post by Prepster... I'll throw out a few cautionary tales...

I don't think P vs. position player is a big factor as far as being a HC is concerned.  I see plenty of successful coaches at all levels from both pools.  I do think that coaching, particularly HS and above, is a profession where, more than most others, there is an expectation of experience.  Even at entry level positions.  There is also always far more supply than demand.  Coaching seems to be a popular path for a variety of reasons.  Partially due to the supply and demand issue and part due to the fact that there are so few paid positions in the college ranks (and HS coaches make so little), there is a particularly lengthy "pay your dues" process that aspiring coaches must go through before they can land a coveted paid position.

I know your son is already progressing very well with a successful D1 college career (and maybe beyond).  So, the experience box will get a resounding check and this can also help, at times, fast track some of the "pay your dues" steps.  That said, even some very qualified high-achieving players find themselves having to spend some years in volunteer level or very low paying positions.  There are others here on the site who's sons have done or are doing just that.  Along the way, many find related options that allow for easier ways to pay the bills, so the coaching path gets derailed.  So, I would recommend he really research the likely steps, timeframe and pay scale associated with the different coaching avenues.

What other background and skills should he try to acquire?  Depends on which avenue he thinks he wants to pursue.  If he wants to coach HS, the teaching credential is a really valuable asset.  If he is targeting college, he will need a (preferably related) masters degree as requirement for most HC positions.  

I found coaching at the HS level to be very rewarding.  However, under the current model, the small stipend as compared to the significant time commitment necessary to do it right make it unsustainable for most, unless they are otherwise financially set.

One of my sons is progressing through those difficult steps of college coaching as we speak... currently across the country interviewing for his next role.  He has been fortunate in getting opportunities that have kept the process moving forward to this point.  He has great passion for it.  I like to think he has a great talent for it as well.  He seems to be getting close to the point where he can land a position where he will earn enough to make a career out of that passion.  Still, it is a tough path.  It is no certainty that he will not choose another path at some point soon.  Now is a great time for your son to really dig in with detailed research.  There are several others here on the site that can provide first hand experience and feedback.  

 

Last edited by cabbagedad

All three of my sons coach on different levels.  Oldest son turned down a chance to play D1 baseball to coach because he knew that is what he wanted to do. The HC of the D1 at the time sat my son down and said I can give you a spot or you can continue to coach my son in middle school.  You will never play pro ball so if coaching is what you want to do then keep doing it.  You will learn more where you are than playing D1 baseball.  he actually coached 2 of the D1 HC's sons in school and travel.  He owns his own business and is a varsity HC basketball at a large school.

Middle son is a college coach after his time playing D1 ball.  He struggles at times in relationships because he has had a few girlfriends that ultimately did not want to be a coach's wife.  I think to be successful in any career that requires a lot of time it takes a spouse that is willing to let you do your thing and be supportive as CoachB said.  I definitely have a pastor and coach's wife.  Middle son wants to move up and is just now beginning to get chances.

Youngest son just finished freshman year in college and when Coastal Plains League team fell through he found a few places to get some innings in but is also coaching a 14U travel team.  Has gone to Atlanta 3 times, and Hoover for WWBA.  The third weekend of the summer showcase season the HC of the team did not go and he was the HC.  I went on Saturday just to make sure the overzealous parents did not try to tell the 19 year old what to do.  He wanted me to help him make out lineup but I told him he knew the kids and do what he thought should happen.  The other coach in the second game tried to talk down to him at one point but he stood his ground and made the coach look silly in front of his players and parents.  His parents stood and cheered and he won their respect.  The umpires swung completely at that point.  He knows he wants to coach when his playing days are over. 

Thanks to all for the very thoughtful responses. My style in parenting is to almost never tell kids what they have to do, but to ask questions that hopefully help them figure out where they need to go. This thread has given me a lot of great ideas in that direction.

My son is lucky/benefitting from a great high school. He'll be eligible to graduate after his third year of college and then will have choices — including going back to get a masters or a second major. We both are lucky to have the benefit of other people's wisdom and experience. Thank you.

I coached travel softball through 18U Gold. I coached travel baseball through 16U. But in high school ball I was just a parent. I received a great education from parents watching high school ball. All the former LL coaches who watch a lot of MLB on tv know a lot more than high school coaches. < extreme sarcasm

The reality is most parents are clueless about how much work it is to coach a team that is invisible to parents who only show up to watch the game. If it’s high school ball academics and school behavior is added to the list travel coaches deal with. 

One situation I never forgot was a parent approaching me as he dropped off his son for two Saturday pool games. He told me his son couldn’t pitch since he pitched for his CYO team earlier that morning. I had told the kid Thursday he was pitching game one Saturday. The parent was livid I only played his kid three innings in the field over two games. I snapped at the coach ... I spent a lot of time last night figuring out pitching and playing rotations.  Then you tell me your kid can’t pitch as pregame is about to start. When was I supposed to spend two hours reconfiguring playing rotations? He played the three innings I expected him to play after he was supposed to pitch. 

Similar situation except parent didn't tell me.  The team we were playing said in the top of the first that he was surprised I was letting the kid pitch that was starting.  I asked why.  He said he had practiced the night before and the kid and his dad were on the other field pitching the whole hour and a half they were practicing.  I confronted the dad and he said they were just working on some things (for an hour and a half).  I had told the dad he was starting two days before.  I pulled the kid in the middle of the at bat.  The other coach didn't even argue he did not face a batter.  The dad was livid but I told him I cared about his kid even if he did not.  Kid was drafted second round two years ago.  Life lessons to parents are tougher some times than life lessons you try to teach kids.

@Iowamom23 posted:

How about history??

History is better than PE/Health not as good as math or science.  It also helps to be able to coach football.   At many districts baseball is an afterthought.   I know at our school, they hired based on teaching first and baseball second.  It wasn't as much the subject matter as it was, the coach had to be good in the classroom.  Both of the assistants are football assistants who are with the baseball team for about 4 months tops.  My kid's Summer coach got hired at a rival high school.   They had a lot of discipline problems prior to him and they were looking for a coach who was going to eliminate those issues.  They never even talked much baseball during his interview and this is one of the highest paying districts in the state.  

@PitchingFan posted:

Yes.  Most school systems will hire a guy for elementary in a heartbeat    Every school system needs special Ed teachers 

TPM was right to question your statement. Once again, what is true in rural America may not be the case in big metro areas. Large HS in Texas, that have competitive baseball programs, don’t have special ed teachers for HS baseball coaches. 

Well they do in Atlanta.  One of my best friends was at one of the largest high schools in Georgia and the US and he was HC of varsity baseball.  Got the job partly because of success and partly because he was a special ed teacher so they could use him.  I've been in biggest schools systems in Ga, TN,SC, and Missouri and all of them have elementary teachers as HC's of varsity sports and special education teachers.  What is the reasoning in Texas that you would not use a special ed teacher or elementary school teacher?  My son is a varsity HC of basketball in Tennessee in largest classification and does not even teach or work at school. 

Over the eight years my two kids played high school sports a majority of the head coaches and assistants who taught in the district were middle school teachers. I have no idea about the coaches who taught in other districts. 

Our coaches aren’t required to teach in the district. They are required to have teaching certificates. When the new AD came in and cleaned house (Loserville) just before my oldest he hired a bunch of rising star assistants from winning programs as head coaches.

Son is not required to teach but he did agree to be at the school on a regular basis through the week.  He usually works 3 1/2 days a week and is in the school on game days 1/2 a day and the whole day on Friday.  During the winter he is usually there 2-3 days a week.  He has a degree but not a teaching certificate.  I've never heard of a school that will not use teachers from other schools in their district. 

@PitchingFan posted:

Well they do in Atlanta.  One of my best friends was at one of the largest high schools in Georgia and the US and he was HC of varsity baseball.  Got the job partly because of success and partly because he was a special ed teacher so they could use him.  I've been in biggest schools systems in Ga, TN,SC, and Missouri and all of them have elementary teachers as HC's of varsity sports and special education teachers.  What is the reasoning in Texas that you would not use a special ed teacher or elementary school teacher?  My son is a varsity HC of basketball in Tennessee in largest classification and does not even teach or work at school. 

Again, there is no standard that applies across the board. I have no experience with small classification rural schools. I have a lot of experience with the largest classification public HS in Texas. In those schools all coaches are employees of the school district (that they coach in) and most of them also teach in the district at the HS level. Some teach at lower level schools in the district. I know of a couple coaches that were Head Baseball Coaches that were elementary school PE teachers in the same district as the HS. Both of them were (coincidentally?) two of the worst HS baseball coaches I have ever seen. When they showed up at the HS baseball field they brought an elementary school mentality with them. Everyone got a juice box and a participation trophy. Most successful HS baseball coaches that I know also teach at the HS they coach. But the UIL mandates that all HS coaches in Texas be employees of the district they coach in. 

While there are some schools in many states that will hire an elementary teacher to be a HS coach, that is NOT THE NORM.  The school schedules are so different between whe elementary and HS start and finish due to things like busing that it is rare to find an elementary teacher do this.  My daughter was an elementary 5th grade teacher.  She volunteered for both middle school and high school softball teams.  It was very hard for her to get to most practices unless the HC decided to wait an hour.  Mostly she got there in time to throw some live BP as practice wrapped up.  This year, she is going to be paid and so the district told her she had to move to the middle school.  She has made the move.  If any of you want, take a look at the differences in starting times in your local school districts.  Oh, at the school I retired from we have an AC for both the baseball and softball programs.  They get to practices 40 minutes after practice starts and get to games right before game time.  They get to leave early for away games from their MS duties.  

@TPM posted:

I don't know if it is for every school district, but in the largest counties in Florida, you must teach in the school you coach at, also in the Atlanta Metro area as well as the Nashville metro area schools as well. Does not include assistants and volunteers.

 

In my humble opinion, I agree that the HC needs to be in the school.  In fact, I agree so much that when I retired this past year, I was offered the ability to keep my HS HC positions.  I declined.  

After 25 years of coaching (21 as a head HS coach, 2 years as a Varsity Assistant, and 2 years as an Assistant at a  Junior College), I am more than happy to hopefully provide you with some things that helped me out throughout the years.  I was at a low end D1 playing with hopes of playing pro and/or becoming a broadcaster.  During my Jr. year of college, I realized that I didn't have the face for broadcasting nor the voice but I did have an infield coach who was always there for me whether it would be throwing extra BP or taking ground balls before or after practice and I was like wow - I want to be him.  He became my 2nd father and I changed my major and decided to go into Secondary Education so I could teach and coach.  My primary goal was to help get as many players on to the next level so they could have the same opportunities if not more than what I had.  When my playing career ended and I realized that my dream of playing pro was done, and I received my 1st teaching job.  Here are some things that I believe in:

1)  If you have the opportunity to be a grad assistant - stay in the college game.  I have been happily married for the last 24 years and we were engaged when I graduated so I didn't want to put my future wife moving around from place to place.  If you are not in serious relationship, stay in the college game and work your way up the ladder.

2) You need to have a supportive family who understands that you will be taken away from them to your "other" family.  I have been fortunate enough to be married to a HS Varsity HC who understands what I go through as well as I am there for what she goes through. My kids love going to both of our games and supporting us and I believe it has helped them in their athletic careers.  We had a D1 soccer player - this year we will have a D1 Volleyball player, next year we will have a baseball player at the collegiate level, and we will have an incoming HS Fr.

3)  Being a HC - it is never about winning a State Championship - it is about moving as many kids on to the next level.  The greatest pride that I have in coaching is seeing our kids play at the next level and know that you have made a difference in their lives.  Our school has had a lot of accolades but the thing that I always go back to is seeing our players on the next level playing on line, tv, etc. and know that they are making something of themselves on the field, in the classroom, and in life.

4) At 25 and being a HC, I thought that I knew everything - well I didn't and I have come full circle to where I am now. The game had evolved and you should have your core beliefs but you have to be able to adapt to the nuances of the game.  Best advice that I can give is to go to as many clinics as you can - ABCA, BCA, State Clinics, Read Team Building Books, etc.  This is where you will learn things that you can develop into your program.

5)  Develop your culture/principles - ours is Pitching, Defense, Quality AB, and Aggressive Base Running wins.  We ask our players to buy into a Team Approach and for most years our guys have bought in and it leads to itself.

6)  Do Team Building/Team Bonding exercises throughout the year - guys will work for one another

Hopefully some of things help you out and please let me know if you need anything else!

Good luck to your son!

 

 

I wonder if a majority of high school coaches have the goal of winning the conference or getting players to college ball. Fortunately my kids played for coaches who wanted both.

Neither coach taught in the high school. Of their five varsity coaches only two taught in the high school. Another two were in the middle school. The wider the scope of coach eligibility the better coaching a high school can acquire.

Most of the coaches around here teach in the building.  It helps to be able to interact with players on a daily basis, check in on them if they are struggling with a class, have your door open to them if they want to talk, and talk with teachers if we have to get the player back on track.  As for coaches and winning, believe me that I want to win just as much as our opponent, but that is not the reason why I wanted to go into coaching.  Coaches place a lot of emphasis on W/L but it is about the process, development, and the culture of your program.  If you have those things along with talent, then the wins will come.  At the start of the year, I ask our players what is your goal and many of them say win a State Championship, All-Conference, etc.  We then discuss some attainable goals that they can do - 60% Quality AB, Throw Less Than 15 P an Inning, etc. and have them focus on the little things and that will add up in the bigger picture.  If we win conference, great but I want our kids playing their best baseball at playoff time.  If we have done that as a team, then I am confident that we can make some type of run. 

Coaching or running business building a winning team is about the daily operations. Set up processes that work, create growth opportunities, establish standards of quality and hold people to them...always feed your pipeline and so on.

if you do those things you will win many games, championships, you will send many kids to college, you will make lots of money and you will have a growing business. Honestly it isn't rocket science it just isn't easy.

The hardest part is when the good the program creates the need to move forward with something you really don't want to do. 

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