“On The Line!”

Yep, I stole that idea--won't be the last time, either. Courtesy TJ Arrowsmith

Many of the things I’ve noted that I do as a coach are decidedly unoriginal.  Much like my storytelling, I tend to get my ideas from other, smarter people, and then put a little twist on them.  The chairs idea that I talked about in my last coaching post, for example, came directly from Dave Brown, a great guy who coached my big boys’ first Blastball team.  I just added the taped down names with logos to the seats, and voila, I’m a genius…

Susie T (a frequent SHYB commenter!) gets the Doves slap of the cap back in the day

The one thing that I do that I haven’t seen other coaches do, but really seems to work is my “on the line!” routine.  The origin of this traces back to my Mighty Doves days once again, as after each game, I singled out a particular star, had her/him take a knee, and regaled them with poor poetry extolling their amazing day in the field.

For the younger ones, I’ve made one significant adjustment.  After we give our “good game” high fives to the other team, I say “Indians/Mets/Grays…ON THE LINE!”  They all dash down the right or left field line depending on our dugout that day, and line up.  One by one, I go through each, and tell them one thing they did particularly well that day.  For my older guys, I have inserted the “slap of the cap” for the one two, or three players that deserve particular merit.  The boys have taken over that tradition, and tackle the winner(s) and pelt their smiling, cringing faces with hat slaps.  Sometimes, this turns into a game of cap tag.  It’s really evolved into something the boys love.

I ALMOST got hitting lessons from him when I was a kid, but he's helping me out now as a coach

For my t-ball aged players, I have added star stickers they get to put on their hats, borrowing from Willie Stargell’s “Stargell Stars” that he put on players’ hats during the late 1970s.  These “Stengel Stars” (named now for the 1st manager of the New York Mets, Casey Stengel) are awarded in different colors and sizes for great offense, defense, team play, and spirit.  After each player gets a star, all the players yell “Let’s Go Mets!”  No slap of the cap yet–at this stage I think it’s better for every player to be an equal winner.

No matter what sport you might coach, or what sport your girl or boy might be playing, I cannot recommend this enough.  In many ways, the “on the line!” has replaced the importance of the win-loss to many of my kids.  That is the post-game result that they really care about.  Even when we win, most of them cannot wait to get on the line—to get validated and have fund with their teammates.

You don’t have to remember every detail of the game to make this work, though the more personal you make each comment, the better.  And because you are rewarding not just play, but attitude, there is room to compliment each and every one.  So, no matter what the final score is, each player, and the team, leaves with a positive.  Sometimes it’s getting them to leave that’s the trick—those cap slap tag games can go on for a while if you’re not careful…

I’ll be making other posts about coaching, but this concludes my focus on the subject.  I hope my experiences—for better and worse—can be of use to others.  Coaching has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me.  I’ve made lots of new friends, from passionate parents to my incredible co-coaches, learned a number of things about myself, and, I think, had a chance to bring a love for baseball, and a “power with” view of team sports, to some wonderful kids.  If you’ve ever thought of trying it yourself, don’t miss the opportunity.

One Response to ““On The Line!””

  1. Co-CoachC Says:

    Really, REALLY poor poetry.

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