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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 07.20.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

So you want to coach kids' baseball

Based on my experience, all you need to coach 7- to 9-year-olds is this phrase: "You can do it." If you can say this and know your players by name (as in "You can do it, [child's name]" or possibly "Tu es capable, [nom d'enfant]") you're already qualified.

As a coach, your job is to sit on your home bench and yell these words to your players as they stand at the plate trying to hold a bat that may or may not weigh more than they do.

You can also mix it up with variations like "Come on, buddy," and "We need you on base."

The advanced coach can also offer technical batting tips like "Nice and easy. Don't try to kill it," and the ever reliable "Keep your eye on the ball."

But to be a truly successful coach, you must be confident. Already skilled at turning substitute teachers into blubbering basket cases, 8-year-olds are experts at sensing self-doubt. So never say, "Step back from the plate a bitů maybe." Next thing you know there'll be mutiny and you'll have players coming at you from all directions between innings wanting to change positions so that they can catch/run less/more.

In terms of fielding, there are a number of other expressions you need to know:

- "Hey [child], stop picking flowers and put your glove on." -

- "Yes, go pee but hurry back." -

- "Play's to second base. Are you ready at second? Second base? Yoo-hoo, second base!" -

- "Nice try. Good hustle. You almost got him. Way to block the ball. Good arm." -

- "Third base, move to your left a bit. No, your left. Left. That way." -

I've learned these and other skills after one-and-a-half seasons as a little-league baseball assistant coach. Deb is the official coach, which means when it's time for one of us to call the parents about a schedule change, I can throw up my hands and say, "Hey, it's your team."

Some weekends, though, Deb works and I have to coach alone. That's when I get in the game. I give 110 percent. I come out to play. I focus. In other words, I make sure the kids are sitting on the bench in the order of their batting lineup.

There are other tasks, like making sure they wear protective helmets when they are at bat. This is very, very important. The child's safety is of utmost concern. No exceptions. Unless it's head lice season, then don't even think about it.

You also have to keep score. Luckily, the opposing team is also keeping score, which is good because there are many possibilities that you may miss a run while, for instance, telling your clean-up hitter to stop playing with the dog and get on deck.

There's really not much else to it. The rest is just a matter of sitting back and enjoying the game. In fact, I defy anyone to watch kids this age play baseball and not come away with a smile. Where else can you see:

- players whacking home plate with their bat in the notion that this will make them hit better; -

- ditto for spitting at the plate; -

- a runner sliding into first base; -

- our valiant volunteer pitcher/umpire Travis getting nailed with a line drive at least once a game, then shaking it off with a laugh, unaware that parents are placing wagers on where he'll be hit next; -

- two runners heading for home, the one behind trying not to pass the slower player in front; -

- a beaming 9-year-old coming into home plate on an in-the-park home run (i.e. overthrown three times)? -

But don't forget: Keep your eye on the ball. And the bat; sometimes the kids throw them.

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