May 21, 2015
What does it take to be a winning youth coach? Listen in as Mark Linden shares stories and discusses his journey to becoming a successful youth sports coach.
Mark Linden, Director of Baseball Positive, spent eight seasons coaching at the college level. Experience includes assisting at two programs with multiple College World Series appearances, Wichita State and The University of South Carolina.
Later served as a head coach for five years: two at NCAA D-I Centenary College (La), and three at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, WA. Drafted three times (Cubs twice, Royals once), played minor league ball in the Cubs organization in 1989 and 1990. Moved on to another stint at the pro level as radio color commentator in 2007 for the Oakland A’s minor league affiliate in Vancouver, BC.
A lifetime of baseball experience, including the past seven years working exclusively at the 12U level with kids and their coaches, has led to the development of a comprehensive training and development program that is age appropriate and proven effective for kids.
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‘Kids don’t sign up to practice baseball, they sign up to play baseball.’
My Cringe & ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments
- Mark tried to emulate the style of the head coach he first worked for – This was a mistake for several reasons – he didn’t have the 30 years of experience and credibility. And he had a very different personality, so it didn’t work trying to be somebody else.
- Mark admits his temper and style carried over off the field – and it cost him his first marriage
HUGE IDEA #1
- Every minute counts! Plan your practices minute-by-minute. Start with a baseline template and plug different activities in. Kids enjoy having a routine.
- Mark starts his practices with a skill-building-warmup. Small stations with very basic drills that involve a lot of movement. Nothing that requires hard throwing b/c they haven’t warmed up yet. This works as a great transition for the kids coming from school/home to get into practice mode, and gets them focused.
- Then they do team time/group time- fly balls, throwing, catching, etc. Break into several groups to keep kids moving.
- 3rd – Batting practice drill – 4 different groups so they aren’t just standing around.
- 4th – Scrimmage/play – ‘Kids don’t sign up to practice baseball, they sign up to play baseball.’ This will work best with mostly free play – don’t keep interrupting this with coaching – let the kids make mistakes. Kids don’t pitch to each other – coaches pitch from short distance to keep things moving.
The pace that kids learn
- Remember that kids are just that-kids. They haven’t developed mentally or physically yet – so be patient
Parents afraid to coach?
HUGE IDEA #2
- Don’t let the fear of not being a guru in a sport prevent you from coaching
- Identify 5 things they need to learn in that sport and focus on that
- Kids don’t learn from information – they learn from repetition
Connecting with Kids
- Mark has hundreds of kids he’s coaches – and he enjoys pouring into them and having them learn and feel good about themselves
Best Stolen idea
- Gene Stephenson – one of winningest college coaches, from Wichita State – Mark learned from him that there are no secrets to winning
- Book – ‘They Call me Coach‘- John Wooden
- Baseballpositive.com – Simple to use resources for adults to use coaching 12 and under baseball and softball
- Includes blogs, video, audio for parents, coaches, league leaders
- Be prepared for practice in advance. Have a written plan. Have all equipment set up before practice starts. Be disciplined with time – follow your plan.