WYC 053 – Youth Baseball – Al Ainsworth talks coaching defense first and making big ugly mistakes


What does it take to be a winning youth coach? Listen in as Al Ainsworth shares stories and discusses his journey to becoming a successful youth sports coach and author.

Al has coached middle school and high school baseball for 16 years.  He currently also does the high school color commentary for his local baseball team.  Al is the author of the sports books series ‘Coach Dave.’  Al is married, lives in Mississippi and has 3 children – 2 boys and a girl.

Twitter: @alainsworth

Facebook: /alainsworth

Websites and blog: alainsworth.com; coachdavebook.com

Listen Now:

Listen in ITunes: Itunes link

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‘Coach defense first’

Coaching my own kids

  • Al coached some of kids early teams, but really saw the value in handing them off to experience other coaches.  With Al’s extensive coaching background – he was often asked to help, but he preferred to help coach the coaches instead of coaching the kids, so that the coaches could learn and keep all the authority.

My Cringe & ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments

  • Al had to learn that if you coach players who might not be as die-hard about the sport as you are – you can still value them and enjoy coaching them.
  • Have fun.  In Al’s early years he was too focused on the box score and winning.
  • Don’t coach between every pitch – competitive situations are tough enough – don’t talk too much – game time should be minimal instruction.

Teaching Children & Keeping it Fun

Self-Confidence and teaching kids to achieve peak performance

  • Remember that sports seasons are long – so you really have to make an extra effort of keeping things fun towards the end of the year


  • Define roles.  If a kid understands his role, he is far more likely to perform at the highest level.
  • Good analogy – in singing: you can’t hold back – ‘Make big fat ugly mistakes’

Culture – Discipline/Rewards/Teambuilding

  • Establish the culture, but don’t overdo it trying to set up a bunch of rules
  • Celebrate the non-obvious things – the bunts, the sacrifices, the little things
  • Andy Stanley: ‘What is celebrated is what is repeated’

Connecting with Kids

  • Al had to make a move to move a younger kid into a position over a senior who was a super hard worker.  But the kid later told him that he really respected that he made a tough decision.

The One that Got Away

  • Al’s team lost a state championship in a 7-6 game.  But the other team rode one pitcher’s arm most of the way, whereas Al’s team used several pitchers – and his pitchers went on to have more successful college careers.
  • Al also shared a story of coaching basketball – and how he learned from a mistake he made early in his career and benefited from that mistake by getting it right later in his career

Best Stolen idea


  • ‘Coach Defense first’ – Learned from Bill Marchant at Delta State University
  • Kids will lose focus as the practice goes on – so when you need their full attention teaching them something – do it early in the practice.

Coach Dave – The book

  • Fictitious account of a recreational baseball league
  • Written at a player’s level, through the eyes of a parent, with the catalyst being the coach
  • Lots of game action, very positive
  • Great book for fathers to read with their sons
  • Find it at: coachdavebook.com or on Amazon

Parting Advice

  • Don’t try to coach above what you know – reach out for help
  • If you can, try to stay with the same group for several years
  • Have fun


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