The YMCA, headquartered in Chicago, Ill., has more than 2,500 facilities nationwide. T-ball is one of the top 30 programs that local YMCAs offer all over the country. In fact, almost half of them offer T-ball leagues to youth in their communities.
"T-ball is a great progressive developmental activity for kids," says Augie Mendoza, the YMCA's associate director of sports. "They can use safe and age-appropriate equipment while learning about team building and team play. It sets the stage for adult life."
If a new coach happens to live in an area with a local YMCA chapter, there is plenty of help available. Ninety-nine percent of YMCA coaches are volunteer parents who receive training from local YMCA sports directors. According to Mendoza, the coaches receive training in supporting character development, preventing child abuse and ending practice with a drill that gives the kids positive reinforcement about their performance. In addition, every child plays for at least one-half of each game and plays all positions throughout the season.
"Kids really want their parents to be involved, and the T-ball field is a great place for parents and children to connect," Mendoza says. "It is a great family outlet with a role for everyone: base coach, snack parent, umpire and 'team mom/dad.' You do not have to know the game to get involved."
For parents, coaching is often a daunting responsibility that requires time, energy and knowledge they may not have. However, for a child eager to play, practices and games are a much different experience. A coach needs to remember how important this experience can be for the players. Tony Argula remembers the inspiring anticipation of one child preparing to play T-ball for the first time: "During opening ceremonies, a 5-year-old player told me, 'Coach, I've been waiting for this day my whole life!'"Coach Tony's Top Coaching Tips
- Gather as much material as you can. With all the great information out there, no one should have to start from scratch.
- Get all of the necessary information from your league director.
- Have your practices mapped out so you will be able to go right into the next drill without making it up on the fly.
- Be flexible enough to change your plan if it is not working. Some things will work one day but not the next. Have a few extra drills ready.
- Seek out parent volunteers! The more, the better!
- Keep the players and the action moving constantly. When young players are standing around, they will lose interest and focus.
- Break concepts and drills down into manageable portions.
- Remember to keep your sense of humor and sanity. Ten years from now, you should be able to look back on this experience and laugh.
- Remember that you are doing this for the kids.