Keep it fun by being fair
| 3 min read
For grassroots baseball and softball coaches, setting a lineup is one of the easiest parts of the job. Can you list all of your players? Yes? Then you’re halfway to creating a batting order for the season.
“At the youngest ages, just keep it fair,” says Dan Keller, longtime youth baseball coach and founder of Dugout Captain. He explains how to do that and other factors to consider as you set your lineup.
The most important thing when setting a batting order for the 5- to 8-year-old range is creating a fair system. Start with an alphabetized list or pull numbers out of a hat. Once you have your initial order, make sure to systematically change it for each subsequent game. The number one spot moves down to the bottom and number two becomes top of the order. And so on. Give all your players the chance to be the lead-off hitter.
Different coaches have different opinions on the best way to set a lineup. Some put the strongest hitters at the top to start the game off with a bang. Others alternate sluggers with less reliable hitters. You’ll find what works best for you and your team. With the young age groups, this kind of planning doesn’t apply just yet.
Warning: Some players might balk at their turn to take the batter’s box. Getting up to bat can be scary – even for older kids. Players often struggle with fear of failure or fear of getting hit. “Three pitches, three swings” is a great drill for coaches to have in their mental toolbox to get kids swinging. (Tell your player they have to swing at the first three pitches. They don’t have a choice.) Suggest a fun mantra kids can chant in their heads. Something like: See the ball, hit the ball.
At the youngest ages, no one is keeping score. It’s all about developing skills and growing the love of the game. Encourage all your players to swing hard no matter where they are in the batting order. Staying positive goes in the books as a coaching home run.
Dan Keller is part of MOJO’s Partnerships & Strategy team.