Spring is a favorite time of year for me as I continue to coach a youth baseball team each year. We aim to keep things fun while attempting to be competitive. We follow the ideals promoted by Owatonna's Youth 1st program.

A website I like to follow is Active Kids. I find ideas that help, in addition to approaches to avoid.Even the concept of "just have fun" has to have some balance. To be true to the game, you have to take it seriously and not let players disrespect the game or their opponent. Our coaching staff decided last year to ask a versatile player if he wanted to play every position in a game. I then spoke to the opposing coach since our player would occupy each outfield spot in the same inning and I wanted the coach to know what we were doing.

The suggestion of "don't drink water during practice" simple sounds ridiculous. I guess there's stories of old-school coaches years ago denying players water breaks. But that is just wrong. For that matter, "sports drinks" may be overused by some athletes. Strong advertising and professional athlete endorsements have made them a part of our lives, but water and a healthy diet will take care of a young athlete's needs, according to Active Kids.

The idea of "playing just one sport" seems to get repeatedly shot down by many high school coaches I talk to. Many pro athletes were multi-sport athletes. I know plenty of people whose kids got burned out on a sport due to over exposure.

Another old-school mantra that should be a thing of the past is "no pain, no gain." While not every little injury should sideline a player, watching for injury has become a bigger job of coaches in all sports. A great effort has made to make everyone more aware of concussions with many organizations requiring coaches to keep up on certification for them.

It's hard to avoid the urge to "focus on winning." From an early age kids will ask, "What's the score?" and "Did we win?" And I believe there's nothing wrong with that. It's the follow up question that's more important. "Who had fun?" "Who made a good play?" that has always been my focus. How a coach handles a loss will affect how players respond.

In my experience, I have run across coaches who say "We don't keep stats." I feel you shouldn't over emphasize statistics, it's part of the overall package of sports participation. It allows you to help players make goals and strive to reach them.

I've always enjoyed working with Mark Arjes of Owatonna's Youth 1st program. Their message of sportsmanship focuses on conduct, character and community through their efforts.

Now if we could just get winter out of here so we can play some ball.

Inspired by: Active Kids


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