One of the most difficult things to accomplish as a coach is to earn the respect of your players. It must be done quickly, as soon as the team is formed and first practices begin, and it is essential to your goals.
Earning the kids’ respect, vs. demanding it, are two different things. We have seen tough-talking ex-military types whose players walked all over them, and soft-spoken CPAs whose players would run through walls for them. It’s all in how you set the groundwork.
You’re not their parents and they know this. You are there to facilitate a fun activity, not enforce homework rules and bedtime curfews. So they are receptive to you right from the start.
Here are some necessities to gain the respect of your players:
Come to every practice with a plan, an outline and a schedule of what you want to accomplish that particular day. Stick to your schedule and delegate to the boys the responsibility of making sure everyone is working together and staying on-task.
Let your team parents and the players know that you begin practice at exactly such-and-such time and you expect everyone there on time if not early.
When everyone is there, have your players take a knee in a half-circle around you, so you can explain in a normal voice what will be practiced that day, and you can make eye contact with every player. Make sure to make that eye contact as you talk.
Make it clear that no talking is allowed while you are talking - questions will come after you’re done. Keep it brief, clear, and to the point. Then ask, “any questions?”
On game days, have your lineup done before the game, and your pitching rotation mapped out. You do not want the kids watching and waiting for you to scramble around trying to put everyone into position.
Know what you’re talking about. If you’re new to coaching, buy some coaching books or videos and learn how to run practices and games.
Be Firm and Decisive
Don’t waver on decisions as to playing time, how to position your players, who drags the field, etc. You don’t want to give your instructions like, “John, want to drag the field?” It’s “John, you’ll be dragging the field today.”
Have a set of rules and let the players know there are consequences if they are broken. For example, if a player doesn’t follow an instruction (without good cause), you might have him run a lap around the field by himself, or put him on trash pickup detail at the field. The point is, if you have rules and they are broken, you must follow through with them. Too many parents fail at this point, and have lost control of their children at a young age. If you enforce your rules - something many do not get at home - you’ll not only gain the respect of that kid, but the others players as well.
Be a Role Model
Keep in mind that you are constantly being watched by your players, not only as a coach, but also as an adult. If you act silly at inappropriate times, or lose your temper and act like a fool, you’ve not only lost your cool, but your “coolness” in the eyes of the youths.
Stand up for yourself and your team - don’t let another coach bully you into switching dugouts because the sun is in his kids’ eyes, or trying to get away with running kids up to the plate out of order to get that big hit when they need it.
Most coaches have nothing but respect for one another, but there are some who try to push their way around. Of course this does not suggest you get into a fight with another coach! Be civil.
Good Cop, Bad Cop
You’ve got to quickly establish control, and that calls for some firmness. But the kids are there for fun, after all, so you need to balance that authority with a friendly side that understands the kids and makes them enjoy your company. Sometimes you’ve got to be tough, other times, you need to contrast that toughness with fun and be a kid with them, on their level.
The Benefits of Respect
Once you’ve become an authority figure in the eyes of your players, you’ll not only have a more efficient and successful team, but the kids will have more fun as well.
Coaches who are firm, fair, and fun get the respect they deserve without having to demand it.