The first thing I am looking for is to have everything pointed toward the high school tryout. I am looking for players who want to be there, who want to get better, who want to challenge themselves. I am not looking for players whose parents have them there for social hour. I always asked my son at the end of every season - do you want to do this again? I wanted him to answer the question after a long season and lots of practices, when he was tired and worn out. The answer had to be an unequivocal - yes. I would like the parents on the team to do the same. If the players have doubts then they probably need to be in a metro/rec league - which is fine and a great place to have fun playing the game. My son did that his senior year after playing at Langham creek for three years. He was tired of the work and just wanted to have fun and he did have fun that year - the whole family did.
So we are pointed to high school and the skills needed to get on the team. With that in mind, as much as I love to win, I will not coach skills that do not scale upward. I will not spend time on trick plays that only work to score runs at lower levels because other teams are young or inexperienced. I would rather spend thirty more minutes working on ground balls.
Hitting: I teach the Ted Williams swing that focuses on line drives. It is not a level swing nor a downward swing. Those produce ground balls which may produce wins at the 4u-12u level but as players get older those ground balls turn into outs and by then it is hard to change a swing that has been developed for five years. The swing I teach is a slightly upward swing that matches the angle (plane) of the pitch in order to give the bat more time in the hitting zone.
Pitching: I will not teach a pitcher little tricks to get an extra bit of velocity here and there. I focus on proper mechanics and getting the power of the pitch from the hip/shoulder separation. I make sure kids are healthy and I run strict pitch counts per weekend and season for my pitchers. I also focus on control and consistency. I would rather a pitcher give up 10 hits and walk none than give up no hits and walk ten.
Fielding: I emphasize defense with my teams. Offense is nice but low walks and defense win championships. We work on fielding over and over and over because the way you become a better fielder is to field more balls. A good fielding team is what usually takes the longest to build which is why it can take some time to build a winning team.
Playing time: I will always bat the entire roster.
In a typical tournament format on Saturday and in league play, no one sits twice until everyone sits once. On any elimination games (Sunday or playoffs), no one sits more than one inning in a row. They may sit every other inning but no more than one in a row.
In the VTool tournament format where every game counts equally, if we get in a close game after two or three innings, I may revert back to the starting lineups. Again - no player will sit more than one inning in a row.
The way I do playing time is how I try to combine player development with positional competition so the player gets the advantages of both. As a player - if you don’t want to be in a rotation (every other inning) like that - then work harder and get that much better than the other players at your position.
School: I am a teacher. I spent seventeen years in CFISD and am now in my third year in Klein. I emphasize school work, doing your best, asking for help, and getting the work done. I will never question a parent who says my child needs to get this school work done or needs to study for this or that. School is always number one. I try to schedule tournaments and practices around testing in the spring so the kids can be well rested and focused during STAAR days.
I do not cuss around the kids and I do not berate or yell at them. I will correct them and we will move on. As long as players are giving effort and are respectful to each other and the game, there is no reason for a coach to become angry at a player. Every player has made a bonehead mistake, a bad throw, dropped a ball, etc… It makes no sense to yell, curse, or scream at them to show your disappointment. First of all - they are way more upset about whatever happened themselves than the coach could ever be and second - this is when they need an even keel and a solution, “this is what you did wrong, we will get it next time.” We want to win, but this is not life and death. It is supposed to be fun and the biggest thing it does is teach children how to become better adults. Throughout all of this, as my old engineering self would say, the end product is what they learn from us to take into their adult lives. If I don’t have that on my mind in the way that I deal with them, with my expectations, and with what I teach them - I am doing it wrong.
Rosters: Once you make the Hawks roster, you never need to try out for us again. You are part of the family. I will never cut a player because I found a better player. That is not what we are building this team to be about. I want to have twelve players on the team. That seems to be the perfect number for rotation during games and practices.
Practices: The plan is typically two or three times per week starting in mid August and then mid-January. I think kids deserve at least a month off after each season to rest their bodies and just have time to be kids. I plan on twice per week but I usually have places available three times per week. I will probably have a facility twice per week and a field once per week so we get at least two practices per week even if it rains. It does raise the cost a little but the insurance is well worth it.
Uniforms: I am a minimalist. I am not into big, expensive, fancy uniforms. I think we should be able to uniform a player with two jerseys, a practice jersey or two and a batting helmet for less than $150. I do my best to keep it under that number. I would like each player to have a C Flap. It’s the safest way to go.
Extras: I video and take photos during many of the practices to be able to sit down and evaluate what players are really doing with their mechanics. I video every game and live stream each game also. That way grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, parents who are away, etc… can still watch the games. We do GameChanger on every game and I keep complete season and “career” stats on each player that I have. I can tell you the OPS of a player that played with me from 2009-2012 and is now playing at Odessa College.
Parents: That being said, since it is a one man organization, parent help is key. I usually need two parents to help coaching and I teach them what exactly I am looking for and our specific philosophies and how to teach them. I also need an A / V person to set up cameras and someone to take pictures as well as a serious scorekeeper to run GameChanger. And I will always need a team mom to take control of the little things and organizing.
Individual lessons: I don’t do them and I don’t expect you to go somewhere else to get them. If you want to, that is your choice, but, I expect the work we do in practice combined with the work that the player is supposed to do outside of practice(I will give them things to work on), should be enough to keep the player moving forward. Many times outside lessons are just about extra reps that an informed mom/dad could do for free at home.
Home Equipment: I would like each player to have a tee and hitting net at home. They can hit baseballs, softball, tennis balls, whatever - I would just like it available for them to work on things. I would also like each player to have a bounce back net. That way they could work on throwing and fielding on their own also. I also hope that this equipment will keep them working out and off their phone or gaming system.
Costs: Right now monthly costs will run about $236 per month. That includes all facilities, coaching, video and picture analysis, streaming or posted games on video, and team administrative work. It does not include basic season equipment nor costs of games. What I do before the season starts is I add up the costs of new baseballs and other equipment we may need and schedule the tournaments we expect to play in and then come up with a “season cost” that is separate from the monthly cost. I usually ask for 60% of that before the season and 40% of that midway through the season. The reason I ask for tournament money up front is that I can’t substitute another player on another team in the organization, we are the only team. When someone decides not to play one weekend if the tournament is already paid for - it makes it easier to find a pickup player. That way we don’t miss a tournament because a couple people are going out of town for the weekend.
Fundraising: This is completely up to the team. Teams often raise enough money to pay for the entire season costs (not including the monthly fee).
Family: I consider this team my extended family. I am still friends with parents and families from all the teams I have coached. We have a Facebook group that we use to communicate with each other and post pictures and videos of the triumphs of not only the players but the brothers and sisters also. #HawksForLife
Future Summer Tournaments (World Series): I love going to big, week-long summer tournaments with pin trading, and skills competitions and five or six game guarantees. However - sometimes the teams don’t do so well so when we go to these things, it has to be understood that the kids and families should be there for the experiences, not the rings. Sometimes you do well and sometimes you are outmatched depending on the level of tournament you go to. My plan for this team would be:
2021 (10u) - Local World Series
2022 (11u) - World series in Texas/Louisiana
2023 (12u) - National World Series (Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Ripken in Maryland)
2024 (13u) - Beaumont World Series
2025 (14u) - None - kids hopefully in High School summer leagues
These are the basics of how I have coached and run my teams for the past 15 years and how I will continue to run the Hawks for the next four years.