Why This Game Can Be So Complicated
In one sentence, the reason this game can be so complicated is that many newcomers expect Tee Ball to be just like baseball. But it isn't. The game was created as a way of introducing young children to the game of baseball so they could enjoy this great sport while developing baseball skills and sportsmanship at a pace they could handle.
provides a very comfortable atmosphere in which these objectives can be met, as do many other rule books published throughout the world. In the Tee Ball Baseball rule book, there are provisions built in to suit local needs for younger players. The official rules of baseball generally apply to Tee Ball Baseball, but the fact that the ball is placed on the tee and hit while stationary demands that there be a re- balancing of the relative advantages enjoyed by the offense and defense.
Because a fairly uncomplicated game like baseball has been adjusted to accommodate young children, the game is packed with judgment calls for the umpires and the need for managers, coaches, players, and parents to learn the ins and outs of a game they might not otherwise recognize. The failure of coaches and parents to understand the game of tee ball has hurt many children by denying them the benefit of meaningful well-developed training right from the start. I have heard from dozens of coaches and parents who have told me that they wished they'd known more about the game earlier. Unfortunately, a late start in a game like tee ball or baseball typically means the player won't make up the difference until the next season when he can get a better start.
Since the game can get complicated at times, managers, coaches, and parents need to put some thought into how they intend to teach their players the game. Tee ball players generally range in age from 4 to 7 years, with some getting as young as 3 and some girls as old as 8. Many of us learned baseball long ago and have long since forgotten what it was like to see baseball through a child's eyes. This gap tends to produce one of two outcomes in coaches and parents.
On one hand, some describe the game in adult terms, not appreciating the fact that these kids don't know what it means to "step in the bucket" or "take an extra base" until someone tells and shows them and they've had a chance to practice it a lot.
On the other hand, some underestimate the importance of well-developed tee ball skills and remain silent to the extent that they teach them nothing about the game. Some parents make so little of their children's athletic endeavors to the point that the children become incredibly awkward and unprepared on the field because they are "oh-so-cute," uninitiated to the learning environment the coach is there to maintain. You can teach these youngsters to "get in the dirt" and "turn two." Of course, you can anticipate less than perfect execution, but it's fun to watch them learn and attempt these skills. It is utterly satisfying to see them do it right, even if it's only once in a while, but you'll find that if you can get them to be successful a few times they soon gain confidence and consistency.
As you might expect, you have to have a lot of patience and perseverance to manage, coach, and teach a group of tee ball players. When you lose your patience with your players, they can see it on your face. Of course, as part care-giver, part coach, part teacher, and part parent figure, you need to motivate your players through the use of a variety of leadership tools. Use them prudently and judiciously. Remember that this game, like any new game, can be complicated for them too.
The trick to coaching is knowing how to present the same material dozens of different ways. Each of those deliveries is like a key, and when you can walk onto the field with a pocket full of those keys, you improve your kids chances of learning the material. The likelihood that you will succeed as a coach with only one way to describe or teach a skill is very poor.
Successful coaches are those who can take physical challenges and use analogies and common visual imagery to establish an intellectual and cognitive connection with their players. For tee ball players, these images are best when they are a bit dramatic: point the belly button toward the part of the field where you want to hit the ball, make your arm like an elephant's trunk when throwing, and point the button on your cap toward the direction from which the ball came, for instance.
Parents are almost uniformly surprised at how capable their children are at learning a sport and developing athletic skills. In some cases, this surprise is preceded by skepticism. Great coaches do not allow this skepticism to deter them from formulating success for their teams and players. Obviously, it takes a lot of work at home, practice on the field, and patience from coaches and parents. In any case, diligence, persistence, and the proper perspective will simplify the complexity of this game.
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