Building a New Team from Scratch
Your child wants to play baseball and you are willing to coach a team. But, you discover that there is no organized baseball program in your community. What do you do? Where do you start?
A good place to start is the YMCA or your community recreation department. If your community is large enough to have a youth baseball program and does not, you may want to start a program. In that case either the YMCA or recreation department can be a valuable ally in your efforts. Starting and running an entire league is beyond the scope of this topic. However, if you can get several teams started, then a league and program of your own will not be far behind.
If your community is not large enough to have its own baseball program you will need to play outside the community. The recreation department should be able to give you information on what baseball programs are in place in surrounding communities. If there are teams, or even better, leagues, in surrounding communities, then you can be assured that the team you build will have other teams to play against.
Assuming that there is one or more, communities with youth baseball teams near yours and ideally a league in which your team may play you can take the next step. Get schedules for play, age rules, financial requirements, number of games in a season, and other administrative details involved with playing those teams. Talk to the league administrator to insure that your team will be allowed to play in that league. Some communities will allow only teams from their community to play in their league. Others will allow, and sometimes welcome, teams from surrounding communities. If you can play in a league, do so. One or two games per week, usually in the late afternoon or early evening will be good for your team.
Another good resource would be administrators of youth baseball programs in your state. There are a number of organizations that organize and administer baseball throughout the country:
American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) www.voyager.net/aabc
Babe Ruth Baseball www.baberuthbaseball.org
Boys & Girls Club of America www.bgca.org
Dizzy Dean Baseball, Inc. http://dizzydeanbbinc.org/
Little League www.littleleague.org
PONY Baseball, Inc. www.pony.org
T-Ball USA www.teeballusa.org
United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) www.usssa.com
Use the phone book, Internet and other sources to find one or more of these associations in your area. Contact them to gather additional information on schedules for play, age rules, financial requirements, number of games in a season, etc. If the organizations sanction tournaments in your state they will be able to give you a list of tournament directors whom you can contact to see if your team can participate in one or more tournaments.
With this information in hand you can develop a preliminary plan for your team with schedules, number of games, financial requirements, etc. This will be necessary when you begin the process of recruiting players for your team.
The number one resource you need to build a team is PLAYERS. No matter what other resources you have at your disposal you will not be able to do a thing unless you have players. To begin the process of selecting your team it is a good idea to have a meeting of prospective players and their parents to explain what is involved in playing baseball. You can usually get a meeting room at the YMCA, recreation center or a school. Publicize the meeting well, through the newspapers, schools, YMCA and recreation centers. Dont be discouraged if your first meeting is not attended well. It takes time, effort and lots of stick to it ness to start a baseball program. Go over all the information you have, such as the season schedule, when and where you will practice and play, how many games the team will play, the financial commitment required to play, fund raising opportunities for the families, etc. Answering parents and players questions can go a long way to getting people comfortable with you and your mission and help you get some enthusiasm going for baseball. One example of a handout with items you may want to consider using is A Season Overview which is available at: http://balltips.homestead.com/BallTipsA37s5O.html Modify the handout, with dates, locations and financial information, etc. appropriate for your situation and it will provide a page to give to potential players and their parents for their reference. Prospective team members will feel much more comfortable if they understand what is involved in committing to a team.
You will need to decide how many players you want on the team. With nine, or sometimes ten, players on the field at one time I believe it is wise to have thirteen to fifteen players on the team. In general, competitive teams, with skilled and committed players will carry smaller rosters, 10 to 14 players. Recreational teams, with less commitment, should carry larger rosters, 12 to 16 players. The tradeoffs are these. On teams with smaller rosters players will play more and playing time is a major component of player satisfaction. However, a small roster requires that all players be at all games so as to prevent a forfeit due to an insufficient number of players. With larger rosters there is more flexibility of moving players around and allowing players to miss some games, but when all players are present each plays less. However, this does allow for the occasional absence of a player and still leaves you with players for every position. Another factor to consider is how much experience the players have in baseball. Those with several years experience generally know whats expected and are likely to stay committed during the season. Those with little or no experience may become unhappy during the season and leave the team, thus a larger roster to start the season is a good idea. As a general rule, recreational players are more likely to miss a game or two during the season than competitive players who should have a greater commitment to play all the time. All things considered, I believe a good compromise is to start with 13-15 players.
If there are more kids who want to play than you plan to put on the team, one way to select the team is through tryouts. Schedule one, or more, tryouts depending on how many potential players are available and how much experience they have in baseball. At a tryout you observe players fielding, throwing, hitting and running and use these observations to select the team. The benefits of a tryout for you, the coach, are that you should be able to pick the best players for your team and give the team the best chance for success.
The drawbacks of a tryout are that some kids, sometimes those with the most potential, will not be chosen, will leave unhappy and perhaps drop out of sports. If you are trying to put together a competitive team, with winning as an objective, a tryout is useful. If you are more interested in simply getting a group of kids together to have enjoy playing baseball, and participation is an objective, a tryout is not only unnecessary, but may be counter productive.
If you decide to have tryouts feel free to use these resources:
A Tryout Registration form: http://balltips.homestead.com/BallTipsZ01t7X.html
A Tryout Evaluation sheet: http://balltips.homestead.com/BallTipsZ02o8Y.html
Once you decide which players you want on your team contact the parents and ask them if their child would like to play. More than likely you will find that you have enough players interested and your team is formed. You are now ready to begin your coaching career.
Reprinted with permission from: A Youth Baseball Coaches Tool Kit