Tournament team managers and coaches are entrusted with representing their Babe Ruth league program. They are often the most important and visible leaders within the organization and all eyes will be on them during the tournament trail.
Baseball and softball are best played in a relaxed state of mind, and when there are signs among the coaches and parents that the tournament trail is more than just another game, the players are more likely to make mistakes. Tension inhibits the body’s ability to perform motor skills effectively, can lead to an inability to think quickly and make proper decisions and can sap your strength and energy.
For the sake of the kids, and ultimately the team, it is best to try to approach all-star situations as much like any other game as possible. While you lead your teams into battle for district, state and regional championships, we truly believe that a relaxed team has the best chance to perform up to its potential. Use the same type of strategy you have used all year long. Approach these games the way you have approached every other game leading up to this point and everything will be fine.
Your ability as a coach to create this sense of normalcy can carry you a long way. Presumably your tournament team consists of the best players in your league as chosen objectively. They are all stars. Every one of them can play the game at a high enough level to merit a spot on your team. However, we are still talking about kids here, and it is a coach’s job to develop these players – even in a tournament setting.
A kid who has talent but sits on the bench throughout a tournament experience because a coach thinks someone else gives him or her a better chance to win might never be the same again. He or she might lose confidence, or even worse, develop a negative feeling toward the game.
Kids can surprise you. Some perform better in games than in practices. Some do well under pressure. Some play better against better competition. Many are unpredictable.
As a manager or coach, you should lay out the ground rules in advance. Distribute the playing time evenly so there is a comfort level among the players that they are going to get into the game no matter what. This will allow them to relax and play the game to the best of their ability without fear of being relegated to the bench. These players have worked hard and played well enough all year to deserve a spot on the team, and their reward is being able to be part of the tournament experience and contribute to the team.
We realize each coach has his or her own style and beliefs. But, you must remember the Babe Ruth League tournament trail is set up to provide a positive baseball/softball social and cultural experience. Win or lose, these are the experiences that kids should remember fondly for the rest of their lives.
They shouldn’t look back on something as positive as being a member of a tournament team with disdain. It’s an honor to be recognized as one of the best, and the opportunity to play more baseball or softball against better competition – and meet new people from different places – should be cherished.
Do your best to make sure that the all-star experience is fulfilling as it should be for all of your players.