Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Balancing development with winning

February 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Coaching

One of the many challenges that youth level coaches face involves the balance between developing your players and winning games.  Many times the two go hand in hand.  The programs that develop better players tend to win more games.

But what do you do when developing your players leads to losses?

Here is an example of what I mean …

There are runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs and your 9 year old team is in the field.  The runner on 1st attempts to steal second base.

Do you …

  1. have the catcher throw to second base?
  2. have the catcher fire a throw back to the pitcher or to the shortstop?
  3. have the catcher just lob the ball back to the pitcher and let the runner walk into 2nd base?

All three answers have value so no one answer is correct at all times.  However, my opinion is that #1 should be my catcher’s option most of the time.

In the future, every catcher will have to throw a strike to 2nd base in that situation.  I think it’s my job to teach them how to do it and give them opportunities to do it in games.  Is the other team going to get some easy runs?  Yes.  Most runners on 3rd will walk home easily without a play.  Will my catcher launch some into the outfield?  Yes.  Will the play often result in getting nobody out?  Again, Yes.  Am I going to have the catcher do this every single time?  Probably not.

On the flip side, there is also value in teaching young players how to win.  Teaching trade-offs and the strategy of playing the odds is certainly part of this.  This is why all three answers have value.

Here are some other scenarios where you will have to decide on whether it’s more important to develop your players for the future or to win right now.

  • Runners are not allowed to move up or score on passed balls.  Do you still teach your catchers how to block?
  • Runners cannot steal or cannot steal until the ball crosses the plate.  Do you still have your pitchers throw from the stretch and check the runners before their delivery?
  • Your pitchers only throw fastballs.  Do you still have them get a signal from the catcher?
  • Runners are not allowed to advance on overthrows.  Do you still make your fielders/pitchers back-up bases?
  • Your field is small enough where the 2nd baseman can easily cover first base to help on a ball hit to the 1st baseman.  Do you still have the pitcher cover first base?

Personally, I am comfortable answering YES to all of those because not only would I like them to win today, I want them to learn what will make them successful at the next level as well.

There are no right or wrong answers here.  Just be sure to give this balance between development and winning some thought if you coach at the younger levels.

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