Have you ever seen an 8U or under game where the base running is station to station? If you a rec league coach, maybe the better question is when is the last time you didn’t see station to station base running? If you did see it you also probably heard some calls from opposing coaches and parents about sportsmanship.
For some reason most teams default to this slow, plodding style of baseball. Why? Well, no one wants to be “that coach” that has his kids run the bases aggressively and risk being seen as a bully who is taking advantage of kids that haven’t mastered defensive play.
My Moment of Realization
Recently one of my teams was playing a really tough team in a tournament. It was clear from early on that this team was good and aggressive base running team. But in my area, there’s an “unwritten rule” that you don’t expose kids weaknesses (most of the time).
Well this team didn’t care. The second they saw a fielder with the ball not paying attention they were off. And these kids didn’t slow down as they approached the next base. They assumed they would keep going. Their approach was to force us to throw the ball ahead of the runner and actually get them out before they would stop.
We couldn’t stop them with any consistency.
What made it worse is when we tried to run with the same level of aggression, they were able to make the plays to stop us.
Needless to say, were very ill prepared and got blown out.
At first I was irritated at the other team’s style, not unlike a lot of people might be. But after thinking about it, I realized something.
We are Failing as Coaches
Baseball is a game of failure, plain and simple. While this statement is typically used to reference hitting, in youth baseball it applies to pretty much every part of the game. Kids are trying to learn the game. So obviously there are quite a few rough edges.
But are we doing our kids any favors by 1) not teaching them what good base running is, and 2) not teaching them how to defend good base running?
I don’t think so.
What that game made me realize is that failing to teach our kids proper, aggressive baseball at the earliest of ages not only hurts our kids, but the entire league. This belief that taking advantage of another team’s weakness is not good sportsmanship is ridiculous. It’s good, intelligent baseball!
As coaches, we need to stop ruining the game. Letting this behavior persist is one of the problems that we must address.
Be a Pioneer…Teach Good Fundamental Base Running
The funny thing is as soon as one coach in your league starts running the bases aggressively your entire league will quickly start doing it too. Maybe not to the same degree, but other coaches will adjust. What’s also interesting is the overall level of defensive play will pick up too.
Why?? Because if they don’t they won’t be competitive.
They’ll figure out how to teach their kids 1) how to pay attention and properly defend good base runners, and 2) how to run the bases intelligently.
Build dedicated time every practice plan to teaching good, aggressive base running.
Every Kid Can be a Great Base Runner
Teaching kids to hit, throw and catch properly in the confines of a team practice is almost impossible. Frankly, coaches can’t be given that burden. They have 12-15 kids on a team and maybe 40 hours of time during a season to teach. Every kid is at a different place in their development and coordination.
But every kid is capable of running the bases…and doing it well.
Base running should be viewed as a skill that even the worst player on the team can master. If we take it seriously and let them see success, it could be the one thing that helps them fall in love with the game. Success in base running could give them the confidence they need to believe they can master the other skills necessary.
Let Kids Learn the Lessons Baseball has to Teach
Baseball is an incredible character building sport for kids. Unfortunately we live in a culture that still shies away from letting kids learn by failing. So instead of letting our kids learn to embrace the learning process we (collectively) remove the ability of kids to fail by watering down the game.
To me, good base running is a joy to watch. As coaches, we do our kids a disservice to not teach intelligent, aggressive base running from a very early age.
Question: Do you teach your players to run the bases aggressively? You can leave a comment by clicking here.