When I told my old high school baseball coach that I was coaching 6-year-olds this summer, he offered a bit of advice.
He said, "Remember, at that age, their attention span is very limited."
Nick and I have done our best to keep that in mind, especially during practices. There we can break players into small groups and keep them busy with drills. There's not a lot of downtime during our once-a-week, one-hour prep session.
But when it comes to games, 6-year-old minds are a lot more difficult to keep attentive. Players are either standing in the field waiting for a ball to come there way (or maybe praying it won't) or sitting on the bench waiting to bat.
Our fourth game was a prime example. We made a handful of plays, like an unassisted play at second base, and another at third, and some players showed some unexpected skills at the plate off live pitching.
But the players seemed to have a general lack of interest this night. Maybe it was because school is just about out for the summer or maybe there was a full moon. I don't know. But a lot of the players seemed to want to be elsewhere - mostly in line for the Port-O-Pottie - than on the baseball field.
In fact, my most memorable moment of the evening was when I approached our second baseman during the third inning, noticed the hole he had created with his right baseball shoe that was deep enough to hide his foot almost up to his ankle and asked him what the heck he was doing.
"Digging," he said.
It was just one of those nights, I guess. It got me thinking about all the volunteer coaches that have been doing this for years, giving up their time for the love of the game. If I had a nickle for every time I heard one of the following phrases, I'd have, well, a lot of nickles. I haven't been doing this long enough to rake in some serious cash. But if those longtime coaches got one each team they heard these words uttered, they'd have a nice little retirement fund going:
"When do I bat?" (or any variation: "Who bats before me?"; "Who do I bat after?"; "Am I going to bat this inning?")
"How many outs do we have?"
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"Where's my hat (or glove, bat, batting glove, etc.)?"
"Can I play first base?"
And going along with that, here are some things I wish I didn't have to say again this season, but I know I will:
"Don't throw the bat after you hit the ball." Note: We've gotten much, much better at this, and we even have one girl who bends both knees, squats down and daintily places the bat on the ground before running to first.
"If you don't have a helmet and aren't batting this inning, you shouldn't be carrying a bat."
"I'll tell you when you bat when it's your turn."
"Stand up (when a fielder plops down on the ground)."
"Sit down (when players are prancing around when our team is batting)."
"Be sure you're paying attention."
Feel free to post a message with any that I missed, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll include them in next week's blog.
Speaking of next week, Game 5, the halfway point of the season, is 7 p.m. Monday, June 15, on Malone No. 8.