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Q: I'm having a lot of problems getting my players to pay attention to me. HELP!

A: Some kids don't pay attention to anyone, particularly at tee ball age, so let's not assume you're failing them. With that said, coaches are famous for being part of that culture that can reach children when no one else can, so let's look at the best way to equip yourself to get through to them. A former schoolteacher once told me that his trick for keeping discipline in the classroom was to never smile before Christmas. Although probably a bit ofan overstatement, his point is well-taken in that authority figures don't gain discipline by trying to demonstrate what good guys they are. The players need to be in your camp and prove things to you. You need to build that camp and make sure that when they prove they're part of your program that you'll nurture, support, train, encourage, and kid around with them.

Discipline begins with habit and repetition. Make a habit of practice and game routines that reinforce the fact that you're on the field to play baseball. I always told my players that baseball is a great game and that they needed to show it respect when they step inside of the chain link area of the playing field by not playing around. We did not allow them to stir around in the dirt, chase butterflies, or play with their caps. While some think it's cute for them to do this, it also defeats the point of having them learn a team sport where the rest of the team is counting on them to do their part. I spent a lot of time talking to them about baseball and tried to develop in them a sense of gamesmanship. It worked pretty well. The older kids werethe first to catch on, then I asked them to show some leadership. Believe it or not, those 6 and 7 year olds towed the line and brought the 4 and 5 year olds along with them. They all worked very hard and had a great time. Most of those kids are still playing baseball, and that tee ball team, five or six generations of players removed, is still doing well. Habit and repetition requires a lot of patience and persistence from you.
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