Are we done yet?

Improvement has been DRASTIC this year. I’d imagine any 5-year old would improve quite a bit due to the number of times we’ve played. With a quick count, we’ve played 14 games and grinded through 17 practices. By the time we are finished, we’ll have tallied 36 team workouts. 36!  That’s gotta be twice as many meetings as my son’s soccer team had last fall. And that’s the primary reason why we will be DONE until next spring.


I’ll be asking my parents anonymously what they liked and disliked about the season. One thing that can not be argued is just how much our athletes have improved. Earlier this week at practice, we re-ran some of the drills from our first and second workouts. It was REMARKABLE to watch the development that has taken place from then until now – throwing, fielding, receiving, baseball athleticism – all have improved drastically. Super cool!

That is what we preach at Dugout Captain. You don’t have to be a great baseball mind – you simply have to run a single efficient and effective practice. Then do it again… and again… and again. Fast forward three months and you WILL have terrific results. We just proved it!

DK’s Practice Plans Now Available

How do I know we’ve had 17 practices? Because I’ve created 17 practice plans using the Dugout Captain clipboard. I’ve also shared every single plan with my team coaches and parent families. I’ve just uploaded those plans under the DC Plans menu item at the Clipboard (5U). I’m in the process of going back and making edits to the plans as I did when we ran them.

For me personally, what will be left? 17 legit practice plans, ready to save me time and effort next season. This isn’t the way you have to coach… those plans are for the way that I coach. Be selfish about using Dugout Captain – capture what you do so it saves you time in the future. I can tell you this much, I create a practice plan and share it in less than 5 minutes. I share it to myself as well because I like to use the email link to open the plan and print it (cuz I’m old school). I bring it with me on an actual clipboard and make quick notes along the way if any drill misses the mark or we adjust on the fly. Making adjustments happens EVERY practice! Sometimes due to poor planning, and other times to adjust to how many volunteer parents are available.  Example: Our last practice we had 10 athletes. During our batting practice rotation, we had 5 groups of 2. Awesome!!!! Here’s what we used, in the order that the groups rotated:

  1. Tee Work – Volunteer (#1) “Uncle Lance” with stroller by his side
  2. Machine – Assistant Coach (#2), using his daughter (#3) and wife (#4) as defenders so the two athletes could use the time swinging.
  3. Wiffle Front Toss – Volunteer Parent (#5), with Volunteer Grandparent (#6) picking up balls.
  4. Infield Defense – Assistant Coach (#7) running variations of put-outs (underhand flips to teammate, field and step on bag, etc).
  5. Cuts & Relay Practice – DK (#8) running Relayman & Bagman variations with an emphasis on lining up half-way between the ball and base.

That’s 8 “coaches” for 10 players!  And THAT is a recipe for development. To those of you that view Dugout Captain only for the drills, please please please try using the clipboard. I promise it works!

Should you play All Stars?

The answers to this question is a simple one. When I think about the intensity of an “all-star” practice, my gut screams that this will quickly become “work” to most 5-year olds. My son has only recently started asking to go hit, or play catch. We go into an open lot by our house and get after it. I let him pick what we work on and I do my best NOT to add instruction. I have to admit, as a 20-year coach, it pains me to watch my son’s swing – at times, it’s brutal (love you kid!):

However, I am committed to maintaining a positive focus on swinging super hard! I want to create an aggressive and physical baseball player. As for batting, we’ll work on smoothing out swing fundamentals later (and do so for an ultra aggressive swing).

Back to playing all-stars. I think the intensity of all-stars is a good thing, for the right age kid. I can tell you this much, I had to work hard to get my dude to play at all this season. And he’s having a blast meeting new friends, competing and focusing as best he can, and developing as a young athlete. I’m going to get him out of the sport now, while he’s craving and asking for more! We’ll go play something different and keep the hunger for baseball real and unsatiated.

Thought I’d share one more. Check how the hands stay inside the ball. Let’s leave it unsaid that this ball actually glanced off his fingertips. Ha!

Okay okay okay, one more. But this one shows how we are learning to SWING HARD! No fear of swinging and missing. Just step back into the box and hack again. We got action!!! ****

Here’s a great question for discussion and comments:  At what age should we start All-Star competition? 5U is clearly too young. But does it make a whole lot of sense at 6? 7? 8? I certainly don’t have the answer, but I can tell you that it’s not 5!!!!

Reasons why I know all-stars might be a bit much for us right now:

  1. My son ran to the wrong dugout last game… twice.
  2.  One of my players continues to put the glove on the wrong hand.
  3. I’m so thoroughly engrossed coaching my players and making suggestions, I have NO CLUE who any of the other team’s players are, let along if they’re any good.
  4. We don’t keep score. How can a team of all-stars go compete in tournament play when we haven’s so much as kept score the entire year?
  5. Have you watched videos above?
  6. We’ve caught one airborne ball, hit by an opposing batter, all season! One! It was pretty awesome though.
  7. It’s a coin flip when one of our athletes comes to bat as to whether she hits right-handed or left-handed. She then dances in the batters box while watching her own shadow.
  8. My left-fielder fielded a ground ball and stepped on third base for an out.
  9. The same dude fielded a ground ball and stepped on second base for an out… in the same inning.
  10. Now that I think about it, maybe HE is ready for all-stars.

**** Disclaimer: I absolutely LOVE my kid and his swing flaws 🙂 I’m proud that he’s not afraid to fail and shrugs off most everything. I believe THIS is the key to learning and look forward to watching his swing develop over the years. We’re humble enough to know that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve also witnessed enough crazy parents to objectively see my own kid for what he is: a young man, who’s not very good, but plenty athletic. One that is playing baseball for the first time, that looks forward to seeing his buddies a couple times per week, and that will be excited to play next spring. He’ll be as competitive as anyone in 5 more years, and it is my goal to help him grow thick skin, play with freedom and a smile, and learn quickly  his mistakes.

4 thoughts on “Are we done yet?

  1. Hi Dan- we need to compare notes. First – AllStar teams are problematic- not inclusive and does not meet LTAD criteria. Especially for under 10 year olds.
    Great experience with the 5/6 year old group- humbling to say the least.

    1. Any time spent talking or comparing notes with you Pat is a good thing! Would you’d recommend 10 years old as a starting age for all-star play? I would certainly agree, and would consider going down to 8?

  2. Back end perspective with kids who are 23 (now playing rec adult softball for fun) 20 & 16 (playing HS ball) – RIGHT ON DK! You coached all three of these boys at various stages, gave them the tools that helped them each achieve success (not just in baseball, but in life). You were loud and clear in my head as I sat in the stands last night, watching the 16 year old compete to go to CIF…..”so what, next pitch”! I’m guessing you were in his head as well. Got the W and on to the next. 5 year old All Stars puts the wrong emphasis on things–you have to work hard to achieve greatness (sometimes to achieve “goodness”) and getting the brass ring too early sends the wrong message. FUN is crucial – not just in baseball but in life. If you kill it early, the passion slips just as fast.

    1. Amazing!! 16??!?! Best of luck with Calvary and any postseason play. Thanks for the kind words and reminding me that the oldest is 23! At the fields earlier today, I saw the mother of a former athlete of mine (now also 23) as well as the uncle of one of my 5U players… who I also coached… and is now 31. Oh boy 🙂

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