With the high school baseball season whittling down to its state championships, baseball coaches around the nation are thinking about summer and fall ball.
Jack Smalley Jr., who helps out the Tuscaloosa Academy program in Alabama during the school season and coaches Tuscaloosa Post 34’s Under-15 team in the summer, said it’s important for coaches to evaluate their previous season before entering their new one.
Smalley doesn’t just know a thing or two about coaching. In addition to playing football for the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama from 1949–53, he also runs a batting cage called Fenway South and has 18 years of experience coaching youth baseball. During that time he has never had a losing season and has pocketed 300 wins, including several championships.
Here are 10 ideas Smalley said coaches should consider heading into the summer season:
1. Conduct Exit Interviews
Smalley conducts an exit interview with each of his players at the end of the season, but before doing so he reaches out to college programs to ask if they will share their recruiting form with him. “Coaches are glad to send their evaluations,” Smalley said. “I list what I think the kids need to work on and grade them. I tell them I’m going to be brutally honest.”
2. Evaluate Everything
Smalley evaluates his entire team in terms of how it finished the year and how sharp the players were mentally and physically so he can determine what areas he will need to shore up for the following season. He considers what kind of shape his players are in, how healthy they are and if they were tired at the end of the season.
3. Think Outside Of The Diamond
At the end of the season, Smalley doesn’t just consider what affected his team on the field but also off of it. He looks at how well his players are doing academically and if he gave them a chance to excel in the classroom, how much parent support he has and where he stands with the school administration.
4. Brainstorm How To Fill The Holes
Smalley said it’s important to figure out what major holes are in your lineup that will need to be filled and who can possibly fill them.
5. Define Your Personality
After you figure out your personnel, Smalley said to figure out your team’s personality. “What kind of team will I have next year?” he said he asks himself. “Will I be heavy on power hitters and not on speed, or vise versa? If I bunt a lot, I will have to rely on pitching and will have to install pitching and bunting (drills). If we bash the ball, we don’t have to worry about stealing bases. Evaluate your personality as a team.”
6. Evaluate Yourself
Smalley said at the end of each season it’s not only crucial to evaluate the players but to also figure out what you did right and wrong as a coach and what you have to do to be a better coach.
7. Avoid Predefined Goals
Smalley said to never go into a season with a predefined goal, because once you reach that goal your team will stop striving. “Don’t say I want to win five games,” he said. “Set goals as high as possible and break them down bit by bit. Accomplishing each step to the goal is where you make progress.”
8. Plan Backwards
After you set a goal, plan backwards from it to figure out what steps and processes need to be put into place to accomplish it. “Start with a plan and end with a plan,” Smalley said. “Evaluate your plans and make your goals for the next year after you evaluate all of the other data you have.”
9. Write It Down
It’s not good enough to do all of these evaluations as a mental exercise, Smalley said. It might seem obvious, but he said to write it down “because if you don’t you forget, and if you forget this stuff you make the same mistakes over and over again.”
10. Coach Your Coaches
Smalley said Coach Bryant didn’t directly coach the Alabama football team. He coached his coaches to coach the players.