Mike Landry likes to teach and certainly puts his instructional traits to use when coaching youth baseball.
Landry, director of coaching for the Lexington (Massachusetts) Little League, is big into setting benchmarks for what his players should accomplish each season.
“Goals are important just to have a guide,” said Landry, who played seven years in the minor leagues. “I feel like setting a goal puts you on a roadmap, and whether you achieve that goal or not, you’re going to get closer to it through work and the guidance of your coaches. It gives you something to strive towards and it gives you focus. I think that’s important in sports and important in life in general.”
The goals are also measuring sticks for the coaches to see if what they taught the players throughout the season actually resonated. Landry isn’t concerned that youth players set big goals. He wants the kids to enjoy the game and not feel any pressure.
“We want those kids first and foremost to have fun,” Landry said. “It’s not about winning and losing, and that’s something that’s communicated to the coaches.”
Landry sets benchmarks for each player depending on what grade they are in school. It stands to reason, older kids should have more advanced goals.
“Obviously a kid in T-ball isn’t going to be turning a double play,” Landry said. “But if they know where second base is, you’re doing OK there.
“So by the end the season when you’re working with 9- and 10-year-olds, understanding how to turn a double play, to work their feet around the bag, to extend leads - those things are important. At 7 and 8 they’re still trying to figure out the space around them — older 8, 9, 10 and 11 year-olds, that’s when you start seeing them actually playing the game. You see double plays. You see some of those balls hit to the outfield get caught, and the kid running in the other direction trying to avoid it.”
For coaches who don’t implement goals for their players, Landry thinks it’s a good idea at any age.
“When you set the table early in the year, you’ll get kids more in tune and more on the same page throughout the year,” Landry said.
Landry and the Lexington Little League program try to offer year-round training to give the players extra reps so what they learn can have a lasting impression. In the fall, the program runs clinics.
“They’re more instructional based on situational play,” said Landry, who is also the pitching coach with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League. “In the spring and when you’re really in the heat of playing games every week, situations are going to come up. So in the fall, we try to slow the game down and give them situational advice on how to address certain situations in games.”
Landry feels that even at the collegiate level that players are losing their knowledge of the game.
“I feel like they’re more told what to do and they know how to run plays, but they may not know why they’re running that play or what the ultimate goal of that play is,” Landry said. “We try to get that into the minds of kids, even at the Little League level, just so they’re learning that and understanding how to play the game.”