When teaching baseball or any other sport regardless of age, the players in ability to understand what the coach is trying to express is sole responsibility of the coach. Teaching involves respect, clarity, organization, motivation and context.
People learn by example, Coaches who are respectful of children are not just modeling a skill or behavior, they are meeting the emotional needs of those children, and create the conditions for children to respond whole heartedly.
Clarity, to effectively communicate using clear ideas, clear goals, clear questions and clear conclusions. This level of interaction is truly age dependant but as a coach you must identify and speak to each players level of clarity. Relate to the age and reference level of your players.
Coaches are not teachers replete with pedagogy that work for every player. Granted, in the High School ranks and beyond this changes, but the majority of players do so through the recreational leagues where Dads, Moms, Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents of all backgrounds volunteer for the joy and frustration of being the coach.
Be prepared for practice with written notes and time schedule. Organization is likely the most critical aspect of any type of teaching. With all that is involved with being the coach, pen can paper can be your greatest allies. Organization is also a quality you can expect from your players.
As the leader, when you present a well formed and organized practice, game or gathering, your players see the success that is gained from organization. It will never be obvious, and you will never have a player come up and thank you for being an organizational icon. But they will learn, and all advances in being personally responsible and organized will always be a benefit.
There are many situations in baseball that can only be taught in situational settings. For regularly successful practices routine is king. For a portion of every practice, set aside time for drills and skills that everyone can perform correctly. This repetitive success is the building block for situational success. Routine drills also bring the team together as a whole as every ones efforts are focused on the singular event.
Cooperative effort may also be a solution for conveying a concept or skill. There are times where having a senior player take a role in teaching a skill to the team. Not only will they be able to communicate on the correct level, but again we provide a superior opportunity to practice leadership and build self esteem.
Skill drills can do a lot for a player. It is an excellent opportunity for the coaches to examine the individual movements of each player and corrections as needed. The downside is that most drills do not involve the context of the game. Within the practice regime it is critical to combine multi skill activities into drills.
Once the skill is placed into the context of the game, players can readily identify the significance of the drill. If someone known to you walked up and told you to walk 2 blocks south then 1 block west, it is likely you would not walk at all. Now if this same person gave you the same instruction with the context, I found a bag of cash and you can keep it, it is highly likely that you would briskly walk the 3 blocks.
A great drill for all ages above t-ball is the practice steal. No batter, with a good lead off first the runner heads for second when the pitcher releases, catcher makes the throw to second where the tag is made.
This drill helps the pitcher get over the worries of a runner stealing, catcher gets a real action throw to second, the catch and tag are evident and your runner under the watchful eye of the coach makes the perfect slide.
Way off the beaten path is having the players perform a skit. Players read from the script as they act out the events on the diamond. Not only does an exercise like this really change things up, but it also provides the opportunity to practice a little public speaking, humm, homework, social skills and baseball at the same time, nice.
Fun, clarity, organization, motivation and context, these are the keys to effective teaching at any level. Be prepared to take it easy on yourself if the plan you created does not seem to work. Allow yourself the grace to make changes on the fly. Enlist the help of others to convey concepts that elude your ability.