Another fantastic summer regular season and tournament baseball is in the books for the Metro Baseball League, Minnesota Baseball Tournaments, and the August Classic. As we catch our breath and get ready for another season of Fall League baseball, it’s a great time to look back on this summer’s play and reflect on all the positives and areas where we can improve to become better ballplayers, teammates and coaches.
What a year! Most of our teams started back in March, battling through all those indoor practices and eventually the chilly opening games in late April and early May. Before we knew it, MBT, league playoffs and the August Classic were here. Time flies, right? This season flew by, and we had A TON of fun!
With the core of our season behind us, what are some things players, coaches, and families should have on their end-of-season checklist? Reflecting on your season from all angles can be really beneficial as you move through the off-season and start the journey again in the spring.
Grab a notebook and a pen, take a seat at your computer, or even just sit down with a parent and think back about your season. Below are some icebreakers to get you thinking about certain topics.
Did you set any goals at the start of the season? What were they and did you accomplish any of them? Maybe you didn’t formally set any goals, but you may have thought about certain parts of your game you wanted to improve on. Think about those areas and reflect on how you performed. It’s okay if you didn’t accomplish your goals. It’s still helpful to think about whether you made progress. Even a little progress last season can lead to more progress next season.
What did I do well?
Be honest with yourself. (This reflection is for YOU, after all.) What are you proud of from this past year? Even if you struggled at times, you definitely had some good at-bats, made some nice plays in the field or pitched well in certain games. Some players don’t think about their value as a great teammate, which is a HUGE positive and an absolute requirement on good teams. Don’t forget about this part of your game. It’s really important and powerful to focus on the positives from your season. Revisit these memories often.
What are some things I want to do better next year?
At every level of baseball, players want to continually improve. It’s easier, unfortunately, for most people to think about or remember the negatives from their season. While we want to focus on the positives more than negatives, we also want to identify those negatives so we can get better in those areas (and turn them into positives!). Think about all aspects of your game and write down some specifics you feel you can improve upon. Maybe you want to strike out less as a hitter? Improve your control as a pitcher? Learn to block and become a more effective catcher? Become more consistent on fielding ground balls? Whatever it is, you don’t necessarily need to have a plan right now on how to improve, but you should identify the areas where you want to improve.
What are my favorite memories from this season?
Speaking of positives, jot down some of your favorite memories from the season. A great thing about baseball is that no matter how many games your team won, there are so many fun things that happen throughout the year. You probably have some top memories from your individual play, but surely from your team’s play as well. It might be a single moment like a walk-off hit, or maybe you remember how much fun it was to play for your coach all season. You may have met someone new on your team and you became good friends, or maybe your team advanced to bracket play at MBT for the first time. There are so many areas to pull good memories from. Again, revisit these positives frequently.
BONUS: Talk with your coaches.
An exit meeting with one of your coaches can be very beneficial. The meeting can be over the phone, over email, or in-person. A coach can shed light on what he/she thinks you should work on in the off-season or focus on for next year. Coaches have a unique perspective and can identify parts of your game that you can improve that you might not think about. Remember: good coaches give feedback on your performance and constructive criticism because they care and want you to improve.
An end of season team analysis by coaches is an incredibly important final step. Coaches are doing this subtly throughout the year, but it’s important to make some final notes after you’ve seen your season come to a close. Just like we advise players, coaches should record their thoughts on the season to begin planning for next year.
Revisit your goals from the start of the season.
Even if you didn’t have specific goals, think about what you hoped to accomplish when you met as a coaching staff last March or April. Which goals did you meet, which did you make steps toward and which did you completely miss? Again, just because you didn’t accomplish some or many of your goals does not mean the season was a failure. Setting team and individual goals is healthy and a common exercise for high-level coaches and athletes across all sports. Be sure to take a deep dive into the details of your team. If one of your goals was to give up less runs, and you gave up the same or more runs than last year, really look at why this happened. Maybe you pitched better than last year, but your defense committed more errors. Maybe your defense was better, but your pitchers walked too many batters. These details will determine how you approach next year.
What did we do well?
Make sure you identify the positives from your season. You can’t focus on these enough, and you want to make sure your positives remain positives in the future. Even though we desperately want to correct the negatives from our season, we really do need to place the most emphasis on the things that went well. As always, make sure your players know when they’re doing something well. One area that gets overlooked sometimes, especially in a season where a team doesn’t win a lot, is team culture and chemistry. This is a crucial factor for every team and when the team excels in this category, it should be celebrated. Be sure to note the players who were great teammates and what the overall vibe of the team is in this area.
Where did we struggle?
As stated, take a good look at the reasons why you struggled in certain areas. Pitching, baserunning, we’re not a good hitting team, we swing at too many bad pitches, catching depth, etc. Think about why these things are happening and start to formulate a plan to address them. You might need outside help on some of these. Think about other coaches in your association or your local high school’s coaching staff.
Individual player evaluations and notes.
Some associations require coaches to do evaluations of every player – either in detail, letter grades/scores, or something of the like. Jotting down some notes on all your players for yourself is an excellent activity that can help you next year. There are small details of players’ games you don’t want to forget about. You can even start writing some goals for certain players next year. Player X needs to pitch more next year, for example. Or player Y started making uncharacteristic errors late in the season, so we need to take steps to get him back to his normal self in the field. Don’t forget to note players who made big strides this year. It could even be a player who struggled overall, but maybe the player improved drastically in one area. You can build upon those positive steps.
League notes and trends.
Think about your league or age group as a whole and what teams were commonly doing last year. There are probably a few things happening that did not happen the year prior. Pitching might have been faster, catchers may have been throwing more runners out, first-and-third plays might have become more complex. How big of a factor was outfield play in your league this year? Take your notes are start thinking about how you need to prepare for these situations next year. You could also reach out to the coaches from the age above you to see what they encountered this year.
Coaching staff self-analysis.
How did you do as a coach? Just like the players reviewing their season and coaches reviewing the team’s performance, the coaching staff should give an honest assessment of the job they did. What went well and what didn’t? What tactics got through to the team and which ones should you discard? Were you able to put enough time into coaching? Should tasks be delegated differently among the coaches next year? How were your practices? Did the kids have fun? Were you able to practice the situations that were frequently arising in games? Do certain players need more one-on-one coaching? Who’s taking the lead on pitching and des that person need help? It can be incredibly powerful for a coaching staff to admit they need to do certain things differently next year. All the best coaches evolve and learn over time. It all funnels to the kids having fun and getting better.
We hope you had as much fun this summer as we did, and we look forward to seeing you next season. We’re grateful for all the memories made during the summer of 2023!