You’ve just completed an exhausting 20-25 game schedule complete with a few rain make-up games at inopportune times. The season had everything including controversies among other teams, your own parents, league board members, and other headaches. Your reward for coping with all of this, and leading your team to the league championship, is to coach the 11-12 year-old All Star team. Think your phone rang a lot during the season? You haven’t seen or heard, anything yet. Your first duty as a coach is to inform your spouse that your long-awaited vacation will have to be postponed because your league needs you. You also discuss putting off the repair of your washer machine because, with All Stars, the laundry room is now on call 24 hours a day.
Picking your league All Star team can be an incredibly emotional time that may result in hurt feelings that extend beyond the season, and sometimes for years. Some leagues have incorporated having the players vote for part of the All Star team. Many leagues have the coaches decide in a meeting run by the league commissioner (or player agent). The first priority is to decide the number of players to draft on the team. If your league charter defines this number, then this is what you have to follow. Otherwise, this decision has to be made at this meeting. Issues need to be discussed, such as: is it required by the league charter to have everyone play; and how much are they required to play? This issue can become a headache, as the substituting of players will sometimes be a distraction for the coach in charge during the game. Usually, prior to this meeting, the head coach has his assistant coaches assigned by the league. This can be a problem because sometimes coaches would rather take their regular season assistants than two other assigned head coaches that they have never worked with before. I would prefer the latter even though you are discussing strategies with two other people you might have learned to detest during the season. During All Stars, the coaches on the bench who were adversaries during the year always seem to get along as long as the team keeps playing.
Once the coaches and team are made, it is imperative that the head coach (or manager) hold a parents meeting. This meeting is even more important than your regular season team parent meeting. The meeting should be a requirement and not last more than 10 or 15 minutes. The key points for the coach to stress to the parents are that because your child is an All Star, he is expected to play any position on the field (except maybe pitcher & catcher). The point of this is that many of the players were their team’s shortstops during the season and they are asked to play the outfield. You need to assure parents (and even the players) that it is imperative that all nine positions are equally important. Other points that should be discussed should be about playing time. I always told parents that I won’t be popular as a coach at the conclusion of All Stars for every family but that the league entrusted me to use my judgment whether they think it is right or wrong. I always stress that I can only guarantee the minimum required playing time and that you should consider this if you are going to cancel vacation plans for these All Star games.
Practices should be run a couple of ways. You will probably have in your mind the batting order and fielding positions. I would urge all coaches to mix things up in the practices and try players at different positions. There will be some minor unexpected absentees and you should be ready for this as coach.
The All Star games themselves can be some of the highest pressured tension in youth sports. Neighboring leagues will be in attendance and players will have expected nervousness. You can cut your regular warm-ups short and take the team in the outfield and play any silly type of game you can think of. I have always used a game where I divide the team in half, and with a hardball for each team, the teammates must pass the ball to each other using only their neck. This meaningless sounding game helps to relax the players, and for 11 and 12 year olds, this might be the best warm-up for them.
All Stars are the highlights for some players and leagues. Aside from all of the potential problems and arguing, if your All Star team ends up going on a nice winning streak, there is nothing like it. Getting far into any tournament will require some luck. If your team gets eliminated, this is where, as a coach, you have to give them the “ultimate” pep talk. Now some teams continue to play in other local tournaments, which is a great way to end the season.