(Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, seen here)
Coaching college baseball isn’t easy. That is quite the understatement, isn’t it? Whether you are a head coach, an assistant coach, a volunteer assistant coach or a student assistant coach, the job is grueling. Every coach on the staff has different responsibilities both on and off the field.
This is the first part of a multi-part series that takes a look at adjusting to life as a college baseball coach after making the jump from the high school ranks. Part one takes a look at adjusting to the difference in the schedule from high school to college baseball.
High School Schedule
Coaching baseball at the high school level is a time commitment in and of itself no matter the position you hold. Whether you are a varsity head coach, a varsity assistant, a junior varsity head coach or a lower-level assistant; the time commitment at the high school level is immense.
For the most part, the high school baseball season begins in earnest sometime in late February or early March. It all depends on the first practice date as mandated by each state’s high school athletic association.
That’s the start date for practices. Coaches begin much earlier than that. They have to sit in for scheduling meetings, pre-season meetings with their coaching staff, CPR certification or recertification classes and much more.
Once the season starts it’s a six-day per week commitment. There are anywhere from three to four games per week and then practices are held during the days without games scheduled. Add in playoffs, which run through the end of June, and high school coaches are dedicated four months to the sport at around six days per week.
Where do we begin with the college schedule?
Let’s say you join a college coaching staff at the end of the high school season, around June or July. This is when your schedule as a college coach begins.
You will immediately be sent to scout potential players for the program at post-season tournaments and summer camps.
This will last well into August and can include multiple scouting trips per week. This work is most likely on top of your full-time job. That’s why many coaches work as teachers or other professionals in the education sector.
When September rolls around it’s back to school time and fall ball. This season lasts for roughly a month and a half and usually no longer, especially if you are in the Northeast. Many programs decide their spring roster based on fall ball performance. This can include practices, games, and clinics.
Once fall ball ends it’s time for multiple meetings with the staff to assemble the spring roster. If there are a lot of question marks in your program this could take a couple of weeks to complete.
During the winter, which is technically the offseason, the coaching staff will be responsible for monitoring the academic performance of the athletes and ensuring that they stick to the offseason lifting program that is in place.
For teams in the Northeast, the first report date for the spring season is the first or second day of the spring semester on campus. Once the spring season begins it’s six days of practice each week until gameplay begins.
The NCAA requires teams to take one day off per week. For teams that don’t need to have a game rescheduled, the off day is typically on Sunday. This comes after usually playing on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and a doubleheader on Saturday. Practices are sprinkled in between on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Those days without games are perfect for members of the coaching staff to either scout upcoming opponents, watch high school games or a combination of both.
If the program makes the conference tournament the season will extend into early May. Regionals? The middle of May. Super Regionals? June. College World Series? Middle to late June depending on the level of play.
Once your program’s season comes to an end you will find yourself beginning the cycle over again, attending post-season tournaments to watch high school players who might fit into your program.
How to Adjust
So, after seeing all of this laid out for you in black and white it’s time to figure out how to adjust.
Jumping from coaching at the high school level to the college level is an eye-opener. Both levels have huge time commitments, but the amount of commitment at the college level is immense.
The best way to adjust to the schedule is to secure a coaching job not long after the high school season is over. You can ease your way into the new position by going on regular scouting/recruiting trips. This is much easier than jumping onboard as the fall season begins or, in the unlikely event, as the spring season starts.
Another great way to adjust to the change in the schedule is to take time off between jobs. There’s nothing out there saying you must end one job on June 15 and start the next on June 16. Take time for yourself or to go on vacation with your significant other or spouse.
It might take you an entire season at the college level to actually adjust to how demanding the schedule is. Don’t let this deter you from enjoying working as a coach or returning for a second, third, or subsequent year in the dugout.
Be on the lookout for part two of this series, which will take a look at the difference in duties for baseball coaches at the high school and college levels.