Dealing with Players
The most rewarding part of coaching is seeing the players develop into both good athletes and genuine nice people. Our goal as coaches is to teach the game and its elements to the team while building their confidence and self esteem. You can add building teamwork and respect for team mates, coaches, opponents and parents/fans and safety into the list of your goals. Your team will learn many life lessons from playing this game. An example would be learning to accept that you will not win every time despite doing everything they could and learning to move on the next game and do everything they can all over again. Even a 400 batter fails 60% of the time. It is a humbling game.
The rewards for the team can be as rich as it can be for the coach. There are the obvious benefits like physical fitness. Softball is considered a lifetime sport. Some of your athletes may even develop into college players and beyond. Very few will benefit by having their college education paid because of fastpitch, but it is possible. The friends developed from playing ball can last a lifetime. The memories will keep them young even in old age. I can see my dad’s eyes light up when he tells me some of his stories of playing baseball back in the 40’s and 50’s.
You will find that there are many different personalities from team mate to team mate. You will find the outgoing, friendly, chatty person. You will also find the quite, shy and withdrawn person and every personality in between. Some of your challenges will be to keep the outgoing, chatty person from becoming too much of a distraction while also pulling the shy, quite, withdrawn person out of their shells.
When you have your first meeting with your players, establish the ground rules. One of the ground rules should be that when the coach is talking, everyone else is quite and listens. This way, when the enthusiastic outgoing chatty player starts to interrupt you, all you have to do is ask her to tell you what the rule is when coach is talking. Once or twice is all it should take to get her cooperation on that issue. If it continues to be a problem, you may have to talk to her away from the rest of the team. Take her aside and let her know that you appreciate her enthusiasm and that she keeps the team fun, but you need her to help you by knowing when she needs to not interrupt or disrupt. End the conversation by letting her know that she is a leader on the team and you need her in that role. This is the “sandwich” method of player feed back, that is state something good/positive about her, sandwich in what needs to be fixed in a positive way and wrap it up with another good/positive about her.
The quite, shy and withdrawn player needs nurturing. The one thing that I like to do between innings, when they come off the field is meet with all of them in a group in front of the dugout for a little pep talk about what looked good on defense and then have them put there hands in the middle for a 3 word cheer about offense. I will have the chatty, loud player pick the cheer and lead the team in the first inning. She is usually vary willing to be loud and enthusiastic and sets a great example. The next inning, I call on a shy quite one to step up and lead. Everyone knows the cheers I am talking about, the leader says something like “hits, runs, score on three, ready, 1, 2, 3” and everyone else yells “hits, runs, score” in unison. Follow that up with a quick “good job” or “way to go” and a high five and you have re-enforced that it’s ok for her step up a little from her comfort zone. Every successful small step that they take from their comfort zone builds confidence and knowing that they can do it builds self esteem.
During the little meeting before we go on offense just in front of the dugout, I try to point out any good thing that I saw on defense and recognize the player in front of the whole team. An example would be saying “Brittney, super catch in center field, Joanie, great hustle, way to knock that ball down and keep it in the infield”. Any area that was negative during that defensive inning is not brought up during the group meeting. The effect from doing it this way is positive, not only do the players get an “at-a-girl” from me but quite often, their team mates give them an “at-a-girl” also. After the little meeting breaks up, I will address the negatives individually in a positive “sandwich” approach. An example would be “Cindy, good hustle going after that ground ball. I think you had time to field the ball in front of you instead of reaching for it. Try to get in front of the ball next time; I know you can do it”. Keep it short, quick and positive, and then move on quickly. You only have a short time between the start of the offensive inning.
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