Personal sacrifices are really the beginning of the end of everything because you don't win because you do one thing or two things right. You win because you do one thousand little things right throughout the year.
As a softball coach, softball parent, and former softball player, I have a pet peeve. Well, actually, I have more than one, but I won't bore you all with them. This one in particular I've seen too often recently and it REALLY drives me crazy!
Pet peeve: When the only thing a coach teaches their athletes is to “do as they're told” vs empowering them with the knowledge and tools they need to make smart decisions about their own training and performance.
This upsets me. It really does. I believe we, as coaches, should be building players up, not dumbing them down.
Don't be that coach. Empower your players!
How will players ever own, or take responsibility for, their training and performance if all they know how to do is what someone else tells them? When they've been trained to simple be a pack of followers instead of emerging leaders?
These same coaches rarely demonstrate, or pass on an understanding of, WHY players are doing what they do. I'm not sure these coaches know
WHY they run the drills they do or teach the methods and concepts they teach. All they seem to know is WHAT their team is “supposed to” do and how it should look.
These coaches typically do things because…
They think they're “supposed to”
Because it's what other teams are doing
Because they read it in a book somewhere
Because they saw it on a video
Because they heard about it at a seminar or convention
Because they saw it on tv
Because it's what everyone else is talking about
Etc, etc, etc
But they don't have any further understanding of the WHY behind it. They don't bother to dig past the WHAT. They think you can just throw a piece of a program into your team environment and it'll work just like magic. They don't understand that those pieces are part of a bigger picture and often don't quite work under different circumstances or without the other pieces of the larger whole.
These coaches can't tell their players what there is to gain from the methods or concepts they teach or when and how it should be applied. They mistakenly teach concepts as the ONLY way, usable in ALL situations.
Don't be that coach. Seek a deeper understanding of what you implement with your team. Know HOW you want it to work, WHAT you want it to accomplish, WHAT you want your team to get out of it, WHY you want to use it, and HOW it will help your players.
Any time you show your team something, or ask them to do or try something, you should be able to explain it well enough that they understand WHY they are doing it and how it can help them. They should understand the purpose of drills they do, otherwise they're just going through the motions and never get the most out of it. Heck, they may even miss the point entirely!
Do you have to explain every single detail of every single drill to every single player?
But you should be able to explain if they, or anyone else, ask.
It IS your job to understand the details so you can help any player get the most from their training. You should be able to identify when something isn't working and why. You should have ideas on how you can help them improve and make adjustments necessary for maximum results in training and performance.
Don't ever leave your athletes thinking, “This is stupid. Why are we doing this? It doesn't make sense. ”
This does not help you. This does not help them. It's a sure fire way to waste precious time and energy and undermines your players' confidence in your ability to successfully train and lead them.
Don't be that coach. Dive deep into your craft. Care about what you do. Don't just stop at WHAT to do, understand WHY you're doing it and HOW it works so you can give your players reasons to WANT to do/try it. Plus, it's the only way you can make timely, effective corrections and adjustments to keep your team moving in the right direction. Without this understanding, when things don't go well, you'll be left wondering why, with no clue what to do or how to fix it.
Don't be that coach!
According to Webster.com success is a favorable or desired outcome. It is something that is measurable and usually an end result. But what if the outcome really wasn’t what it was all about? OR, maybe the outcome is the most important thing. Sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on something that may not really be all that important. But there are those sometimes, when we get it right. Even when we guessed. It’s about how we got there. And why.
A good coach sets goals. A great coach understands why every failure is critical to achieving them. What if there were a roadmap to get to the pinnacle, a laid out path to follow that would ensure success? What if that road came with failure along the way? Would you still go down it, even if you had to fail to get there? Some say yes, of course. Knowing what’s at the end is a no brainer. But what if you could never be certain, you just had to believe that it could happen, and you may hit some pretty big obstacles on the way? Would you still walk down that path?
We want so badly to say yes, but so often we stop JUST short of the finish line, and we don’t even know it. As coaches we change courses, we get a bigger ship, we throw away the map when we need it most. It’s like a player in a slump who most often tries to change things at the plate their very next at bat, when the most critical thing to do in that case is to keep things consistent.
If this is your off season, what are you looking to change or make better next year? Maybe this is the height of your season and you need to remind yourself and your team what path you are walking down. Sometimes, taking out the map is a good way to do that. Unfold it and look at the big picture. Yes, goals are good… but what good are they if you don’t check in to see if you ever meet them? The most successful people in life don’t just set goals, they recognize when they are not on the path anymore, and they reassess when necessary. Can goals change? Of course. What served you last season may not serve you this year. The players may have changed, your team is different in talent, chemistry and makeup and you have to understand all over again what you are capable of.
It starts by asking yourself what you want. What are you capable of? Not every team can win a championship. And success isn’t always about the trophy. We had the privilege of watching a lot of great softball teams compete for a national title this season at every level. Every year every team will fall short except one. Is the only successful team the one who wins? I would say no. Emphatically, no.
Find what serves you. Find what makes the most of your team. Maybe it’s playing as one, finding true chemistry, getting over the mental errors that will satisfy your checklist this year. Maybe it’s watching your pitcher master a new pitch. Maybe it’s watching that one kid who you knew could, actually have a breakout year. Maybe it’s changing a life. And maybe, it has nothing to do with outcome or the game of softball at all. I have the privilege of working with a lot of softball players in a lot of softball programs. I am amazed at some of the talent I see, but more importantly amazed at the desire to excel, a desire to improve and a desire to find their best in every situation. Helping them do so makes them feel successful beyond measure.
The last few weeks I have talked a client through a boyfriend issue, helped calm the nerves of one preparing to give a high school graduation speech and asked an 11 year old what their favorite ice cream is. This thing we call the mental game is so much bigger than the sport we coach. When we can define what we want to accomplish in these young athlete’s lives, we define success. And most often, it’s the only goal that really matters in the end.
So carry on in teaching the peel drop, helping your slapper keep her shoulder in a little longer, and making sure your slowest kid gets good arm pump when she runs. Don’t lose sight of what we are here to do. Just remember the rest of who she is. And celebrate all the victories. In helping them define success, we inevitably define it for ourselves.
The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.
Caution and care needed by players in responding to the Social Media.
Coaching Division One softball, or for that matter any college or professional sport, has never been a slam dunk. As softball has developed, with it has come better coaching techniques, better equipment to help in the coaching and of course better athletes. In addition as technology has developed, so has more ways for people to communicate with one another, thus allowing people to communicate or comment on what is happening in sports or any field for that matter.
Time has become of the essence for many people, especially softball coaches who have only so many hours to work with their teams to prepare them for the season. Years ago the coaches had a captive audience and didn't have to worry about interference and could get a lot of work accomplished in their practice sessions. That isn't the case anymore. With the advent of Social Media, coaches have to be more concerned than ever about what their athletes are doing off the field let alone on the field. Away from the field the athletes should be accountable to themselves as well as to the university or college they play for, their coaches and their families.
In many cases these athletes are accountable and do what is expected of them, on and off the field. Of course there are exceptions and some athletes unfortunately get caught up in the Social Media trap. What happens is some fan or student will tweet them a message about them or their team and it won't be flattering in the least. It hits a nerve with the athlete who fires back a message and they develop a dialogue that doesn't do anyone any good.
The first mistake was commenting and answering the tweet. Fans are going to comment on players and teams forever and it is the disciplined, sensible athlete who knows better than to answer a tweet from an overzealous fan who may not have played college athletics or participated in a sport of any kind. But of course they know what the athlete and coach should do to be successful. Many fans couldn't coach their way out of paper bag even if you showed them how to get out of the bag. They have no clue what it takes to coach a college team in any sport, let alone softball. But they don't think about that and will voice their opinion on what their local college softball or football team should be doing and who should be playing, etc.
Fans are needed and of course there are many loyal fans who understand their role in sports and will support their favorite college softball or football team. Fans unfortunately lose perspective and can voice their opinion on what their local college softball or football team should be doing. It may not be correct, however, because the coaches are the ones charged with the responsibility of developing the team to its full potential. Of course injuries can and often happen and players may leave school or transfer, thus effecting the overall outcome. No one said it was easy and it never has been easy, but Social Media hasn't made it easier by any means, and how a coach handles the Social Media will have an impact on what kind of year his or her team will have.
While Social Media and the internet can be helpful to disseminate much information quickly to a lot of people, it can also be an outlet for misuse and misconduct. This certainly doesn't reflect favorably and players embarrass themselves by commenting through Social Media on the internet. This is where the coaches have to have a policy regarding the use of the internet and the Social Media available on the internet. There is nothing wrong with posting appropriate and positive comments about your local college softball team, but extreme care should be utilized in choosing what and where to post. If you have a doubt about you are going to post, don't do it.
As Chamberlain goes so do the Oklahoma Sooners As Lauren Chamberlain goes, so does the University of Oklahoma softball team. Through the team's first 14 games Chamberlain wasn't going anywhere as he watched her batting average drop to .171 (6-35) with one homers and six runs batted in. In recent weeks, however, Chamberlain is back to her normal self, creating havoc for opposing pitchers and leading the Sooners to wins. In the past five weeks, or last nine games, the OU team captain is hitting .545 (12-22) with five homers, three doubles, a triple, 10 RBI, 18 runs scored and three stolen bases. She has drawn 16 walks to go with a .737 and 1.455 slugging percentage in those games.
In a recent 1-0 win over Tulsa, Chamberlain accounted for the game's only run with a homer into the bleachers in left field. It was her 66th career homer and her sixth of the season. She now is tied with two others for 17th all-time in NCAA Division I history.
In the win over Tulsa, it was a classic pitchers duel with Tulsa ace and two-time All-American Aime Creger facing Sooner sophomore transfer Kelsey Stevens.
The win was Oklahoma’s second over a ranked opponent that year and extended the team’s winning streak to four games. After starting the season 5-4, the Sooners had won 12 of their past 14 contests heading into a showdown at No. 23/24 Louisiana-Lafayette (15-5-1).
“I think this was one of the [Sooners’] best all-around games,” Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. “[Kelsey Stevens] was in championship-form right there, phenomenal display of pitching out of this young woman, who has been working really hard to get to that point, against a really good Tulsa team that can swing.”
Stevens, who has gotten the start in six of OU’s seven matchups against ranked opponents this year, was at her best and improved to 11-3 on the season. She established a season high with 11 strikeouts, one off her career-best mark of 12, which she has done twice. The Albuquerque, N.M., native allowed just two walks and gave up two hits in 23 at-bats (.087) to limit a Golden Hurricane squad that came in with a .336 team batting average.
“We had a good game plan from the start,” Stevens said. “We knew their hitters and I was just really trying to get ahead of the batter and throw strikes.”
Oklahoma needed the lights-out performance from Stevens because Creger was nearly as good for Tulsa. Like Stevens, Creger struck out 11 and walked two, but she allowed four hits, one of which was a solo home run by Chamberlain, to drop to 8-1 on the year.
“They have one of the best pitchers in the country and we know that and she's going to strike you out quite a few times and we knew that, as well,” Gasso said. “Once we got through the lineup, you could see things start to change and some more tougher at-bats. You saw these guys battling with two strikes. That's the View From Here
In my first article you learned what causes so many injuries sliding and how to avoid them. In the second you learned how to truly distribute your weight and slide instead of just doing a seat drop. In this article it is time to put it all together and actually slide. I hope you are stoked because I’ve been waiting 3 long months to see you do this. Well 3 long months to tell you to do it and hope that you’d at least email me and say “I slid, I slid, I slid …. I totally did a real slide and now I’m the greatest ball player in the world.” Or whatever your version of letting me know might be.
The first thing I want you to understand before taking that next step is that it’s always about safety. This month you need to do every drill, even the ones on your own with a helmet on. I’ve got nothing but time so go get it and put it on now.
As you lay down and distribute your weight the last piece of safety involves keeping your eyes on your toes. As long as you do that your head won’t slam into the ground. The extra benefit of looking at your toes is that you’ll be able to actually see the base and the player who may be trying to tag you out. Those two things might not be as pretty as the birdie up in the air but both are more important to your being safe than the bird is so look at them instead. Go and practice laying back so that your shoulder blades touch the ground, your arms straight back but your eyes stay focused on your toes. After you think you have that you are ready for 1 more drill on your own.
No matter where you live if you have been to a Cracker Barrel you have seen a rocking chair. If you don’t live in a part of the world with Cracker Barrel restaurants I’m willing to bet you’ve seen a rocking chair anyway. The reason I bring them up is because unless you tip to far back they don’t slam into the ground, they simply rock down and rock right back forward. To me it only seems logical that rocking is a lot safer than say slamming your back into the ground when you slide. So as you sit on the ground with your arms up in the air and eyes on your toes I want you relax your core muscles and actually picture your back being like a rocking chair nice and round, and rock down and rock back up instead of slamming down and struggling to get back up. Each time you do this drill try and speed things up. Rock down and back up faster and faster and faster.
One thing that you’ll notice in the video is that I don’t edit out the mistakes that Caitlin or Walker make. It isn’t because I’m lazy it is because I want you to know that I realize players aren’t perfect. Not you and not even the girls that I choose to use to shoot videos to help players around the world like you learn. The one thing you will see in all of my videos though is that I ask them to work on 1 thing at a time so that their next slide is better than the previous one. I hope that yours are as well. Another item I really want to point out as you watch the video this month is that at 1 point I said something to Caitlin while Walker was to far away to hear for sure what I said. As she came running to the bat she stopped because she was unsure what I might have said. I could have edited that out but sliding is just 1 skill in this great game. The bigger point I wanted to be sure you took away was that there is nothing wrong with asking questions even when you are shooting a video. Be sure you fully understand what you’re supposed to and what the expectations are.
Now that you’ve done everything you can do on your own and you’ve watched the video it’s time to head to a real field and find someone who can hold the bat for you for your final few drills with the bat. If you are going to make your parents take you the least you can do is buy them some ice cream afterwards to thank them. The drill for this month is very similar to the final drills last month. Come running at the bat as fast as you can, use it as leverage as you distribute your weight but now you are ready to actually let go of it. Even if you come to a complete stop I want you to actually let go of the bat, rock your shoulders to the ground and rock back up. Each time you progress you should be able to let go sooner and sooner so that you’ll actually be able to slide.
When I started this series 2 months ago knowing that many of you were afraid to slide. I seriously would be very happy to hear from any of you who have now gotten through that fear and are GETTING DIRTY the safe way.