Reward what you want, address what you don't.
One of my biggest pet peeves as a player, parent and even as a coach is when coaches grumble, complain, rant and rave about something their team does (or doesn't do), but NEVER formally address that issue WITH their team!
If your team has the exact same behavioral problem all year long and it never gets better, guess who's fault that is . . .
Because you allowed it.
It's the same with skill work. Obviously you may not be able to fix every hitting, fielding, throwing, pitching, catching or fielding problem but you should see some kind of improvement over the course of the season. If you never address the problems and work on them in practice, it's not your team's fault if those issues are still causing problems in competition at the end of the season. In order to see positive results, you must consistently reward what you want your team to do more of and address the things you want to see less of.
The other problem is inconsistency. It bothers me when coaches don't address issues, then decide to ream their players for poor execution in that area after an “important” game. If something will matter on your most important day of the season, in your most important game, don't wait until then to “get on” your team about it.
Don't just address it “when it counts,” work on it consistently, even if it's “just practice” or just a scrimmage or just another regular season game. If you want your players to execute well when it counts most, you must work with them on it in training. Don't just expect it to happen in the big game when you've never expected it in training.
Believe me, your team wants to perform well in those big games. They don't set out to mess up on purpose in critical situations. They really do WANT to execute perfectly when it matters most, however, it's unlikely they'll do so unless you've trained them to.
I've seen so many coaches let things go over and over and over again, then when it bites them in the butt in a big game they get upset with the players! Not Cool. If there's anyone you should be upset with after a loss like that it's yourself, not your team.
Don't let these small things side on a regular basis then get upset with your team because it kicks you in the butt later.
The problem is, some coaches don't have the guts to lose a short term battle in order to win a long term war. These coaches won't address an issue because doing so may cause a short term negative effect or possibly even a loss or two. However, you are selling your players, your team and yourself short if, if everything is always about “winning” right now, here, today, with no regard for the long term.
Your journey through this game, or through a season is not always about achieving the most you can NOW, but rather about effectively progressing toward your bigger long term goals. Sometimes you have to give up a little something now to gain a much more important something later.
Be willing to make that sacrifice!
If you don't, you'll get “stuck”.
Change is necessary for growth, but change is often painful in some way. Growing pains are call “pains” for a reason! If you don't experience them, chances are you're NOT growing. If you're not growing, you're not getting better. If you're not getting better, essentially, you're stuck . . . like a sitting duck . . . in the middle of a train track . . . with a train coming through.
Don't be a sitting duck!
Don't be afraid to go through a little pain, a little loss, a little set back in order to grow, get better, and achieve more down the road.
My daughter started training with a new strength and conditioning coach this summer. The first thing he did was make her back down on all her weights during workouts. He made her go lighter and focus more on form, technique and speed. As her technique cleaned up, he allowed her to slowly add more weight back to her training. In less than two months, she was light years ahead of where she started with him. She can move more weight, with better technique, a lot faster and with more power than she could six (6) weeks ago.
On multiple occasions, he thanked my husband and I for allowing him to take her a few steps back in order to ultimately move her forward. We understood, from the beginning, it's not about today that matters most, it's about getting her to where she needs and wants to be down the road, the bigger picture, that matters.
Just because she CAN lift a certain weight doesn't mean she SHOULD if doing so does not support her long term purpose, goals and health. The same is true for training softball players and coaching a team.
Just because you CAN doesn't mean you should. Just because something is good TODAY, doesn't mean it's the best choice for you, your players, or your team over the long run.
Successful coaches keep the big picture in mind. They think in terms of long term goals. When successful coaches make decisions, they don't just think about what provides the biggest pay off now. Always remember the big picture and have the guts to take a step back now, so you can make bigger strides later!
Stacie started playing fastpitch softball at the age of 9 and Founded All About Fastpitch in 2004. Stacie also served as the Chief Marketing Officer at Softball Performance. She currently blogs about Fastpitch softball at StacieMahoe.com. Her perspectives on the game as a former player, current coach, and current softball parent provide unique insights on various softball issues. Visit her website at StacieMahoe.com
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