Where Do You Learn and Grow Most? Strengths or Weaknesses?
As coaches and parents we strive to help player become the best they can be. This usually involves helping them improve in areas they need work. After all, that's part of developing as a player and getting better. You can't just work on your favorite part of the game or only do the drills you enjoy most if you want to become your very best.
I remember coaching a group of players who demolished anything over the middle or inside of the plate, but didn't do well at all on pitches to the outside of the plate. They either just stood there and watched the pitch go by or swung and missed. It was not pretty.
Obviously, this issues made them pretty easy to pitch to. There's no doubt we needed to address that outside corner. However, in effort to help, we can easily fall into the trap of focusing too much on weaknesses. Is that even possible?
I do believe it is.
I once heard Marcus Buckingham bust the myth that “You grow most in your area of greatest weakness.” He counters that “You grow the most in your areas of greatest strength.” That might sound strange, but think about this…
When you allow someone to work within their true strengths, in the areas they love most, they are more driven, more challenged, more persistent, more hungry for knowledge, more committed, and more successful.
You probably see this in players all the time. Take the hitting example I mentioned as an example. Players like that typically focus more on, and put more effort into, hitting the pitches they like most. If you leave it up to them in a batting cage, they'll take all their pitches in the spot they know they can hit.
When they “have to” work on other pitches, they don't go as “all in” as they do with the areas they like better and they are not as confident when they swing.
Obviously, when you work harder, are more committed to, and perform with more confidence in a particular area, you're going to see your bigger gains there than in areas you practice with less enthusiasm and confidence. Add to that the natural ability that lies within an area of strength and that makes growth exponential.
After all you can only get so much better in an area that's a true weakness. When I say “true weakness,” I'm talking about an area that they just aren't naturally built to excel at. Some weaknesses are only weaknesses because the player hasn't been coached in a way that “fits” her. No one made the light bulb go off so her ability to execute the skill just hasn't been brought out yet. That's not a true weakness.
A true weakness is something that you will probably never be fabulous at. You can get better, yes, but you'll never be elite in that area. Well, if you focus primarily on just those weak areas, you can only get so much out of that effort. There's only so much improvement you can make. Again, I'm not saying ignore them all together, just be careful where you put the most focus.
When you give the most attention to your true strengths and the true strengths of your players, you operate in the areas that can produce optimal results. Can you imagine a team were every single person contributed what they were best at every single day? How awesome would that be?
Players who tap into their true strengths, and what they enjoy most, can produce results for you over and over and over again throughout the whole season. Again, imagine if your whole team was doing that. Then in post-season you come across a team that isn't. They're tired. They're burnt out. Your team keeps gaining confidence and fulfillment in what they're doing and the growth they're experiencing. Who do you think has the best shot of winning that match up?
Which team would you rather be?
I'll give you another example of how focusing on strengths works.
My oldest daughter is not very big. From the time she started playing softball I felt mechanics and technique were the only
From being a tiny softball player who doesn't throw the best mechanically, way she'd keep up with players her age. She couldn't just rely on her size or strength to “get away” with poor mechanics. I spent years trying to improve her throwing technique. It's not awful, but there's definitely room for improvement in my opinion.
Around the time she was 12, I decide to stop beating my head up against that wall. I accepted the fact that her throwing technique would probably never be what I want it to be or that I wasn't the one that was going to help her figure it out.
Instead of getting on her about it all the time and frustrating us both, I decided to help her maximize the things she did well and was good at. Not only did she start making her biggest gains in the game after that decision, the whole experience became much more fun for both of us.
We discovered that she enjoyed working out and exercising to increase her overall athleticism. This, in itself, increased her throwing power, hitting power, and speed tremendously. Maximizing her strength in this area helped her offset her weakness in throwing mechanics.
As athletic as she is, the skill portion of any sport takes her a little longer to grasp than others. She's not the type of player that you can show a new technique to once and she can pick it up on the first attempt. She has to practice it. Thankfully, she loves the challenge enough to do it over and over and over again until she does “get it.”
It turns out increasing her stamina and endurance through all the functional training she loves to do serves her well in that area as well. She's able to take a higher number of quality repetitions during training than most players. This helps her keep up with those who tend to “get it” faster and helps her pass those who “get it” but don't bother to sharpen it since it came to them so easily. Again, maximizing her strength, helps her minimize her weakness.
When it comes to putting in “extra” time to improve as a player, my daughter focuses most on functional training because it's what she loves most. She would probably do it more often if she could. In addition to the benefit already mentioned, I believe it's helped her understand how to maximize from being a tiny softball player who doesn't throw the best mechanically, and was frustrated about mom always hounding her about it, she is now a still small 16-year-old who clocked a 61 mph overhand throw. She has a strong enough arm for coaches to feel comfortable playing One of the best decisions I ever made, while coaching and parenting her, was to focus more on maximizing her strengths and play to them vs hounding her about her weaknesses. Yes, you still need to work on areas you need to improve. Just be careful where you choose focus most.
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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