How to Coach the Natural Athlete Written By Keri Casas
The Natural Athlete is one that conquers most skills with ease. They are able to perform actions more easily and quickly than some of their peers. Even though we want female athletes to be mechanically sound, the natural athlete is able to “get the job done” her own way. This can be a positive factor for your team, but it does not necessarily mean she does not need training. The Natural Athlete can field, hit, dive, make remarkable plays, but they do not know how they do it.
You may say, “Well, if they can already perform the action, why do they need to know HOW they do it?” It is important for your female athlete to know how to do it because they need to develop their mental game as well. If your natural athlete has a poor game and does not perform to their potential, they may become mentally weak because they do not know why the game did not go their way. This may also cause a domino effect with the rest of their performance and put them into a slump. When an athlete does not know what they are doing wrong, the potential for them to pull themselves out of a slump is slim.
This is where you come in as a coach. You need to help your female athlete hone in on her muscle memory and understand how her body works in order for her talents to shine. If she does not understand how her body performs an action, she must learn it. As I have stressed in previous posts, keeping instruction simple is the best way to get through to your female athletes; the Natural Athlete is no exception. Now as a coach, you cannot teach natural talent, but you can teach mechanics. Being that she does not know what or how to fix something, it is your job to teach her. If she does not understand how she hits line drives, explain to her how she is doing it. The more she understands her body’s actions that produce her performance reactions, the better she will consistently be in practice and games.
Lastly, your natural athlete must be treated as an equal to her teammates. Even if she is the best athlete on your team, you want to maintain team unity. When you single out your best player, or compare your athletes to her, it makes her teammates feel self-conscious; they already know she is the best player, they don’t need you to make it even more obvious. Every female athlete seeks acceptance and if you continue to say things like, “Why can’t you field like Taylor does; did you see how Taylor hit that ball”, you are alienating your natural athlete from her peers. This could cause major emotional problems among your team. A great way to avoid such problems is to have all your athletes practice the same drills; your Natural Athlete needs drills just as much as the rest of her team and it helps maintain equality.
Key Coaching Tips for the Natural Athlete:
1. Even though your natural athlete can outperform you, it does not mean you cannot teach her. You have knowledge of the mental game that she can utilize throughout her performance.
2. Teach muscle memory and sound mechanics. It may be tedious to exaggerate the “little things”, but your athlete will understand her body and performance better with time.
i. Drills for the Natural Athlete:
A. One arm swings-switch between top and bottom hand getting the bat through the zone. The goal is to hit a line drive.
B. Bat toss- Use a wiffle ball bat and when she gets to her point of contact, she should throw the bat. If it goes up the middle, she performed the drill correctly and is throwing her hands at the ball.
C. Soft toss with popcorn kernels- Have your athlete hit popcorn kernels to increase hand-eye coordination and focus. If they are able to hit popcorn kernels successfully, softballs will look like watermelons to them.
3. Just because she is a natural athlete does not mean she will not make mistakes. Treat her equally to all of her teammates, even if their playing ability is unequal.
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