How to Coach the Scholar Athlete Written By Keri Casas
A scholar athlete is one that is very bright and excels in the classroom; seemingly a better student than athlete. Many coaches struggle with the scholar athlete simply because they do not understand them. They do not understand how they think and how they relay instruction to action. For example, if you tell a scholar athlete to “watch the ball hit the bat,” they will think a handful of things instead of that simple phrase. They will think, “Where are my hands,” “do I need to swing now,” “how are my feet supposed to look,” “where does my bat make contact”. They are very mechanical thinkers. Now, most athletes do not analyze such a simple phrase because it is just that; simple. When a scholar athlete is told a command, they analyze, dissect, and picture everything that is supposed to happen to “watch the ball hit the bat,” instead of just hitting the ball.
How do you fix this as her coach? To make things simpler for your scholar athlete, you need to try to think how she thinks. The more you are in touch with your athlete and understand her way of thinking, the better your communication will be. When you start to think about the swing and break it down mechanically, you will understand how your scholar athlete comprehends your commands.
How do you understand your scholar athlete’s mentality? Ask questions! Ask your athlete to break down her swing; watch what she does and have her explain what she is doing. By doing so, your language with your athlete can connect based on how she interprets parts of her swing. Now once you and your athlete are on the same page and you have strong lines of communication, teach her the same way you would any other athlete. Allow your scholar athlete to break down her swing mechanically while she is completing drills and dry swings, but as soon as she faces live pitching or a machine, she needs to be in “go mode”. Let your athlete know that they are allowed to be mechanically and analytical during drills, but have her swing with a clear mind against a pitcher or machine.
We call this, “hitting like a 5 year old”. This is not meant to be demeaning, but to literally have your athlete think like a 5 year old would. 5 year olds know the difference between right and wrong, and they know if you tell them to do something, they will directly do it. If you tell them, “Look at that ball, when it comes to you, swing and hit it,” they will do it. Because you gave them a simple direction, and nothing else, they are able to accomplish the task because it is the only thing on their mind. Treating your scholar athletes in a similar fashion will prove to be extremely affective in their performance. Stick to direct commands, small adjustments, and key words and your athlete will overcome mechanical and analytical thinking in the batter’s box.
Key Coaching Tips for the Scholar Athlete
1. Do not over teach! If you give your athlete too many points to focus on, their brain will be on overload!
2. Praise small achievements! Scholar athletes look to be perfect and when they don’t achieve perfection, let them know their small accomplishments are still great!
3. Get on her level! Get to know your scholar athlete and the way she thinks. The more you understand each other, the better your communication and teaching will work!
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