The keys to helping our players do their their best aren’t necessarily earth-shattering, but they are extremely important as our attitude determines so much about our players success.
“The key to developing people is to catch them doing something right.”
– Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
The holiday season is a time for giving and for hope. Whatever your religion, nationality or culture this time of year is universal for sharing with others. Sharing doesn’t have to come in the form of something purchased. Often, the best type of sharing is a smile, or holding the door for someone, or letting the other car take the parking spot and you finding another one. Real sharing is giving someone else something that you would rather have for yourself.
As we enter a new year it’s a great time to consider “giving” our players that one softball-thing we’d rather have for ourselves. Maybe that one thing is more patience, or better fitness, or a greater love of practice, or even sustained success. The saying, “the more you give the more you get,” really does apply. Maybe we want our players to be more patient at the plate and to select better pitches, but then we lose our patience and yell at them for the littlest thing. We want our players to be in better shape so they can hit the ball harder and stay strong through the game, and yet we are the ones who could stand to lose a few. If we could approach our players with the same “holiday spirit” that we show total strangers, we would no doubt receive so much more in return. A seemingly simple task, but one that isn’t always easy to do.
In fact, to help our players improve this season here’s a list of 5 simple things that will make a big difference in how much they believe in themselves, and in their ability to be successful:
- Catch Them Doing Something Right – Just like the quote at the beginning of this article states, the key to developing people is to catch them doing something right! Instead of stopping practice to yell at a player for missing a groundball or throwing the ball to the wrong base, try stopping practice to point out when someone did something right: “Hey Cindy, way to risk it on that dive!” “Hey Kristen, that was fantastic explosion through your swing!” The more you notice the more I want to please you, and when you notice the good things it creates a culture of success!
- Remember That They’re Trying to Succeed – I learned this the hard way. I used to be the coach that yelled at her team when they were horrible and had a bad attitude. Then suddenly I realized that my players weren’t trying to play bad, in fact they were trying to succeed but failing miserably. That’s when I realized my players desperately needed my encouragement rather than my criticism and discouragement. No matter how much or how little your players like softball, nobody tries to be horrible. So when your players struggle or even fail, those are the times they really need your support and encouragement.
- Keep the Emotion Out of It – To help ensure your teaching point is heard try relaying your message without the emotion attached to it. Too often we’ve got a great point, but our frustration or impatience creates so much emotion that our point is lost. Pull out the emotion and instead try relaying your message as if it was going to a third party who had nothing to do with the original mistake.
- What Did You Learn? – A great trick to help your players eliminate their frustration following an unsuccessful attempt at something is to immediately ask them “what did you learn?” If they aren’t learning from what they just did, their opponent surely is and will take advantage of that information and use it against them. So instead of getting mad, try asking “what did you just learn?” Then help them apply that knowledge to their next swing, or pitch or groundball, and watch their performance improve immediately.
- Be Nice – I know this probably sounds ridiculous, but I really do believe that being nice makes a difference in your overall team success. Being nice means:
- Making sure your players all cooperate with one another, that they do what their coaches and parents tell them to do, they respect the umpires, and generally have a positive attitude.
- Showing up to games and practices with a smile, and acting like you really enjoy being there.
- Not hogging all the shade and water on a hot day, but sharing with coaches and teammates.
- Not thinking you’re better than someone else just because you’re good at softball.
- Practicing your individual skills away from team practice so you continue to improve and be the best you can be for your team.
- You might not like the role your coach has given you but you’re going to respect their judgment, not criticize them behind their back, and practice your butt off to change your role (if you don’t like it).
- Treating your bench players with the same respect you treat your star.
- Playing hard for the entire game to show your respect for your opponent.
- Treating everyone you meet as important, since it’s not our position in life that matters but the life in our position.
For more information and some great exercises for increasing your player’s confidence, competitiveness and teamwork check out A Coaches Guide to Creating Team Chemistry.