Are You Looking at Your Players with the Right Lens?

throwing throw players lens glove ball elbow target follow through

Do your players struggle getting a certain skill no matter how many times you’ve explained it?

If so, then see how your coaching lens might be the solution.

Being a good coach is a mixture of a lot of things. Things like patience, kindness, compassion, creativity, sport knowledge and player understanding are ingredients that successful coaches on all levels, and with all age groups possess.

Most of us start and end our coaching improvement journey with skill and drill information – basically finding things our players can do right now to get better today. And sure, it’s helpful if our players improve but there’s more to helping your players get better than simply finding a new drill.

The key to helping your players maneuver through the various ups & downs that learning these skills present, is to Look at Your Players Through the Right Lens. This simply means that as coaches, we need to look at our players based on their particular age – and all the things that means they can and probably can’t do – instead of looking at them as miniature versions of ourselves.

The chart below gives you a better idea of what I mean:

11 Year Olds & Under (Their Lens)Adults (Your Lens)
Move Large Body Parts (Arms, Legs, Head) instead of small onesMove small joints independently
Struggle controlling body parts without seeing themCan move body parts correctly without looking at them
Can’t “feel” their body parts while moving full speedCan “feel” their body parts while moving full speed
Struggle to focus on moving more than one body part at a timeCan correctly move multiple body parts at a time
Limited experience to refer to in regards to imitation of skillsExpansive visual & often physical experience for skill imitation
Limited if any knowledge of skill objective (how skill fits into game)Good idea of skill objective and how it fits into game

Let’s take throwing. It’s a skill that is extremely difficult for younger players to do properly which can lead to a ton of frustration from a coaching point of view. So, do your young players throw poorly because either you or them is doing something wrong, or could there actually be another reason?

If you coach younger players then I’ll bet you are you constantly telling them to raise their elbows, or bring the ball all the way back when they throw. And yet, it doesn’t seem to help no matter how much you work on it. Am I right?

throwing throw players lens glove ball elbow target follow through

So look at the photo throwing comparison on the next page showing a 10 year old throwing on the left and a 19 year old throwing on the right. I’ll be you see some major differences, and no doubt notice that one of these players might look a lot like the ones you coach.

When you then look at my comments to the right of the pictures, you’ll notice that the problem areas that the 10 year old is having are due to what was listed on her Coaching Lens chart. Basically, she struggles moving her glove hand correctly since her focus is entirely on the throwing hand. That’s great – this means she’s totally concentrating.

What we must do as coaches is recognize this age-based issue and not destroy her concentration and progress by insisting she ALSO move her glove correctly at the same time. Young players tend to struggle correctly moving separate body parts at the same time. We don’t as adults, but a 10 year old isn’t an adult. That’s using our Coaching Lens to properly see the player and how their age is impacting their skills.

While it’s important for us as coaches to help our players develop their eventual skills, the key word there is “eventual”. We might know how they are supposed to look when they throw, but if their young bodies cannot move and control their small body parts simply due to their age, and not to a lack of trying or caring, then it’s our role as coaches to know this and help them succeed within their age range.

For younger players who struggle throwing because they move their hands in more of a side-to-side helicopter-type pattern instead of the more up and down circular pattern (like the 19 yr old in the pictures) focus on the following 2 things (but notice it’s one body part at-a-time):

  1. Point your Glove Elbow at the target when you bring the ball back
  2. Lower your glove-side shoulder when you bring the ball forward

Keep it simple and age-appropriate by seeing your players through your Coaching Lens and you and your players will have far more fun, enjoyment – and success!

For more help with your players throws, check out the following:

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