Yaaaaaaay!!! Its time for the big show! time to get ready for playoff time…. be the best…… play our hearts out……. and WIN!!
STOP! Now take a step back for a second and look at the whole picture. True, it’s playoff time, true you want to be the most prepared, and yes of course you want to win. The question is….. how do you want accomplish these outcomes. First have a quick review of your season that brought you to this place. Do you feel that you have done everything you can through the season to prepare your team for this moment? Has anything been left out? If the answer is yes then you are good to go and should sit back and let your team play the game and enjoy the moment. There is nothing you can do so close to playoffs that is going to provide more of a benefit than confusion.
The preparation now is about solidifying the fundamentals of the game. Fielding, throwing, hitting, base running and pitching. To add anything now would simply add to any anxiety that your athletes may already be feeling as they approach maybe one of the biggest events of the season. Make sure they have the schedule well in advance and have a good nutrition plan that they should have been following throughout the season. Make sure they get the appropriate amount of rest and downtime for recovery and re-energizing.
I have too often seen teams being essentially put through a boot camp the week before the championships to make sure we “get everything in” and of course because other teams are doing it. The most important thing your athletes are going to need the week before is rest and balance. 3 practices as opposed to 5 or even 8 the week before will do just as much for the team technically and tactically. And I know that is a hard one to believe but you have to trust me. A team function will do way more for you that week then time on the field.
Being the best is part of winning right?? Of course it is. How do you determine what is the best though. The best what?? Now is the time to reinforce to your team that they are bringing together the best of what they have accomplished all season. The practices, the tournaments, the team events….. all contribute to this competition period right here right now. If your athletes feel prepared and that they are able to utilize their entire seasons work here and you will accept that as their best then they are good to go as well.
This is the time that self esteem and confidence will override anything that you think you might be able to pull out of them last minute for that magic that we all want to see. The truth is that the magic will be how your team is visibly enjoying the process and is able to not allow the outcome to be the biggest factor in their participation, but simply a result of good preparation and trust in each other, their skills and the process that they have all been working so hard at all season.
Your job now as the coach and leader of the team is to be the calm one. If the team feels you are confident in their abilities, they are more likely to feel confident as well. You may not know it but any amount of anxiety on your part as the coach is very noticeable…. especially if you are normally calm. So be sure to keep aware of your energy and anxiety levels throughout the tournament. If you do not feel that you have done enough to prepare the team for the season simply make a note of it and where you feel you could have improved while it is in your head and go from there and have fun. There is nothing more you can do but let your team know by your words and your actions that you believe in them and that whatever happens at the end of the day …. all you want to know is that they left everything on the field and feel good about their accomplishments… even if it is not around their neck.
You ARE the leader and sometimes a good leader is able to be a follower too. Let your team grow and perform…. that’s all they want to do. I would say good luck in your playoffs but I don’t believe in that. I believe that you can create your own destiny and do not need to rely on luck to provide your desired outcome which should simply be the best that can be done. That would be the greatest gift that the game can provide…… and of course for your players to continue playing the following season…