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Every team has a dynamic that is specific to that team. The softball team dynamics are what will determine how the team responds to situations that are not always game related however some game situations will gain a response based on that dynamic as well. Each team will have a number of roles that may have positive or negative effects on the overall experience of each individual in the group.
Softball Team Dynamics
Every team regardless of what sport you coach will have team leaders rise up through the pre season. They may be carrying over from the previous season or maybe even be a new recruit. If you have been coaching for a couple of years, look back on your teams and reflect on the leaders that you saw and their influence on the group. We also know that there are 2 types of leaders and that leadership can take the team in a positive and a negative direction. How do you pick your team captain? Many coaches will have a vote. I felt it was always a good idea to have a team vote and for the coaches to use those results in their decision.
Often we think of positive leaders as the best athletes that have the most “friends” on the team. Players seem to go to them when things are not going well. They are probably good listeners and seem more mature than the other players on the team. This leader supports team policies and is sensitive to the environment and culture of the team. These players are great because you can tell how the team is going to react in certain situations through them. It is important though, not to use them as a sort of assistant coach as it can have a negative effect on the team’s faith in the player as a team mate.
These leaders are one of the easiest influencers to spot on your team. They often act against the coaching staff and often feel that they are pretty good at their skills so don’t need the same amount of coaching as everyone else. The less mature athletes might follow this leader as they are likeable and seem to have it all. It is important to speak to these players early and privately to let them know what your expectations are while giving them consequences of negative behaviours that contradict your vision of the team. If their behaviors persist then you might need to make a decision that benefits the team as a whole.
Follower athletes will often follow influencers on the team. When we are talking about positive and negative leaders, this is something you want to be aware of early. One of the reasons for this is that the follower will eventually adopt the attitude of the leader or person they follow. No further explanation required on that one I am sure. The way to guide the followers in the right direction, make sure you are working to improve confidence. This can be done through drills and activities that they are good at. Letting them know that you believe in their abilities and by giving them leadership roles in situations they are confident in will go a long way in keeping them on the right track.
We have likely seen this player in many situations. These individuals prefer to be alone and can withdraw mentally and physically from others. They generally have low self esteem and might even complain more often than others. You want to be aware of these athletes and their behaviors for more reasons than one. For health and wellness as well as to make sure their experience on the team is a positive one. One thing that you can do to help this player is to make sure they feel included in your acknowledgements during practices and games. The other action that I have found useful on softball teams as well as in teaching coaching workshops, is to make sure all players work with all players. Use drills that rotate the players so they throw with all team mates for example. This is a great way to break some of the barriers that occur especially when they are new to the team.
How many of us have one of these athletes on our team? These athletes generally crave attention from their peers and sometimes from adults as well. This can be fun and can serve a purpose, but it can also be distracting when you are trying to teach new skills or during drills where they need to concentrate. There is nothing wrong with being a clown, it is just a matter of timing. When is it okay and when is it a disruption to the activities? The best way to take care of this is early in the season. By relaying your expectations to the team in the beginning of the season, they will have a better idea of exactly when to have fun and when to focus. You may need to use strategies such as setting the player aside until they are ready to rejoin the activity if it becomes difficult.
Team Dynamics and Culture
The way you assess and nurture the team culture will affect the influence that the dynamics have on the team. By recognizing the different roles that arise on the team, you can work with your coaching staff to make sure that they benefit the team rather than destroy it. I have seen and experienced both. The goal at the end of the day is that every athlete on your team has a positive and productive experience. The best indicator of that is that you have a high retention rate from season to season.