One of the best ways to get to really know your team is through appreciation. To truly appreciate our athletes, officials, parents and supporters, is to understand why they are participating and what it means to them to succeed. This can even have an affect on the way you design practices, tournaments and your yearly training plan if you use one.
Appreciate is a word that can sometimes be misunderstood. In this context, I am not only referring to appreciate as in a level of gratitude but also a level of understanding, acceptance and tolerance. For example, an unappreciated athlete is one that will spend more time afraid of consequences for doing something wrong than wanting to do things right. The players that buy into a coaches program are ones that know the coach appreciates them and is interested in their success not only as a team but as an individual.
All athletes regardless of their playing or sport experience carry their own reasons for entering softball. We need to appreciate the fact that athletes bring their own experiences to the game and those experiences will have an affect on how they interact with the coach and everyone around them.
Athlete / Parent Relationships
I have seen every type of relationship with parents and their athletes. I have seen parents who want to control and get involved in all of their children’s activities to the degree that they want to yell out instructions during practices and games. I have seen parents who are concerned but adhere to the environment that their child is in and there are parents who are extremely busy or that are more prone to simply drop their daughter off and return for retrieval after the practice or game. We need to be aware of the level of involvement and reasons for that involvement by parents so that we can appreciate where they are coming from and what they bring to the team, positive or not. We know that most of it is due to concern for one of their most important family members and some may be because they totally trust you as the coach and don’t feel they need to be there the whole time.
If we can appreciate the level of our team, it will make it much easier for expectations to be relevant to the team skill levels and abilities. So often we watch other teams at tournaments and think, our team should be doing what they are doing. The truth is that basic fundamental skills can win games much more easily than advanced skills that are mediocre. Because other coaches are doing something does not mean that you need to do the same, especially if it is not useful for your team.
Sometimes we think we need to be working on some aspect of the game at all times. Even though this is true, always consider improving and solidifying the current skills first rather than changing things because we learned something new. If it ain’t broke you don’t need to fix it.
Most of us can appreciate that most athletes are usually harder on themselves than we are, for this reason it is more beneficial to teach them tools that deal with their reaction to errors than to simply tell them what they did wrong. At the beginning of the season or even during the season, you can actually give them opportunities to practice errors and what they are going to do to re focus on the task at hand. It is not something we do right? We practice everything else that we want to improve so why not include error recovery successes.
By giving your players credit for their knowledge and abilities, they will more likely feel that you appreciate them and what they contribute to the team’s success. There are coaches who feel that they personally are the reason for a team’s success, and the players are the reason for lack of success. The truth is without the athletes there would be not success at all. We need to empower our athletes to be a part of the process and to want the team to improve as much as anyone. We have a lot of power as coaches and our players will respond to the way we interact with them and how we treat them in those interactions.
Spot the Issues
By having a good appreciation of the abilities, and culture of your team and of your players, you will be able to maximize performance success on many levels. You will be able to ensure that you are working at a pace that aligns with the true skill level of your team and their goals. I don’t believe that it is possible to have a full season without some sort of issue arising. By having some insight though, you might be able to spot them before they become difficult to handle and you will be able to even anticipate some of them depending on how well you know your athletes and parents.