As coaches we educate every day, sometimes without even knowing it. We also have the opportunity to educate without setting up a specific session to relay information. Giving a direction to our players without letting them know how to do it or why they are about to execute the direction can be a recipe for failure and frustration. If you can give the players more information, it can also be a way for them to better understand which makes the task easier.
Some Tools to Educate
Allow for Mistakes
I like to call errors learning experiences. We know that when a ball goes through the wickets or is thrown into the dugout, it is not because the player intended for that to happen. So it is important for use to let them know that by encouraging them to make adjustments on their own when errors occur.
Make athletes accountable for what they have control over
Have your team do an exercise where they determine the things they do and do not have control over. Once they know what is in their control, it is easier to make them accountable for that. Some of the things they can control for improvement are:
- time the spend improving their skills
- being coachable
- record keeping for improvement
- mental training
- getting into the starting line up
There are also numerous aspects of games and practices that they have control over such as:
- conduct during games
- how they practice
- how they respond to errors
The timing of introduction to new skills is going to have a big effect on the ability of your players to learn and execute them successfully. If you introduce the double play for example before you have solidified their fielding ground ball skills, your chances for success are not as big as they could be. Use the softball technical pyramid to make sure you move through the skills based on the team’s readiness for advancement.
Teaching new skills
If you are introducing new skills to your team it is important that you do it perhaps at the beginning of the practice when the team is not tired or frustrated due to activities they might have done before. It is important for their mind to be fresh and free of stress or expectations that will inhibit the ability to grasp and execute the skill successfully. Break skills down so that it is easier for the players to comprehend, especially if it is a complicated tactic.
Expectations vs reality
We all have an image of what we want or players to look like when we teach new skills. The first thing though that we need to do when considering initiating a new tactic is to look at how we think the team will respond based on their overall skill level, experience and athletic abilities. Then we can set our expectations based on their real abilities rather than what we think they should be.
When you are teaching new skills to your athletes you will likely first describe the skill and then demonstrate it. This is done when in a group setting. Make sure that all of the players are facing you so everyone can see, and there is not a game that is being played in a field next to you. Make sure they are not facing the sun so they can see you and that their eyes are on you or the demonstration.
Design drills where teammates compete with each other or use the season to reward the athlete who improves the most. Set values based on individual skill levels at the beginning of the season a check mid season for a winner and then again at the end for the beginning to the end and one for the mid season to the end. break the season into 3 and make sure there is a winner for each section while encouraging them to focus on the process.
Try to ensure that parents are not contradicting what you are teaching. It is not uncommon for a parent to have a different view or experience than what you are teaching. Let the parents know that if they are concerned about what you are teaching that they should talk to you about it so that you are on the same page as far as skill execution. And then remind them how important it is for their child to be on the same page as the rest of the team for continuity and less confusion for the players.