When you consider the amount of tasks we complete as a coach, it is helpful to consider how we facilitate our athletes and program as an optional term. A facilitator is one who essentially assists or guides others in accomplishing a task or goal. According to Dictionary.com the definition of facilitate is: to make easier or less difficult; help forward (an action, a process, etc.)
We are referred to as coaches by those around softball, and even those that are not connected to the game. We can actually use the word facilitator in the place of coach in many instances during practices and games. One of the ways we facilitate is by providing tools such as equipment to execute drills. Bats, balls and bases are often provided by the coaches. This is a simple way to relate coaching to facilitating. But wait. There’s more.
Facilitate the Environment
We have an idea of how we want our athletes to conduct themselves during practices and games. The way we promote or model that is how we facilitate the process. Some ways we might facilitate are the following:
- team conduct rules
- parent conduct rules
- putting away equipment rules (who puts it away)
- how we set up drills
- player responsibilities during games and practices
- be as or more committed than your athletes
With the use of technology, we facilitate our athletes learning with feedback in the form of video, forms, statistics and reports. Video analysis is a great tool that we use to help athletes improve their skills. We may have the players fill out a self report on how they think they are progressing through the season and what their strengths and weaknesses might be. We all keep many stats on opponents but how many of us keep stats for use in developing our program further? A report card for each athlete periodically through the season is a great way to build our players confidence and to plan for the preparation phase in the next season.
A practice is one big facilitation activity. We are providing drills for skill development and interacting with our athletes in a fact finding mission to assist them in improving their game. One way to ensure that we are facilitating rather than directing is to involve the players in the process. Ask questions about their skills that they can answer.
Questions such as:
- Where do you feel your strengths are?
- How do you think that ________ can help your hitting?
- What would you like to improve in your skills?
- What can I do to help you improve your skills?
- Is there anything we are doing that is not helpful?
You could even allow the team to be creative and develop their own drills. They will have more investment in how the skill runs and how successful it is and in everyone being better at it at the end of the drill than the beginning.
Structure builds structure in your team. Good preparation makes that structure easier because you know what you need, when you need it, where you can get it, why you need it and who is going to help you to make it happen. A level of structure in your team will facilitate stabilization in your environment so that everyone has a better idea of what to expect when they are with their softball family.
It is easy to focus on perfection. After all, perfection is how we can almost guarantee a win. With this outlook, it can be difficult for us to allow players to make mistakes because we know of course that it is usually errors that lose games. Challenge yourself to allow for mistakes and improvisation. When you watch a player who loves the game, they are ready and willing to take risks to get the job done. It’s a great thing to watch and we should do what we can to encourage this behavior as it also builds instincts as they test their limits within the game.
Environment for growth
We facilitate growth by providing a safe environment that is not intimidating and encourages athletes to occasionally take risks as a part of their development. You could for example set a 15 minute segment in your practice for them to “go nuts”, or not worry at all about making a mistake because you as the coach is not going to say anything. You could let them know that if they make a mistake, perhaps you want them to tell themselves what they are going to do to improve the skill. Or what they are going to do next time.
Make the activities more challenging than normal but safe to prevent injuries. This will allow them to totally focus on the process rather than the outcome because they know nothing is depending on that outcome. Through this challenging activity, encourage or teach them about self direction and their own impact on skill development.
If we can facilitate our team’s growth and development in the game, I believe they will feel more confident and enjoy the environment. After all it is the players who play the game, and we are actually their assistants in their development.