With the Christmas holiday season here, you will likely not be seeing your athletes as often (if at all) as you had prior to December. They are away with friends and family and busy taking in all the festivities of the holiday season and not necessarily thinking of softball through the holidays. If you are seeing the team during December and the beginning of January, you may experience absenteeism due to family commitments and it might be difficult for them to focus.
So what do you do?
If you have a travel team and your team is meeting for training, this time of year would be where you are focusing on high intensity training and low volume activities. This is actually a good thing because you can plan fun drills that are intense and quick moving that will keep their attention sharp and involved. Include stations or drills in your practice where everyone is involved while making sure that they are benefiting technically and/or tactically.
As with any practice or training session, you want them to be excited about coming back. During this time of year though you will get a higher turnout if your sessions are fully engaged and action packed. Allowing the excitement of the season to filter through the group safely during participation will make the time enjoyable and before they know it they will be saying see you next week because it went so fast.
If you do not have access to facilities and you basically have a month off, there are still things you can do to ensure that your athletes are keeping their mind and body learning and improving. You can have them submit a weekly journal about how they are meeting with their teammates to throw the ball or how the pitchers and catchers are getting together to throw. If your community has indoor batting cages available, you might make yourself available once a week for those that can come for some extra hitting practice.
Non Softball Through the Holidays
You can also use it as a team building time where you actually set the schedule of which player is going to meet with who each week. You do not have to set the day but you can say you want them to meet on at least one of the days during the selected week that you indicate. By setting who meets with who, you can work to break barriers facilitating the team getting to know each other. Most teams do not have players who dislike each other enough to have difficulty with an activity such as this.
You could also give a softball assignment that promotes learning about strategies and rules of the game. A question such as “How many ways are their to defend with runners on 1st and 3rd and describe the actions from beginning to end using current players on the team… what could happen if the play goes wrong?” Or you could have them do a research project on the history of softball with how it has evolved to the game it is now. If you had the team work on a research project for the history of softball, you can have them be in contact with each other during the time to ensure that each player has a different fact to present to you when they get back.
A month can be a long time to be away from a team setting, especially when you likely just began your training for the 2016 season in September or October. As a coach you may feel anxious and like you need to be doing something to make sure the team is improving. The key is to keep your team connected in some way. If you are a high performance team, you or a trainer may have given them workouts to continue while they are away.
While you as the coach are away from the team you can review and refine your planning for the months after Christmas as you are approaching the season and tournaments. You have had a few months to get to know your team and to see just what needs to be worked on the most, and where their skills are still solid from the previous season. I remind you however that if you are working with a young team who is not as experienced, fundamentals are still the most important skills to work on. You may want to add some more complex skills if you are confident that your team is solid fundamentally.
Enjoy your holiday season and all the best to you and your team for 2016.