We all want our athletes to enjoy their sport and “have fun”. Yes it’s true we have all seen the athletes that appear to be participating more for their parents than themselves but why would anyone want to continue an activity that they do not enjoy. Seriously have fun is being able to enjoy the game while focusing on what needs to be done.
I like to encourage an environment where the team knows when to have fun and when to be serious. Here is my method of seriously having fun …..
When and how to have fun:
- enjoying the activity of playing the sport
- not feeling afraid to make errors
- sharing in the successful plays
- throwing the ball well
- fielding the ball well
- hitting the ball well
- having fun in between games
- fostering an inclusive environment
- scheduling team events
When to be serious:
- as soon as the pitcher is ready to pitch
- while making a play
- when going up to bat
- when actively practicing specific skills
- during physical training
- during mental training
- while planning the season
This game is a game of mental capacity. It is very true that we want our athletes to be smiling at the end of the day. The trick is how to promote a culture where athletes and coaches can enjoy successes, learn from disappointments and be willing to take risks on the field without being afraid to make an error. Being able to trust the team is a big part of that environment. So often coaches want to control everything that happens during the game. Our players pick up on that.
I believe that athletes with restrictions don’t feel as much like they are playing the game. They are simply doing what the coach is telling them to do. Softball players as they gain experience, know what to do on the field. If we can empower them so that they feel like they are running their game, they will enjoy it much more. Think of a video game. If someone is standing over a player’s shoulder telling them how to shift the console and what moves to make, how long do you think they will enjoy playing it? Probably not too long. The more control of the game we can give them with the amount of direction depending on their experience level the more they will “have fun”. they will also learn when to have fun and when to be serious in order to get the best outcome from the competition.
I believe that coaches have a crucial role to play in creating this seriously have fun environment. If we as coaches have fun and know when to be serious, the athletes will pick up on that. I know from many years of experience that the athletes that I coached would react to my emotions. If I was feeling good during the game then they most times were as well. If I was having a bad day or was feeling irritable then the would pick up on that.
That’s why I never allowed parents to discuss any issues with me prior to games on game day. I would talk with them after games when I had time to discuss things so that I did not bring any kind of distraction in my thinking to the competition at hand or to my discussion. I did experience those distractions early in my coaching career and it was not good at all. It was not fun for me, or the team. A good way to start is to ask your team what they think of the term seriously have fun. What comes to mind when you say it to them? Work with them to establish your seriously have fun environment and discuss ways to promote the environment.
It is critical that you establish an open door policy where athletes can approach coaches with any concerns or suggestions on running the culture of the team. There will be times when maybe an athlete recommends something that is way off base but that’s where the coaches leadership would redirect them to the more productive path.
Feel free to ask me if you have any questions or would like any information on this if you would like to implement it to your team. Most importantly…. enjoy the process and let the outcome take care of itself.