Unlike many other sports, softball is a volunteer-driven. This means that most people involved in youth softball are not there for financial gains. They mainly do it to help players learn not only the skills and drills of the game, but life lessons as well. That is the hard part of coaching: teaching kids things like attitude and teamwork. Here are some coaching tips that can help build strong team bonds among your players.
Tip #1 – Set Goals
Encourage your players to write down short and long term goals for themselves and the team. Goals must be tangible (i.e. “bat .350” vs. “hit better”) and they must also be written down and kept where they’ll be seen on a daily basis. You, as a coach, should also set the goal for your team. It is the coach’s job to provide a common goal for the team and then show them how they are going to accomplish it.
Tip #2 – Teammate Evaluations
I like to have players evaluate each other. Each player is assigned 2-3 teammates to evaluate. They must write down 2-3 strengths and 2-3 weaknesses for each player assigned to them. You, the coach, decide whether they have to come up with 2 or 3 for each category. Then, player by player, the individuals assigned share the strengths and weaknesses they wrote down for their teammate.
Please never forget that softball is a game. Games are supposed to be fun. Yes, it’s great to win, but that shouldn’t be your only focus. I most certainly go out on the field every day to do my absolute best, but I also remember to enjoy the game. The best players out there play because they love to. They love the challenges the game presents and they thoroughly enjoy competing. Those softball players would strive to be their very best regardless of who was watching. They aren’t out there just because they want others to see them win or because they want their name in the paper or because they want a trophy. They play because the game is fun for them. Softball is often the highlight of their day. It’s something they look forward to. If you’re players lose that or never did have it, they may never and make sure your players do too.
Tip #4 – Know Your Players
Knowing your players is a key to being able to communicate effectively with them. Coaching is much more difficult with any type of breakdown in communication. The better you know your players, the better you’ll know what they respond to and what they don’t respond to. This way, you can stop wasting your time on ineffective techniques and utilize the best methods for getting a message across to your team. Yes, this may be more work for you as things can vary from player to player, from team to team, and even from year to year with the same players. But if you’re serious about being the best coach you can be, you’ll do it. Throw the cookie cutter approach out the door.