We took a huge step in my section of our travel organization in adding a 12U team which will allow us to develop younger athletes before they start competing for our older team.
As coaches, we are fortunate to have been blessed with a group of athletically talented girls that love the game.
But there's a BUT. But the problem is, some of them seem so scared to make a mistake, they are not performing to what they know as an athlete and what we know as coaches they are capable of doing when it comes to game time.
PERFORMANCE VS. PRACTICE MINDSET
As coaches and athletes, we need to understand that there are two different mindsets we want to use when developing players. While in the practice mindset, we want the athlete to be working on technique and improvement. Then when we move into the performance mindset, which should be what we use in games, we are working on getting the most out of the skills we have worked to develop in practice and develop a flow so that we can successfully access those skills we have worked to develop in practice.
The challenge for us as coaches is this: we NEED to remember that the kids need to be allowed spaces to be in the performance mindset. That means that we cannot try to control every single thing they do during a game. That means we should do our best not to make knee jerk line up changes when a kid makes an error. Or strikes out. Or makes a mental mistake.
How do I coach if you are saying we should not coach???
Easy, tiger. If you're riled up that you think I just told you not to coach the game, then you're not getting it yet.
Think about it this way: let's say you're the kid that just made an error and then coach replaces you with someone else. As a young person, they go through something similar to this line of thinking:
1. I suck. Coach took me out because I missed that play.
2. I'm never going to get another chance.
3. Coach is mad at me.
Now the athlete is doubting how they prepared. They're scared that if they go in the game again, they might do the same thing. They start hoping the ball doesn't come to them to close out the game.
Preparing your kids to be successful in big moments is what really separates the "great" from "good" coaches. A simplified approach of how we can do that is as follows:
1. In games, use cues to talk about flow. Working to obtain good body language and encouraging the athletes to just go for it will go a long way. Breaking down mechanics during a game is a HUGE no-no.
2. In practice, add competitive elements where they can learn what it feels like to win or lose. One of the key things we talk about on my staffs with the athletes is to remember how good it DOES feel to make the big play and win so that when they get into that situation in a game, they can draw on that feeling when their opportunity arises.
3. Overcommunicate your plans. Kids are smart little sponges that LOVE to know what's coming. I believe that if you explain to them what is happening and why you're doing it, it will help facilitate the relationship you have with them as a coach.
This can apply to....
a. Season plans: "we're playing a hard tournament first to see what we need to work on as a group"
b. Practice plans: "we are working on bunt coverages so that we're all talking and getting in the right positions based on field personnel"
c. Line up changes: "I didn't think you were seeing this pitcher particularly well, so I wanted to give Mary a shot at her and see what happens"
d. Anything. If you want kids to buy what you are selling, you'll get much better results if you at least explain to them what is going on. They may not agree with you, but it at least allows them to know what you are thinking.
Our job as coaches is to place stress on athletes so that not only do they know what it feels like, but they can also learn to enjoy that feeling so much that they can't wait to have it happen to them again.
Just remember to remind them of this one phrase: think how good it is going to feel! ❤️⚾️