It’s no secret that a female softball player needs to ‘feel good’ to ‘play good.’ Often, there is a direct correlation between their performance on the field, and what is going on in their lives and their emotional state.
When there is any sort of drama, or emotional dysfunction, or lack of confidence, or discord, worry, or frustration going on in her head, there is a good chance that it will show up on the field.
For coaches and parents, helping their daughter ‘feel good,’ can be a struggle – and trying to teach them to get the heck out of their own heads, and to let things go, well- that can be a trick. But there are some things that coaches especially, and parents can do – to keep their players main focus on the game!
- Make sure every player knows that they are important! Make them feel valued. No matter what position they play, what their strength or weaknesses are – make sure they know that their role is critical. They are on YOUR team for a reason. It’s easy for coaches to get overly invested in their ‘best’ players and forget about the ones working hard in the background. REMEMBER: Each kid is on your team because YOU picked them at some point. Try to always remember what you saw in them.
- Never Play Favorites! Girls really pick up on this, and playing favorites hurts the entire team dynamic. We aren’t foolish to think that coaches don’t have favorites – of course, they do, but expectations and rules need to apply squarely across the board to all the teammates.
- Set clear, concise expectations of ALL the girls on the team (And stick to them!) It has to mean something, to be on a team! Teams have to come with rules and expectations from codes of conduct, to attendance and everything in between. Setting high expectations creates a professional environment, teaches them valuable life lessons, AND shows the girls that you believe in their ability to meet these expectations. Don’t be afraid to expect a lot from the kids, as this show the kids that you believe in them!
- Reward effort! Make sure to notice the small improvements the kids make from game to game, or practice to practice. When they have been working on a skill, and you see that they are getting better – make sure to say something to let them know you noticed.
- Praise more than you criticize.
- Talk – Don’t yell! Typically speaking, girls don’t like to be yelled or screamed at – especially if it occurs in front of their team or a group of people. It’s hard in the heat of the moment to remember that yelling at the kids is not the best way to motivate them….but it truly is. You can drive home a point WITHOUT tearing apart the kids’ confidence.
- Don’t be afraid to COACH them! They aren’t made of glass, they won’t break, and they need as many people to believe in them, and believe in their potential as POSSIBLE – so don’t be afraid to COACH THEM UP! It may be painful at times, they may want to give up, they may get mad at you – but keep pushing them to BE THEIR BEST VERSION OF THEMSELVES!
- Nip drama in the butt! Fast! Don’t put up with it on your team – no matter WHO is involved.
- Be fair. And yes, on game day FAIR is starting the best 9 – there is a scoreboard for a reason. That being said, always make sure the bench realizes how important their role is, and remember how those teammates got you to where you are.
- KEEP IT FUN!!!!!
- Love them more than you love winning. Don’t be afraid to let them know that you care about them. Much of what coaches do for kids has nothing to do with the game, and you never really know when YOU may be making the only difference.