Coaching is hard. There are a zillion things that go on after practice, and on the hours and days when the team is not meeting at the field or playing a game or in a tourney.
Seriously. Until you have done it, been responsible for orchestrating the menagerie of managing 11 different family schedules, personalities expectations and limits and actually getting people to show up and do what they need to do to make a TEAM WORK, you may wanna refrain from cursing and criticizing the coach too much.
Even so, even the best – most well intended, fairest coaches make common mistakes. And mistakes are simply proof that ALL of us, no matter what the role (parent, player, fan or coach) we are LEARNING!
1. Not having a CLEAR and FAIR code of conduct. So your very best hitter doesn’t show up to practice. Or your first baseman bails on a tournament at the last-minute. The worst thing you can do as a coach, is not have a consequence for this action. In other words, you can’t sit girls that are giving you 110% and let your best hitter squeak in the batting order because she is your best hitter. Sure, it hurts the team to have her be a sub. But it also hurts the team for her to miss practice. And it REALLY hurts the team when you send a message to the other girls giving 100% that it doesn’t matter or that the rules and code of conduct expected of the team don’t seriously apply to everyone. Speaking of which….this leads us to #2.
2. Not starting the season out with a heart to heart with the players and parents. Get both groups together and make them fully aware of expectations, financial and time requirements and commitments, behavioral expectations from both sides for practices and games. In fact, having a commitment letter that each player and parent signs which honestly and openly lay out your expectations is definitely a good way to start the season. Include financial expectations, travel expectations, practice times and policies, behavior expectations in the dugout, detail how playing time is divvied up, and even consequences for missing practices etc. Setting a code of conduct right up front can avoid a lot of issues down the road.
3. Playing favorites. We will be honest here. Every coach, teacher etc. naturally gravitates to certain personalities more than others. That’s simply human nature. And of course, if your daughter plays with you then you will see her in a different light than others do. (No matter how realistic you think you can be, no parent actually is when it comes to their own daughter – coach included). The problem is when you show these favoritisms outwardly your players notice and its defeating. Yeah yeah, we know. Life is not fair, suck it up buttercup and all that jazz. But as a coach you are trying to get the MOST from your players and if you want them to trust you, you have to lead with integrity!
4. Family coaching. Listen, we have tried this and we see this in action all the time. It may be awesome for YOU to coach with your spouse or dad, or sibling or mom or daughter – to share the passion. The problem is that one of the beautiful things about having more than one coach is your chances are high that the girls will gel, trust and feel comfortable with at least one of them. And this is HUGE! When you start making coaching a family affair, you close down the open lines of communication that may otherwise come naturally. Players and parents don’t want to throw their coaches spouse or dad or daughter or mom under the bus. Consider this. If someone comes to you with an issue with your family member your first natural reaction will be to defend and feel defensive, right? And often times players may feel ganged up upon when their coaches share a bed or family history. It just gets messy, and can seriously undermine the openness of the team. Instead of the players coming to you with their issues, they start sharing them with one another.
5. Not being willing to COACH UP! Listen,we know every team is looking for the perfect set of 11 girls – with equal talent – to fill their roster. The thing is this is not going to happen unless you are playing organizational ball – where players are lining up to pay a fortune to wear a jersey with no guarantees. Don’t be afraid to see a girl tryout, who may be a little raw – and be willing to coach her up to speed. You might be surprised how much more important HEART is than talent.
6. Yelling! Just stop. Its frustrating to watch your team fall apart. It’s extremely angering to see a team show up on the field that looks like they have never played before. But these days happen even to the BEST TEAMS. And yelling and throwing your hat and slamming your fist against the fence – well, it won’t accomplish much with most girls. It actually may just shut them down further, and it sort of makes you sound like you may need anger management classes! Sometimes, silence – and letting them fail miserably – has a much more positive affect than screaming your head off.
Coaching takes practice too! Remember most coaches start out as volunteers when their girls are very young because there arent very long lines of people waiting to donate their time and dedicate themselves to coaching these days. You will learn as you go. And as far as all those people sitting on the other side of the fence, who didn’t bother to volunteer – your commitment is NOT to them. It’s to the kids on the field.
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