TECHNIQUES FOR COACHING SUCCESS
Why do some teams perform well under pressure while others fall apart? What sets successful teams above the rest? Beside developing and teaching his/her players baseball, there are some skills a winning coach must acquire.
Teach your players to focus on the things they can control. When players focus on the “uncontrollables” they are more likely to tighten up and "choke." Teach players what is within their control and what is beyond their control.
Developing mental toughness
Winning the game
The play of the opponents
Do not coach the outcome. When players focus on the outcome of the game -- winning and losing -- they will not be as effective. It distracts players from their performance and inhibits their ability to relax. Get your players to focus on specifically what they have to do to compete, not on winning. Any sign from a coach that winning is more important than anything in the world will cause players to “tighten up.” Just as you can read your players’ body language, they too can read (and are affected) yours.
Teach your players HOW to relax. Don’t just tell them to relax. Show them how. Spend some time in the preseason going over relaxation techniques: stretching, breathing exercises, visualization techniques, muscle relaxation. Establish and teach routines to help them relax. A confident player is a more relaxed player. If a coach focuses on the players’ improvement rather than the results they achieve, it will instill confidence.
Teach infielders the proper “set” and “ready” positions.
Teach pitchers how to relax when on the mound.
Teach hitters a good “on-deck” routine (if allowed).
Teach them to focus on the situation and what they need to do.
Teach catchers a pre-pitch glove relaxation technique.
Positive and appropriately focused pre-practice/post-practice and pre-game/post-game talks.
Teach your players how adversity can work for them, not against. Teach your players to find an advantage in a disadvantage. Do not allow excuses to creep into the players’ conversation. To be effective through adversity, players must play above it and not use it to make excuses for their performance. This is an ongoing challenge for coaches.
“We have practiced in this kind of hot weather before, so we are prepared.”
(Batters) “That umpire’s strike zone is low, so be ready to be aggressive low in the strike zone.”
(Pitchers) “The umpire is calling a low strike zone. Keep the ball down and you are going to have a great day.”
Keep games and competition in perspective. If you make the game "bigger than life," so will your players. If the game is hyped too much, or if that "must win" situation becomes too vital, chances are you will not get a winning performance from your team. A player can lose his/her perspective and made the game too important. Help your players learn handle the pressure of a situation.
Skills are developed in practice. They are displayed in games. If you put the pressure on your players in practice they will respond well in games. If you have the perspective that practices are more important, then games will become a piece of cake.
Coaches should also make players aware that baseball requires a proper decorum among opponents, umpires, coaches and teammates. Intensity must be tempered with respect for the game.
Put your players under pressure at practice. That is where the pressure should be; practice and not games. Constantly challenge your players to practice at 100% effort. Teach them to “Never Give In.”
Challenge your players; avoid threatening them. This is where the “end results-oriented” coach fails miserably. Threats will surely distract a player from a solid performance and can destroy confidence and love for the game. If you maintain an encouraging “you can do it” atmosphere, your players will perform better. Continually challenge them to do better; in practice as well as games.
Separate self-worth from performance. Do not equate their performance with how you feel about them as people. And do not let them fall into that trap on their own. If your practice routines are sound and if you teach the game, your players will give you everything they have. They will know you care about them. And they will respond to you.
Allow your players to fail. Baseball is designed around failure. No one gets a hit every time. No team wins every game. Failure is inevitable so teach your players how to deal with this fact. Encourage your players to let their mistakes go immediately and to focus on what they want to have happen, not what they are afraid will happen. Praise good swings at a pitch even if it’s missed. Praise a great fielding attempt. Praise a player’s effort, not the result. When players are not concerned about making mistakes, they perform their best.
Players who react negatively to failure exhibit the worst kind of immaturity on the baseball diamond. It is a coach’s job to help players put distractions behind them.
Evaluate your players on their progress, not their statistics. Remember, it is about the effort, not the outcome.
Use Humor. Humor is a wonderful tool for putting things in perspective, helping players relax and taking their mind away from failure. Nothing is more boring that a coach who takes themselves too seriously. A quick wit and a wry outlook can be effective if it is not used to ridicule the players. It can break up a stern demeanor and make the coach more accessible and human. It can make the players more comfortable and ease tensions. A light touch of humor can drive home a point to a player. Since the game often includes failure a little humor can ease a player’s misery sometimes. Don’t be afraid to use it. A laugh once in a while can lighten things up.
Kids have a way of testing adults. They want to see how far they can go. A sardonic statement can sometimes keep them in line and let them know who is in control. “Billy, you’ve got more alibis than Jesse James. No excuses, son.” Humor can also have a way of telling a player his job performance is not quite up to par. If you decide to use your “rapier-like wit” as a coaching tool, use it sparingly and at opportune times. It may surprise you how effective humor can be.
Teach you players to enjoy themselves and to enjoy the game. Teach them to find satisfaction in the way they play; not the outcome of the game. Teach them to take pleasure in their environment; the beautiful field, the green grass, the baseball smells. Any player who takes pleasure in the way he performs will perform at a higher level.