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Successful Coaching - Encouragement

posted Oct 18, 2011, 2:15 PM by Ray Hughes   [ updated Oct 19, 2011, 6:03 PM by Pam Nelson ]

"Some players put pressure on themselves. I put pressure on the pitcher." - Mark Texeria

To EN-COURAGE your players is more that a high five or cheering them on.  It means finding ways to help them truly believe that they are succeeding.  As the word encourage itself implies, you are giving them the courage they need to improve as players and as young people. 

This is done in the early phase of coaching and will help every team member be more motivated to learn the game you are teaching, by playing or doing it with confidence.  ENCOURAGEMENT is a key to helping them overcome the failure that will come!  Seek ways to do this!  Winning will eventually come!  You can’t win before you learn!  Kids at young ages learn best when they believe in themselves and have fun playing the game.  This makes them desire to work hard and grow in their skills.

Here are some tips for being an encouraging coach:

1. Find the right balance in your practice drills which both push them to improve, but also set them up to succeed.  No player learns to field ground balls better by taking extremely hard ground balls and taking bad hops off their lip.  This promotes poor technique.  There is also a reason major leagues don't have Randy Johnson throw 100 mph pitches in batting practice.  Kids don't learn to hit by having the pitcher throw harder.  Players learn to hit when they get a high number of reps, taking fundamentally sound swings and connecting with the ball.  It builds muscle memory and an inner confidence.

2. Publicly and privately celebrate players who do the little things well.  Celebrating the kids with the most talent doesn't encourage hard work, but can discourage those who have't been blessed with natural ability.  Look for ways to celebrate the contributions of every kid to the common goal of the team.  Praise them privately and in front of their teammates.  What you celebrate will be how they begin to behave.

3. Never publicly shame a player.  Remember how big you seem to them and how loud your voice is.  Especially at the younger ages, get down on their eye level and lower the volume of your speech.  Remember how much they are absorbing when they are just beginning to play.  

4. Make it your goal that they begin to associate the baseball field with fun.  Sometimes the best thing you can do for a young player is buy them a snow cone and let them play in the dirt at the playground while the older kids play ball.  The more they want to be around the ballpark, the more they will choose to work on their skills as they get older.