written by: Horizon Coach, Steve Mukensnabl
1) Provide “structure”
Structure is not organization. Structure is expectation or rules that exist as part of your training and interactions between coaches, athletes and parents that will be in place no matter where you drill, practice or play. It is the “how” to train, not the “what” to train.
Why: Structure creates focus, consistency, and efficiency and increases confidence, self-esteem and team unity. Kids thrive in a structured environment that has clearly defined boundaries and expectations. Coaches can more effectively teach skills, execute and modify drills and increase productive training time.
1) Require responses to coaches. Example: “yes coach!”
2) Establish a listening position. Example: take a knee, eyes on coach, no talking
3) Establish rules that must be followed from the time they arrive to practice to the time they leave. Example: arrive on time or call, no talking during drills except for encouragement or questions, never talk over or interrupt the coaches, always move quickly when appropriate, etc.
4) Pre-determine the consequences of your rules Example: 1st offense-remind and confirm that the athlete understands the rule and the importance of it, later offense-wind sprints, push-ups, or loss of privilege.
5) Reward the athletes for following the rules and demonstrating discipline. Often a compliment or “thank you” works well. You can also remove an exercise or drill they don’t like as a reward.
6) Create simple verbal or gesture commands that communicate a more lengthy instruction. Example:
“listen-up” means stop what you are doing, stay where you are, put your eyes on the coach in your listening position
“huddle-up” means, stop what you are doing, sprint to the coach and assume the listening position
“gimme 10” means you just broke a rule and I am helping you by encouraging you not to break it again so you can be a better player and person.
Create abbreviated expressions for technical movements or positions you want them to recall or visualize during a drill. “Knee in,” fix it,” “casting,” “hip line,” etc.
2) Create and Protect a Positive Environment
As a baseball coach, imagine one of your players at bat and they just fanned a second strike with two outs, last inning, man on second and third and the game is tied. What do you want going through that player’s head at that time?
“Why does this have to be me? Coach will be so disappointed if I don’t get a hit. Don’t throw the curve…I suck at those.“
”Whoa, the pitcher got lucky on that one. The next strike is in the hole. What if I don’t get a hit? Nah, coach always says as long as I do my best he’ll be happy…can’t lose.”
The way you interact with your players from day one will help determine what is going through their minds during those critical moments. Don’t expect encouragement on game day to be effective if you display disappointment, frustration or anger during practice. The mental programming takes place over time. Every time a player makes a mistake is an opportunity for you as a coach to reinforce the appropriate positive response, image and internal discussion that your player should be having. Players and coaches should get in the habit of outwardly encouraging this dialog and each other on the practice and game field. Protect the environment that you create and allow no player, coach or parent to instill negative thoughts on your players.
You will have players that constantly make the same mistakes over and over. Rather than become frustrated with the player, take responsibility for the players’ repeated mistakes. That doesn’t mean that it’s your fault. It simply challenges you to be creative in figuring out how you can break down a skill to create and encourage small successes that will lead to better performance. You can use this method for behavior issues as well. Instead of writing off a kid as a “troubled youth” or bad attitude, be creative, find out what motivates them, reward positive behavior with that and build on their successes.
Coaches have great responsibility and opportunity to positively impact the lives of our kids. We don't always have the best role models to learn from so just like we expect our players to work on their skills, we must invest the time, thought, and discipline to