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A Learning Experience

The thing I love most about the sports arena, is the opportunity to continue learning. The information in sports is constantly changing, re-arranging, and updating itself. There are vast new strategies, techniques, and philosophies arising out of the woodwork everyday.  Something I’ve done to capture the learning experiences and important instances throughout my career is to write down moments that resonated with me along the way.

During my collegiate career as an athlete, I wrote this entry:

Yesterday we had a rough practice, especially at the end. We couldn’t catch the ball or  throw it to our spots. Coach shut down practice because we couldn’t pull it together and sentsoftball-error everyone home. In our huddle at the end of practice coach said that something needed to come from within, that we shouldn’t be ok with how we were playing. Then went on about how we need to stop saying, “it’s alright, get the next one”; we needed to expect more out of our teammates.  After practice we all carried on as normal laughing and singing and went on our way.

I was laughing and singing, but on the inside, I was pissed. I should have been the one to keep the team motivated to keep trying and work harder. That should have been me; I failed in my duty to make the team as good as they could be. I also felt like I got called out directly because coach had specifically  referenced my “it’s alright, get the next one” comment. But to me I always expect my fellow teammates to be giving 100% because I always aim to. So if my teammates are giving a hundred percent and just can’t get it right, to me, you should shake off the previous play, and focus on making the next one better; in other words, “it’s alright, get the next one.”

The next morning at workouts, coach pulled us together before we started anything.  Coach talked about how we acted after practice ended badly yesterday. How we carried on with our normal laughing and singing as we packed up our stuff; obviously frustrated that we didn’t outwardly convey how bad practice went. Coach also threw in how our ranking had fell from the previous season. Coach talked about how four years ago our program was a losing program and everyone on the team was ok with it. She compared us to them. This is how that made me feel:

Gall Huddle

(Frustrated.  As a player I always have a smile on my face I never let anything get to me, that’s how I am. That’s how I always am. How often do you see me drop my head, how many home runs ruin my attitude and eventually my game? None, never. I don’t act on the outside, I react on the inside. Give me a second chance and you’ll see the initiative I have to motivate myself to be better. Am I supposed to break away from who I am, and throw my glove to prove that I’m upset? Do you really need to see me upset to know that I am? Have I not shown you that I love this game, and only want to do what will make me and my teammates better?  Can’t you trust that I want to do better. You preach trust. I trust you, respect me, and trust me back.)

In wanting us to show that we care, it seemed as if our coach was asking us to hang our heads. To me, it was like she was breeding bad attitudes. In a game, if I make an error and hang my head it is not going to do any good for myself or my team. So why would I hang my head after a bad practice? It’s like that quote, “it’s not about how many mistakes you make, but how you react to each mistake.” Of course I am going to come out the next practice and give everything I have. I had planned to step up my vocal game, and be more motivating to my teammates, hoping to inspire them to play at their best potential during practice. But, we were reprimanded before we got to show how we had re-focused and were dedicated to making our team better. Also, by just ending practice the day before, coach gave up on us, the exact opposite reaction coach desired from us as players. Be a model, not a critic. Throwing in the ranking stats to the pre-practice speech was supposed to provoke us to work harder; to prove to ourselves we belonged here, and to prove those other teams wrong. However, when faced with a challenge in practice, our coach gave up and ended practice. My travel ball coach would’ve said something along the lines of, “Do you guys want to be here or do you want to go home? Because you’re playing like shit.” He would have given us the chance to make the decision to not accept the way we were playing. The way he does it achieves the goal of making it come from within, because we made the choice to stay, yet it also is slightly harsh and gets the point across in a quick and straight to the point matter. Our collegiate coach wanted someone to step up; maybe I should have said, “no coach I don’t think we should end practice I think we should stay here and work through it” Although, I also didn’t want to disrespect my coaches decision to end practice. But I should of.  I should’ve asked if my team wanted to stay and work on it, that’s where I failed.


Looking back I have mixed emotions reading this. In my own personal philosophy I will never end practice early, mostly because I know how frustrating that is as a player. However, I do understand how easy it is to misinterpret a persons actions after an unsuccessful outing. As a coach I have to retrain my brain, and keep myself from judging my players after a bad performance or loss. I have to remember that letting it go is a positive quality, even though it can come across as if they don’t care.

If I had been coaching my own collegiate team when this situation arose, I think I would have brought the team together and focused on something else. I would have implemented a team bonding activity, or discussed strategy, or even played a fun game. I would do something to break the tension, let every ones mind relax. After achieving that break, I would have gone right back into the drill we were struggling with, hoping to end practice on a positive note.

Sport is so important to collegiate athletes, it’s a big chunk of their life, and it’s continually on their mind. The way a practice ends is important, their perception of the practice and the feelings and thoughts that accompany it are stuck with them until the next time they meet. Leaving on a sour note takes a toll on athletes. It is a goal of mine to have my players always leaving practice feeling confident and positive. I hope they leave excited to come back.

Quote of the day: 

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” – John C Maxwell

About smarcia12

I am a special education teacher who also holds a MA in Sport Psychology.

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