RSS Feed

Tag Archives: teaching

Only Teach What You Trust

Posted on

image-1I remember going to softball camps as a kid. Every camp had new techniques and new ways of doing things. Most camps forced their way into your skills and changed how you did things. Countless times I entered a camp with one bunting technique and left at the end of the week with another. Now that I’m a pitching coach, and have been randomly coaching at different practices with multiple kids, I’ve been looking back on my experiences at these camps.

Walking into a practice where you aren’t the head coach, or even associated with the team; you begin to wonder where your boundaries lie. You know you’re there for a reason, and the coaching staff has asked you to help out because they admire your abilities. But, how much should you impose on their players? I found myself wondering; should I just fix the basics? Should I just teach them how to focus on the mound, and go over mental cues? Am I allowed to completely change their motion when they indeed have a pitching coach they’ve been working with?

images-55Here’s the conclusion I came to. My success in softball came form sticking to one coach, and one philosophy my entire career. I was lucky enough to have the same pitching coach from the age of 10 until I ended my career at 22. I did go to camps, and they did temporarily change my mechanics, but as soon I as I went back to a team practice, my coaches put me straight back to our way of doing things. However, with that said, I can only teach what I know and believe in.

Today I gave a pitching lesson to two young pitchers who were having trouble mastering the change-up. I was asked to help them because the change-up was one of my best pitches. The way I see it is; I won’t fix something that isn’t broken.  If they throw their curveball well, even if it’s not the way I would teach it, I’ll leave it alone. If they are struggling with different pitches, I’ll change them to the way I was taught. After all thats why I’m here.

My impromptu lessons tend to look like this. I have the pitcher go through all her pitches so I can see how she throws. I then begin to work on the pitch I was asked to help her with, or we work on the pitch I think needs the most attention. I have her throw it her way multiple times.images-56 I then do something unique. I ask the pitcher to teach me how they throw the pitch. They become the coach for a minute and show me the motion, snap, grip, and release of their pitch. After talking through the physical cues, most pitchers begin to throw more effectively. (Ahh secret sport psychology at its finest.) I then go over mental cues for them to recite before executing a pitch. If these two tactics and minor tweaks don’t improve their pitch, I break them down completely and teach them my mechanics.

I empathize with players who are constantly changing their mechanics due to working with multiple coaches; it can become very frustrating. However, as a coach, it’s my duty to teach athletes the methods I truly believe in.  Even if it may frustrate and confuse them for a moment. I have to hope that my mechanics will assist them in experiencing a break through. I now understand why my skills were analyzed and changed throughout my softball camp experiences. As coaches we need to cater to individuals players, as every athlete has different strengths, but we must enforce the methods that we know; and believe in the most.

Quote: 

“You haven’t taught until they have learned.” -John Wooden

Enlighten Your Athletes With “Why”

Posted on

When I first entered the coaching world six years back, I was welcomed with a rude awakening. I was struggling to answer my athletes questions pertaining to why we did things the way we did. For instance, “Why do we go head first into second base on a steal with no runners on, opposed to going in feet first?”. After playing softball at an elite level since the age of 8, it was a shock, and honestly a little disheartening to realize I didn’t know the answer.

Throughout my youth career as a softball player I was lucky enough to always play for coaches who had an immense knowledge base of the game. I was coached at the elite level, with the correct techniques, and strategies, from the get go. I had coaches who knew to call pitches off the plate on a batter with two strikes. I had coaches who knew to push batters back in the box when we were trying to stealimages-47 second. I had coaches who knew to have their player tag-up at second on fly ball to right field.They always knew the correct pitches to call, defensive positioning to set up, and offensive strategies to employ. I was extremely fortunate to develop my skills under coaches who truly knew the game. I was an athlete who learned how to execute with precision.

Being taught correctly from the very beginning allowed the skills and strategies of the game to become ingrained in me, like they were second nature. I never had to conciously think about what was going on around me; my skills and play executions were more like reactions. Unfortunately, this caused me to miss out on a crucial skill, reading the game in front of me. I developed my talent under coaches who were so knowledgeable, that I didn’t get to learn the cognitive side of the game. My coaches were always calling the plays, and giving direction, so I missed the vital skill of reading the game and making decisions on my own.

Coaching has taught me to take my reactions and turn them into words. It has taught me to analyze my ingrained skills and convert them into a tangible lesson for my athletes. The biggest challenge for me has been coaching first base; I know to run when the catcher images-50bobbles a ball, but saying “run” and physically taking off, are two completely different things. It took me a while to hone in on the skill of delivering oral directions on the bases. It was no easy feat, and six years later I’m still learning, analyzing, and converting, but I’m making progress, and that’s what counts!

Coaches, give your athletes the chance to develop the cognitive aspect of this game. It is critical to include the “why” when teaching skills, and developing game strategies. Explain to athletes that pushing batters back in the box makes the throw to second base longer for the catcher. Explain that the throw from right field to third is longer than any other position on the field, which is why we tag up at second base on a fly ball hit to right field. These may seem like minute points to those who have been around the game for some time. However, these little bits of images-48information can make all the difference to your athletes. It can aid in that “click” that we all strive to witness as coaches.Give them the opportunity to employ and execute game situations on their own. Allow them to coach their own teams at practice so they can recognize when it’s smart to bunt, steal, and execute hit and runs. Let the catchers begin to call pitches, let the pitchers begin to call pitches. Remember that trial and error is a fantastic tool to utilize when developing the cognitive aspect of the game. Explaining the mental side of the game, and then allowing them to practice on their own will greatly impact your players ability, and will develop them into well rounded athletes.

Quote of the day:

“Coach is just another word for teacher.”

Sports Psychology in the Classroom

Posted on

I am currently working as an aid in a special education elementary school classroom. The children I work with are between 8-12 years old and have behavioral issues or learning difficulties. Today I was working one on one with a little boy who really struggles with math.Math-problems-dyscalculia He gets frantic and starts to guess at the numbers, function signs, and eventually answers. Numbers just come chaotically flying out of his mouth with no real reasoning behind them. For example, when asked what 6 minus 5 equals, his first instinct is to shout out “7”, then “2”. And so on.  Everything he does is a guess. He never takes a moment to allow his brain to process the numbers and give a well thought out answer. I quickly noticed this, and my sports psychology training instantly kicked in.

I took a moment, told him to take a deep breath and really look at the numbers we were dealing with. After a few deep breathes, he blurted out, “I can’t.” “I don’t know.” I then made him practice some positive self-talk. Out loud I had him say, “I can do this.” “I know my numbers.” After repeating these mantras a few times, and deeply breathing, he began to read the problem images-42out loud correctly. He slowly read the numbers and grabbed his counting chart. He correctly identified the numbers in the problem, and which way to move on his chart for subtraction.  He looked up after he counted, and said, “1?”. I then said, “Do you think you did the problem correctly?”. He said, “yes”. I said, “So tell me confidently you know the answer is 1.” He then proudly said, “1!”.

We then went on to do 15 minutes of solid relaxed math and he began to learn rather than guess. It’s a moment that will forever resonate with me, and further my belief in the power of Sports Psychology.

Quote of the day:

“Just Breathe”

One Game, One Love.

Coaching perspectives and life lessons of a Sports Psychology M.A.

Live Love Sport

Improving your mental game

Secret Life of a Startup

Some things you can't complain about at work

M I Initiatives

Belief in Human Potential

%d bloggers like this: