Motivating Your Softball Team
Today I am going to talk about motivating athletes to develop work ethic and self direction in managing their own improvement successes in softball. It is the best way to not only make sure that they are getting better but also it develops self esteem and confidence at the same time. We are talking about motivation and how to help athletes to grow the self direction and drive that it takes to be successful in softball, and actually in any sport. And no I am not talking about push ups and running a few laps if they make an error. One of the easiest things to do to encourage self direction is to include them in the process.
Talk to your team about tournaments you are entering and how the schedule works with their other activities outside of softball. Many young athletes who are not at the age of specialization yet, which should not be until 14 or 15, are and should be participating in more than one sport. By letting them know that you are aware, and that you want to ensure that they get the most out of all of their activities, you are letting them know that you care about them not just as a softball player but also as a person.
At the beginning of the year, set goals with the team and have each individual set her goals for the season and for their future in the game. Make sure the goals are attainable, measurable and can be adjusted as they are monitored through the season. Make sure that they are specific and process oriented instead of outcome oriented. A goal such as to improve my fielding percentage to 70% is much better than to be the best fielder on the team. A team goal might be to improve a team percentage or a goal such as making sure everyone is always on time for practices at least 90% of the time. The reason you do not want to make a 100% goal is because as soon as the goal that you are referring to is missed, you lose the bet and it may seem pointless to continue because you are not going to be able to attain the one you set out for.
Allow them to assist in developing team policies and procedures. You would be amazed at how close to your views their views will be. By allowing them to participate in the development, they are building the team and the program with you so they will likely feel more ownership of the team than if they are simply following orders all the time without being able to ask questions or by not feeling any connection to those orders.
You could also have them develop their own progress charts. Make a list of the skills you are working on as a team. If you are a young team you are likely working on fundamental skills. If your team is more advanced, your skills will be as well. If you are going to reward progress, and use points, don’t reward the athlete who gets the most points because their skills are the best. Reward the athlete that has improved the most on their own personal scores. Have a mini Olympics for your team to get a base for the numbers. Then compare their numbers at the end of the season to see who has improved the most. A mini Olympics as part of a team wrap up is a perfect way for everyone to cheer each other on and have some fun. Use rewards that are fun and not elitist so that it creates a supportive environment rather than one that is super competitive.
Another thing you can do is to allow the team to design a practice plan. If the team has been a part of the program from the beginning of the season, they will know what needs to be worked on and how you like to have things done. By allowing them to design it, you can see what they think they need to work on and they will be learning in the process. If as a group, they need to explain under each drill that they recommend how the team needs to improve the skills and how it will affect their game, then they are giving you a lot of information on where they think they are at in relation to where you think they are at.
These are just some of the things you can do as a coach to help your players to feel included, and to develop their work ethic and self direction as an individual and as a team.