We often forget that as coaches we experience some of the same stresses that our athletes do. By being aware of stress and how we can minimize it, we are winning the battle.
Softball Coaching Stress
Training Stressors and Competition Stressors
Developing and implementing a plan to facilitate coach mental preparation for competition
Being prepared and feeling prepared are critical to experiencing the lowest amount of stress for you as a coach. If you feel that you have truly prepared, then you do not have anything that you need to worry about. You can simply enjoy the games and carry out your plan as scheduled. Much of your preparedness includes how well you have prepared your team. Do you feel that you followed your plan to success as planned with regard to physical, technical, tactical and mental training? This will have a large impact on your ability to relax and enjoy the process as you encourage your team to do the same.
Your preparation during competition in reality begins with the off season, first practice and team selection. The parents meeting and/or team meeting is where your program is described and how it will be carried out. Carrying out the program with a detailed yearly training plan guides you in your training plans and competition milestones. At the end of the day, if the team and you have done all that you can and should have done during the season to attain success, then the final competitions should be easy to carry out and enjoyable. If you spend enough time on monitoring during the season and with measurable milestones then there would be no reason at all for your team to play to its fullest potential.
Stressors During Competition
The following are some of the most common distractions during competition:
- coach preparedness
- athlete preparedness
Some things you can do to prepare and ensure these things do not become distractions:
For Officials – know the rules thoroughly so that you know the officials part in the competition and educate your athletes and establish ground rules regarding conduct on the field with each other and officials.
Your Preparedness as a coach – by ensuring that you have done your job up to the competition and done everything you can to assist your athletes in their preparation, you should not have any reason to doubt yourself and your readiness for the task at hand
Athlete Preparedness – implement regulations to ensure that athletes are taking responsibility for their own preparedness and have measures of evaluating their readiness while providing opportunities and resources to assist them
Environment – with the amount of distractions in the environment that you need to deal with, you need to have strategies such as distraction control, relaxation, focusing, and relaxation. The strategies would be solidified during the pre season.
By finding ways to familiarize you and your team with the competition facilities in advance, you will have a better chance to foresee any potential distractions that might occur as a result of the unfamiliar environment.
Some of the ways that you can do that are:
- find photographs of the facility
- draw on athletes previous experiences
- find any video if you can
- find out how loud the facility is and emulate it in practice
- will they be expecting a large amount of fans and spectators
- what is the altitude compared to yours
- is the temperature different than your location
Your preparation plan is crucial to your ability to be mentally prepared during competition. It will reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that most of us have experienced when unprepared. Feeling confident in the procedures and your abilities to deal with unforeseen circumstances are much easier when there are no other distractions. Your preparedness will also have an effect on how you deal with and relate to your athletes during the competition and the time leading up to it. If you are feeling prepared and ready to go that will be passed to your players who will feel the same way. If you are unsure and not feeling like you have done everything you could to prepare the team then you may find yourself relating negatively to your environment which will definitely also be picked up. If there is an emotion that is more noticeable than others it is negativity.
Implementing a practice that integrates mental training strategies / skills with athletes
In the beginning of the season is when you want to be introducing and learning mental training skills. Learning how to use the skills in simple situations will give the athletes familiarity with them as they begin to devise their own strategies to use during competitions and training If the skills are refined adequately during the preparation phase of your training the you only need to allow time to solidify them during the pre season and competitive season. You will also find that the athletes ability to utilize mental training strategies will ensure that they are prepared in most all components of softball due to the goal setting and preparation activities that should be a part of their ongoing maintenance of their skills
A strategy that can be implemented into a practice for example could be distraction control. Keep in mind that this is a strategy and not a skill so it actually incorporates many skills such as self talk, focusing cue words and relaxation. How can you design a practice plan to incorporate these skills in acquiring the ability to not be distracted.
An activity such as throwing is a perfect one ass you can have the athletes participate in a drill that requires focus such as the star drill. If they get distracted ….. it could hurt. You might want to use indoor balls for this drill if the focus is to not be distracted because you may be doing things to intentionally distract them during the activity.
Assessment of Preparedness
One of the ways to make sure that your team is ready for the playoffs is to periodically assess the team and their responses to situations. You can rate the performances for example on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being “not doing well” and 5 being “very prepared” Here are some factors you can rate.
- Response to errors
- Knowledge of plays
- Ability to adapt
- Response to officials
- Awareness of role within the team
- Level of Confidence
In monitoring your athletes throughout the season you can give them every opportunity to play to their fullest potential when it counts. And at the same time your mind will be at ease knowing that you did everything you could to create those opportunities. Do you see a pattern here? I am referring often to knowing you did everything as it is one of the keys to you as a coach being in the zone and enjoying the tournament as much as your players do. Now that is the best place to be. Isn’t it?