The game is over and now in the softball post game huddle is where you can get the players back to a state of physical and mental homeostasis or balance. You have so many things you want to say to the team based on the outcome and the score. You are thinking of what happened in the 5th inning when the runner missed a call or the bottom of the 7th inning when the team held their ground emotionally, technically and tactically to keep the lead long enough to win the game. The team is huddled in right field and you are heading out to spend some quality time with them before they head home with their family and friends.
What is going through your mind? What do you want them to leave with as the gather their gear and exit the parking lot. I would recommend that you consider the departure on every trip to the circle that awaits you. This message should be positive and basically work to restore their minds to what we physically refer to as homeostasis, or …. balance. They may have performed very poorly and they may have had an exhilarating win to take them to the next game in the playoffs but the outcome should still be the same. Balance.
What we often forget is that our players will be experiencing their own emotions in relation to the game. This will depend on their performance, the team’s performance, the outcome of the game, their perception of how they think the coach will respond and for a host of other possible reasons. There may even be things that have nothing to do with the game that could be on their mind. No this is not necessarily your concern, however it will have an impact on the emotion you bring to the group.
Softball Post Game Huddle Opportunities
Putting the game in perspective might be the first task on your agenda. This might be done by asking the team how they felt and their thoughts about the game. If it is in the middle of a tournament, depending on the importance of the tournament and the result of the game, you will be preparing them for the next game so bringing their confidence up if needed will be essential to upcoming performance success. The meeting should be short, and productive.
During the post game huddle, allow the players to openly discuss the game. Let them talk about how they felt about the performance and how they are going to prepare for the next meeting or competition. It is not the time to bring up defensive or offensive errors or the lack of hustle that the coach felt was displayed. That will be for the next practice.
After a Loss
We already know that the team is likely not going to be feeling very good depending on the significance of the loss. Was it to a great team who they played a great game against and came unexpectedly very close to beating? This team is more likely to feel accomplished and motivated to get that much better so that maybe the next time they meet this team they will come up on top. This outcome is almost like a win for the team. If the game was one of errors and a mental training break downs, the coach needs another approach. We need to first have the team take responsibility for the performance and then reaffirm their ability to play better. This can not be a reference to the players personally but to the actual technical and tactical activities that occurred during the course of the game. This is how we can let them know we still care for them but that they need to also be accountable for their psychological readiness.
If the team has worked hard and simply came up short, it is a good idea to let them know that like errors, a loss can be a learning opportunity. Encourage them to take time between then and your next meeting to asses their personal performance and come back with a plan. They might not need to tell the coach, but should be welcome to if they wish. The important thing is not what it is, but that there is a productive one.
Use the loss as a motivator. The players will feel worse than you can make them feel so reprimanding them may simply take away from their personal ability to build on the performance. We do not want to say “nice try” or “good game” because it only discredits any thoughts or feelings that the players might have about the game. Encourage them to consider how they felt about their performance effort in relation to their ability and how they are going to use those insights to make their game better. As we all know, everyone can make their game better regardless of their skill level.
After a Win
This is the time that most coaches enjoy that walk to the post game huddle to celebrate with the team. It should not be that easy though. We need to remind and remember that continued improvement is always the goal. We do not want to take the win or the great things they achieved away from the team and should definitely allow them to have the win. However, there is still opportunity for reflection and planning. It might be more difficult for the players to find something that they need to persevere on reflection of the game because the good feelings are overwhelming sometimes. It is important though, that they remain focused on improvement through every game and every practice.
During a Tournament
In between games during a tournament the players should be recovering mentally and physically for the next competition while replenishing fluids and nutrition if there is enough time. The topic of the quick team meeting should be about the goal moving forward and how they are going to remain focused for the day and the task at hand. The adjustments to be made and goals moving forward should be done at the pre game meeting when the information can be immediately applied. By sharing this type of information, unless the next game is following, the focus can be lost in the recovery activities.
Last Game Of The Season
The season is done and everyone is ready for a new focus moving forward. This meeting should be a celebration of accomplishments and the path moving forward. Players should be encouraged to take some time during the off season to reflect on their season, their goals for the upcoming season and their softball future. Coaches should promote strength and conditioning programs with qualified consultation and the participation of other sports in their continued development of athletic abilities.
The coach can also use the post game huddle schedule individual meetings with the players to assist them in their planning and execution of improvement activities as well as to discuss any concerns or just things in general about the season and moving forward.