A team can have all of the talent in the world, but in order to be a consistent winner they must be mentally prepared. Proper mental preparation is also the key to building self confidence in your players. Building self confidence breeds winning. See the cycle? Focus on the cycle, not on winning, and you will be amazed at the results and find greater satisfaction in coaching.
It’s amazing to me that so many coaches focus on winning and get frustrated when their efforts to win fall short. Even when they do win, frustration sets in for not winning enough, or not winning the “big game”. More drills, longer practices, more batting practice, more running, more, more, more everything. It’s kind of like trying to cut down a tree with a butter knife. You can probably do it, but it will take a long time. More realistically, you will get frustrated and probably give up first. If by chance you did accomplish it, you would be so worn out you wouldn’t feel very good about it, and you would have too many scars to enjoy it. I think this is a pitfall with a lot of younger coaches that leads to giving up.
My first year of coaching (first several probably) was frustrating. We were young but we did have some talented players. (Several of them went on to play college and two played professionally, although that was the farthest thing from my mind the first year). I was right out of college, 24 years old, and had all the answers, or so I thought. We didn’t win, in fact the more things I tried, the more frustrated we became. Don’t get me wrong, we made some strides, but it was slow and I was doing everything but building self confidence in my team. In other words, I had both hands on the butter knife but it was difficult and my hands were getting tired.
At the end of the season we predictably lost the first game in our district tournament and were ready for the summer. But when we had our team meeting after the game I remember looking in the player’s eyes and seeing something. Sure, they were disappointed with defeat and their faces showed that, but their eyes were hungry. I knew they wanted to win, but they didn’t know how and I had failed at showing them.
While consumed with winning games, I had forgot the importance of building self confidence in the players, a key reason I loved sports and wanted to coach. I had been fortunate to play for several excellent coaches during my playing career, ones that understood that building self confidence breeds winning in teams. It was also something my father worked hard on when I was young. It had been important in my success as a player, but instead of building self confidence in my players, I had frustrated them through endless hours of more drills and batting practices. Realization set in that day and I was determined to begin working on building self confidence, but I had to let go of the butter knife first.
We had five freshmen, several sophomores, a few juniors, and zero seniors that first year. I remember asking them at that end of the year team meeting “how many of them wanted to win”. They all raised their hands of course, but then I asked “how many had the will to learn how to win.” I promised that I would show them how to win. I was hoping I could regain their trust and confidence.
That summer we played 20-25 games together as a team in a local high school summer league. I backed off the drills and skills and begin teaching them how to think properly. We had a rule that summer, no practices only games. I did ask that they show up at least an hour before the game to work in the cage and take ground balls. They agreed. I knew from my college coach that building self confidence in my players would help them think differently and lead to success individually and as a team.
By the end of the summer it was beginning to show. Their winning attitude was evident and contagious. It was fun to be around and everyone enjoyed coming to the park. Success was expected not hoped for. But it didn’t happen over night, it took time. This was the beginning step.
That summer, I put together a team manual. Below is the first page that I wrote to the players, “The Key to Winning”. It’s still in our player’s hands today and it still helps in building self confidence in our players.
Proper thinking was the first step to dropping the butter knife and putting together some power tools to do the job efficiently and the right way. Building self confidence in players is far more rewarding than winning. But the product it cultivated a few years later was the beginning of a championship program.
THE KEY TO WINNING:
HOW TO BE MENTALLY PREPARED TO COMPETE
Talent and hard work alone does not win games. To be a consistent winner a player must have a winning attitude. An attitude that will begin building self confidence that you (and your teammates) can get the job done.
Building self confidence thru mental preparation involves two things:
1) Thinking positively about yourself and your team and
2) Concentrating on what you are doing.
Positive thinking is a mental toughness that comes through practice, preparation, and routine. Positive thoughts must full your mind at all times. You must not be afraid of failure and you can not let the thought of failure enter your mind. Fear of striking out, booting a groundball, or walking in a run are common among players at every level from little league to the big leagues. One must not let these thoughts control their mind.
Everyone makes a mistake, so do not dwell on the negative. The key is to relax and not worry about the outcome. Fear of failure creates negative tension, but desire to excel and succeed creates positive reactions.
Concentration is the intense focusing on one’s thoughts on a single matter through completion. Before a batter steps into the box or a pitcher approaches the mound their complete attention must be focused on what they plan to accomplish. Concentration will always be better if you have prepared and planned prior to competition.
(Side bar: (not in our manual) other instructions or distractions during the game only slow the concentration process. Good coaches understand how to keep players focused, and parents need to understand how to stay out of the way of the concentration process during competition)
To loose one’s concentration during competition is normal. The idea is to regain it as fast as possible once you recognize it’s been broken. One simple way to do this is through “self-talk”.
“Where’s the ball?” “
“I’m going to hit a line drive up the middle.”
“There is no way the batter will hit my next pitch.”
“I’m going to put the next pitch over the plate in play.”
Concentration is made easier by positive thinking. Positive thinking is created by a good self image and a good team image. Hard work, sweat, constant hustle, and knowing you are prepared will allow you to carry a positive mind set in the game, trusting your teammates and coaches.
Please read this page weekly, even daily. Understanding these concepts will begin building your self confidence and give you the “edge” in knowing you can accomplish your goal – “To Win”.
(Another side bar: In the past twenty-five years we have played for nineteen district championships, winning fourteen district titles. Our teams have also won seven regional titles and played in seven state final fours in Florida. We have been runner up twice and have also won two state titles.)
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
January 07, 2009
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