Just-Right Challenge: Coaching Players of a Wide Range of Skill Levels
Chances are the players on your team exhibit a wide range of skills. That can be challenging for you and for the players, as you strive to strike a balance between engaging the most-skilled players, while not advancing too quickly for players who need more help and instruction.
The upside is that all of your players have strengths, and that all have room for improvement. Your task as a coach is to determine where each player stands on the skill spectrum and help them all improve throughout the season.
One way is by finding a “just-right challenge” for each player, an individualized challenge that spurs the player to stretch beyond current capabilities without becoming overwhelmed. For example, one player’s just-right challenge could be swinging only at strikes, while a just-right challenge for a more advanced player could be hitting anything on the outside part of the plate to the opposite field.
One technique you can use to keep everyone interested and motivated is to have a player who is especially good at a particular skill demonstrate it for the team. Also, during drills, try pairing a more accomplished player with one who is still learning that skill. That can create bonds between players and provide a form of leadership training for the more-skilled player.
To keep the players motivated, praise and encourage them for the things they do correctly and the effort they make to improve, even if “outcomes” are not positive at every moment of a just-right challenge. In the long run this will keep players excited about baseball and softball and make your team a stronger one.