One of the best ways for Little League® managers and coaches to get the most out of their baseball and softball players is to show them a level of respect that goes beyond competition and results. Caring about each player as an individual – including family life, school and outside interests – is important.
Baseball and softball players, especially the younger ones, entrust their physical safety to coaches. Add to that the psychological vulnerability that comes with inevitable mistakes or failures at bat, in the field, and on the mound or base paths, and you can see the importance of trust.
An important part of establishing that trust is taking the time to learn the personalities you will be working with. Understanding the individuals and appreciating their personal traits, helps a coach galvanize the group into a single-minded team. Establishing the team’s identity improves the prospects for on-field success and greater trust—enough to let you guide them through other aspects of life where coaches can also be a positive influence. Following are a few ways to demonstrate caring and establish trust.
- Have each player and his/her parents write down information about outside interests and priorities on a note card. This information is nothing more than general knowledge about the player, and can help a coach understand and communicate with each player in an informed manner.
- Take time with each player at each practice to talk about outside interests. At the very least, you would want to know how their school days went. That can give you cues as to how up or down the player may be that day, in turn helping you decide whether to raise or lower your own energy in approaching that player and whether he or she is ready to focus and work hard.
- Use group time to discuss other aspects of life. This also creates the opportunity for players to get to know each other and find common ground that strengthens their bonds. The result is an overall stronger, better-performing team and a group of happier, more fulfilled players, parents and coaches.
You can learn more about the importance of developing relationships with your players in this video of former Major League Baseball player and manager Jerry Manuel, which is included in free PCA resources.
For more ideas on getting the most out of your players while teaching life lessons, take the full-length Little League Double-Goal Coach® Course, or free Little League Double-Goal Coach® Quick Course.