As you lead your team through postseason tournaments, stress may rise. Your team represents your town. Rivalries abound. Players press at the plate and in the field. Parents may pressure them…and you. Winning seems more important than ever and defeat seems disastrous. That’s when the Power of Positive can have its greatest effect.
If throughout your regular season you have adopted the methods and mind-set of a Little League Double-Goal Coach® — one who pursues winning, and more importantly teaching life lessons through baseball and softball — tournament season is time to double down. Your focus on PCA’s three major principles – Coaching for Mastery of Sport, Filling Emotional Tanks, and Honoring the Game – will help even more as the stakes of competition rise.
Coaching for Mastery of Sport
In tense situations, those we can’t control, anxiety increases and performance erodes. Breathing changes, batting grips tighten, and attention in the field wanders to the scoreboard and “what-if” thoughts, rather than remaining focused on the actual task at hand.
Coaches should emphasize to players to control the controllables. They can control their effort, their breathing, and where their minds go. But they cannot control the other team’s talent, the weather, the umpiring, the crowd noise, or the flight and bounce of the ball.
Any diversion from the immediate objective, even a seemingly innocuous “OK, team we need three runs this inning,” applies pressure and chips away at the “control the controllables” message you have worked to establish. Instead, encourage your team to stay focused, be ready in the field, or have a quality at bat. In this competitive crucible, where mistakes are inevitable, PCA’s Mistake Ritual – whether your team “flushes” mistakes, brushes them off or shakes them off – is extraordinarily helpful.
Filling Emotional Tanks
It is much easier for players to take in the coaches’ messages suggested above when players are upbeat and optimistic. PCA’s idea of Filling Emotional Tanks can help players achieve those states of mind.
During tournament season, it may seem natural to become more critical because your players face increasingly stiffer competition. Regular-season talent mismatches that may have helped your players achieve positive results vanish in the post-season. Players’ flaws are exposed, and they know it.
That’s why you should double down on the positive. Of course, you can correct technique, but with suddenly under-confident players on the biggest stage of their lives, mix your specific constructive criticism with a huge dose of specific, truthful praise. Continually remind those players how much you believe in them so they can maintain or increase their belief in themselves.
Honoring the Game
Setting a tone for your team is crucial. The more cool, calm, and collected you are and appear to be, the more your players and their parents will follow suit. Your demeanor sends a message that can move parents to apply less pressure to your players and players to give themselves a break.
This is particularly true in regard to your responses to opponents and umpires. If any of their behavior rattles you, you can expect a temperature rise in your players and their parents, which can quickly spiral out of control to the detriment of your team’s performance and to the quality of the sport we all love.
However, taking the high road, keeping your cool, can contribute to a longer, better summer of tournament ball.
Additional free resources from PCA are available at www.PCADevZone.org. 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 at http://shopping.positivecoach.org/Little-League-DGC, or free Little League Double-Goal Coach® Quick Course at http://www.littleleague.org/pca.