1. Make Helping Others and Character Building a Priority
Let’s face it, the system in place today creates a natural inclination for players to focus on “getting things” for playing. Whether it’s an award, a tournament trophy, or a college scholarship…so much focus is on getting external things.
And this leads to the increased potential of a “me-first” mindset. The guys and gals over at 3Dimensional Coaching argue that sports only reveal character. It doesn’t actually teach character in and of itself.
But its the coaches that actually teach character.
Their point is that it won’t happen naturally unless as coaches we make it an emphasis on our teams. If we don’t teach it, our players won’t learn it naturally by playing the sport.
According to the 3D Course Curriculum (which I love), some studies actually indicate that sports in and of themselves lead to poorer character traits.
But the good news is that coaches CAN make a difference. By making serving others and positive character a priority, we can help players develop positive character through softball & baseball!
2. Team Building that Focuses on Non-Athletic Characteristics
Team building is an oftentimes under-emphasized part of coaching. But it can play a huge role in a teams success on the field, and in their ability to play for each other.
As much as possible try and focus on team building activities that do not focus on the sport itself. For example, if you do any type of activity where players are asked to encourage each other…have the players focus on things about their teammates that are character related (rather than sports related).
The more you focus on these things as a coach, the more your players will begin to understand its importance. Not to mention they will begin to enjoy this part of being on your team.
3. Encourage Your Elite Travel & Club Players to Play for Their High School
There is a disturbing “trend” of players not playing for their high school teams, oftentimes because it isn’t “competitive enough.” Or because it doesn’t help them get recruited. This all goes back to the “what’s in it for me” mind-set.
There are always exceptions, but as a rule I think this is a bad trend. If the coach is a total jerk (rare cases) or you play another sport that overlaps then perhaps you have a valid reason.
But rather than seeing this as a “step-down,” why not encourage elite players to take a role as a leader on a less competitive high school team? This can be an incredible opportunity for great players to set an example, develop leadership skills, and be of service by helping others get better.
And these are the kind of benefits of playing that a player will use for their life. Not just for a season or a temporary good feeling.
At one of the high school softball programs that I took over, I had two future college scholarship players (Division I and Division II). But in my first year we were very bad. To their credit (and their parents), they stuck it out to the end. And they had a huge role in turning around a historically poor program.
And more importantly they made an incredibly positive impact on their teammates during that time.
Every circumstance is different. Every team is different. And every player is different. But as coaches, we CAN make a difference in setting a tone for our players to focus on serving others. And combating the “me-first” attitude.
It isn’t always easy, and it takes intentionality. But with the right focus we can bring about positive benefits of playing youth sports that go way beyond a trophy.