Hey everyone, Coach Sarson here, back with another post. Today’s topic is very near and dear to my heart, development. This is something that I feel is overlooked when selecting a team as a player or parent, or even as you are already on a team. The reason I believe that development and personal growth is being overlooked is simple. Wins. Wins tend to mask development, improvement, growth, and they also mask issues that lie within a team as well. This past week I was blessed enough to be invited to an elite showcase event with Team TFS at the Colorado Sparkler. As we progressed in the tournament, we were able to teach, develop, learn, and funny enough, win too. Let’s get after one of my core beliefs though, development is the number one concern for your athlete.
As you select a club team, or coach, or instructor, please ask yourself, “Is development, and personal growth part of the plan here?” A lot of teams say that development is part of their strategy, but what they really mean is, we’re going to teach you to win, not why, or how. The how part is paramount here. How you get there is much more important, and if your athlete can understand why plays are made, and how they can make them, the wins can take care of themselves. What I’m talking about here is player development. If your coaching staff can teach players why they’re doing things, why certain signals are on, and why pitches are called a certain way, then the players become more self sufficient. Scary thought as a coach isn’t it? Players who can think for themselves? Oh no, maybe they won’t need me?!?!
Those coaches who stand in the coach’s box, or in the dugout calling every play, or pitch, they are doing a disservice to the athletes. Talk WITH your athletes, not TO them. Let them figure it out, teach them how to think for themselves on the diamond. Allow your players to be creative, to make decisions, to let their talent shine through as they just play. I fully believe that if you teach these types of things to your players, you will get more out of them in terms of wins. Not only that, your players become more invested in the process, they become smarter, and they might even surprise you with some of the great decisions they make.
Will there be growing pains in this style? DEFINITELY. Will there be mistakes made? For sure there will be. Signs missed, execution will be poor, outs will be made on the bases, throws to wrong bases, etc. Yes, you will lose games, but your players will be learning and developing. They will be growing as athletes, and their confidence will improve, if you show them you care along the way.
The only way to get the growth, personally and athletically is to hold the players (and the parents) accountable. You have to have the trust of your players, and families. To get this, you’ve gotta be honest, and you have to care. You’ve gotta be firm, hold your players accountable for their errors, and also, show them how to improve. Teach them to analyze, and think for themselves so they can get better on their own. Don’t just give them the keys to the door, give them the ability to find the keys, and make them find the door too.
So, back to the beginning. Like I mentioned, I was part of a team this past week in Colorado that did very well at a tough event. Yes, we had a lot of talent, but at the same time, I would wager that no team at this tournament grew more than we did, both athletically and personally. Teaching can be done during games, learning can be done during games, and yes, surrendering a little bit of control to the athletes is required for this. As players and parents, ask yourself, is your coach allowing you to grow, to expand your skills on and off the diamond, and are they willing to lose games to grow, teach, and improve for the future? I believe you can accomplish development and growth while you win, if you are committed to the future, on and especially off the diamond.