Are we having fun yet?
Just completed our first weekend of 16uU ball this past weekend. It was a bit rough going at first, but as the girls relaxed and started getting back into the rhythm of summer ball, the caliber of play definitely improved.
Which makes you wonder why so many coaches feel they have to completely dominate their players and put them down in order to get them to play. Sure, it may provide a temporary improvement, but there’s a huge difference between compliance and giving your all.
A lot of these girls didn’t have much fun during their high school seasons. They felt very stressed. I’ve heard some developed stomach trouble and many couldn’t wait for the season to be over. Walking around the fields this weekend I saw some of the same kinds of things. A player would make some small error or not react fast enough and the coach would be all over her. There were plenty of long faces, not to mention looks of “here we go again.”
Some of those teams were pretty darned good. But many didn’t look like they were having much fun.
Our approach was a little different. We can be as tough as anyone in practice. But come game day, it’s the players’ time. Rather than chasitising them constantly for bad decisions, we encouraged them to explore their talent and push themselves. We wanted them to get out of the boxes they’d been put into and see what they could do.
What we saw was a level of play that improved steadily throughout the weekend. The last couple of games especially were very well played. We won one and lost one of those, but the loss was one of those games where someone has to lose (unfortunately) and the win was sweet, full of great plays as well as plays you’re supposed to make. More importantly, the girls were having fun. And I think that’s what allowed them to play so well.
It remains to be seen how long it carries over. But my gut tells me that if they’re having fun they’ll also be doing the things it takes to win.
One more thought. When I read interviews with top coaches in the NFCA newspaper, one of the questions they always ask is what do you wish you’d known when you started your career that you know now. Invariably the answer is “I wish I would’ve enjoyed it more. Instead of being focused on winning so much I wish I would’ve enjoyed being with my team.”
Coaches have egos, and we all like to win. But if we make our players miserable in order to achieve that goal, is it really worth it? I know as a former baseball player I can’t remember the specifics of any complete games. My teams never won a championship, but I still remember those days just as fondly as though I had. I also remember the coaches I liked, and the ones I didn’t. The ones I liked best were the ones who tried to bring out the best in me, and helped me to believe in myself.
Think about that the next time you yank a player off the field because she missed the cutoff. If you really want to build a legacy, it starts with your own team.