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Articles from May 2010

Things to Consider When Dealing with a Young Player’s Motivation

May 3 , 2010

Coaches set out to accomplish a few things at the beginning of every season. At the very top of this list is the development of players. In other words, the primary objective of any coach is to provide the resources and skills needed to ensure that each of his players turn more of their potential into performance, ultimately leading to the eventual fulfillment of the players’ talent. Sometimes it is very easy to find the desire and inspiration to attack this task. Sometimes, players find themselves in the middle of winning streaks or hit streaks, and during these times, the yard is quite alluring. When players come to the yard with joy and excitement on their faces, it is easy to get the most out of ourselves as coaches. We know that the players’ intentions during these times revolve around having the most fun they can between the lines or in the cage. All we have to do is roll them a ball and they will develop at a rapid pace.

Other times, however, it is a search to find the same smiles and joy in the players’ faces. What are we to do when our suggestions and criticisms are received with hostility and contempt? Is it fair to expect players to love the game even if they haven’t won a game in a week and are 0-for-June?  Fairness may ultimately be a futile ambition when excellence is the goal. However, the illusion of fairness for the sake of motivation is possible.

Players understand that their actions are perpetually evaluated and that their roster spots are always up for grabs. This insecurity reasonably leads to internal competition. The important point, however, is that the coach must create a situation where he is seen as the competition. Thus, a unified attempt to defeat the coach will ensue as opposed to a number of isolated individual battles between players competing for the lineup. Players thrive off competition, and the coach must understand that at times, he must be defeated in practice settings in order to bring the team a new sense of community. Players must compete daily, but this can be very uncomfortable at times, particularly those times when players know they are fighting for tomorrow’s at-bats. The coach must find ways to ensure that these competitions are still intrinsically motivating, however, and this may mean allowing himself to become an occasional antagonist.

I am not suggesting that the coach must only be seen as an enemy. Rather, the coach must demonstrate that he is a friend first, but a friend willing to be blunt to the point of insult.  Players need honesty so that their ability to evaluate their own performances are accurate and consistent.

These can be difficult parameters in which to find fun, but it is certainly still possible. The point is that practice must be fun if a player is going to allow games to be. By producing stressful situations that the team must overcome communally, the coach trains his players to handle competition as a group. Teams are fun. Baseball has very little to do with teamwork during games, but the comfort present in a player who feels safely backed by his friends allows him to experience stress with his team and not alone.  Comfort is the first step toward righting any slumps or doubts. Players have fun when they are allowed to express themselves, and a coach willing to allow his team to view him as the occasional enemy stands a stronger chance of developing comfortable players capable of letting the game be a reflection of themselves. That sounds fun to me.