How To Coach The "Uncoachable" Player
As a coach, I've come across the so called "uncoachable" player. You know, the one who rolls their eyes when you say something to them. The one that thinks they can do no wrong, and don't want to be told otherwise. What do you do to reach this player. Through trial and error, and a little luck, i've found some tricks and hints to coach the uncoachable.
You've just hit a routine ground ball during practice to your second basemen and she totally misses it. You let it go, remembering that everyone makes mistakes, and hit her another ball, which she again misses. You ask her what's up and she says nothing. As practice goes on she keeps making more and more mistakes. Your second basement isn't the star player on the team, but you know she has potential and you want to get that through her head. After practice you sit her down and talk to her one on one, telling her that she needs to stay focused and try her best all of the time. She gives you one look (telling you to shut your mouth), says ok, and walks away. The next practice goes the same way, and you try talking again, only this time she puts the blame off of her and onto another player. "Well, (Stacey) missed one too at practice, why don't you yell at her?!" She gives you more excuses and walks away. What do you do?
As this new generation of kids are moving up into the high school level of play, i've noticed a big attitude change. When I played in high school, you listened ot your coaches, didn't talk back or have an answer all the time, and tried your hardest! Nowadays it seems like some are there to work hard, and others are there to socialize. How do you get through to these tough to coach players? It's not easy, i'll tell you that, and truthfully, you won't reach all of them. If you reach one athlete though, you've made a difference. Here are some strategies to reach that player.
Don't single them out. Nobody likes their flaws pointed out; not even you. So why do it to someone else? If that player makes a mistake during practice, you can point it out, but instead of saying "You need to stay down on that ball (Kayla)!" Try this: "Girl's, the team we're playing hits the ball well so we're going to see a lot of action. We need to remember to stay down on that ball so we can make the plays!" That directs the mistake at everyone, instead of the person who made it. Also, don't pull them aside after practice. When we would see that, immediately you think they're getting into trouble; that the coaches couldn't say it in front of everyone. It was almost dreaded to be held after practice to be talked to, for something good or bad. Instead, grab them at practice while there's a break, or when there are different groups doing different things. It makes it less intimidating and more casual, which brings me to my next strategy.
Keep conversations casual. The more "friendly" you are with your players, the more they'll like you and respect you. If you come into practice and games like you have control and power, more than likely the players won't respond well. Keep to their level of power. Yes you make the decisions, but don't let that get to your head. When you want to bring something up about practice, like missing ground balls, start the conversation about something totally different. Ask about school or something that's going on at that time, then ask about practice. Try this: "So (Paige), you going to the boy's game tomorrow night? I hear it's supposed to be a good one?" Then she'll answer and you'll say "Yanno, I hear they have a good girls team too; plenty of hitters. I'll probably be hitting some extra infield/outfield the next few practices. Hopefully we can fix that you're pulling your head up from the ball before it gets to you. Let me know if you want even more grounders. I'll help you out." Be sure to use words like we, help, and the team. By pulling the blame directly off of that player, it will ease her mind when you say "we."
Don't over practice. Hitting hundreds of ground balls at a player who is struggling will only make matters worse. It makes it even worse than that if you're player is stubborn. If you're going to give extra grounders, give them to everyone. Unless the stubborn player asks for extra, keep it equal. If you want to be sneaky about it, you can slip in a few extra to her. For example, while hitting fly balls to the outfield, you can sneak a few in to her while the ball is in the air. If you do this, be sure not to single her out. Hit some to other players as well. But this way, you don't have to hit them to all the players, plus she's getting a little extra without being singled out. It's like it's part of practice.
Be honest, but sympathetic. Lying never gets you anywhere, especially with a player who is sort of fragile to begin with. Be honest about expectations, but don't sound like a sergeant when speaking it. Explain that you want them to win, but they need to want it to so working hard is a must. Also explain that if someone isn't pulling their weight, they may be replaced. Everyone has bad games, but when you fall into a slump, you need to get out of it quick or be replaced. Explain that you are there to help with anything, whether it be about the sport, their problems, etc. Be a coach and a friend at the same time. It's a winning combination.
Coaching can be difficult to do, especially when you get a reluctant player. The above scenarios were taken from a softball point of view because that is what I coach. You can easily apply this to other sports by changing words, and can also be applied to boys. So get out there and try turning this: :-( into this: :-) Good luck!