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Human Kinetics Website: www. Box Champaign, IL e-mail: humank hkusa. Box 80 Torrens Park, South Australia e-mail: info hknewzealand. It does not just sum up her coaching career but her very existence through her lifetime. No obstacle was big enough or difficult enough to stop Elaine from maximizing everything she could get from her players, her staff, or herself.
Her last season was her first losing season in 34 years of coaching. They were just fodder for others to talk about. They were only the byproduct of what she loved to do more than anything in her life—be a coach, teacher, and educator. First and foremost, her love of teaching was the driving force behind her success. Teaching each athlete that wore the UMASS uniform through her many years of coaching—teaching each one as though they alone could be the one to make or break the team's ability to succeed and that they were important.
Softball Coaching Bible Volume Ii The
The importance of getting a little better every day was her mantra to each player whether a starter,All- American, or pinch runner. Each player represented a challenge to Elaine that she relished—make them better softball players, better teammates, and better people. She never lost sight of the big picture. Many coaches use the excuse of having to win to justify bending the rules or playing in the grey area. Elaine only ever knew that doing the right thing was always the right thing to do. She recruited players who loved the game as much as she did.
She was one of the best pitching coaches in the country, and she never pitched a game in her life. She was self-taught. She worked harder than most people and loved every minute of it. The softball world will not be the same without her passion or her courage or her vision. Ruth Crowe e e 6. Truthfully, I was not seeing the best talent, and I was not properly equipped for the cold and wind.
It was not one of my best days. I looked around the complex and saw hundreds of kids in uniform, playing in this miserable weather. Their parents were there too, bundled in blankets. The responsibility and honor for any coach is huge. So I quickly got over my griping and jumped back into my recruiting skin. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work for the University of Okla- homa and be surrounded with wonderful coaches, athletes, and administrators.
I get to go to work every day and call the softball stadium my office. How awesome! Sometimes I take this privilege for granted, and one thing I have learned as I have matured as a coach is to be thankful and to keep working hard, because the day I sit back and think that I have arrived as a coach, the program will be left in the dust.
I know that I am in the right profession when after 30 years of coaching, 18 of those years at the University of Oklahoma, I feel that I have not worked a day in my life. You find the passion in your heart. When you do anything with passion and put your heart and soul into it, your experi- ence will be rewarding. Too many coaches and players are involved in this sport for the wrong reasons. This orientation is easy to see. Body language is negative; you can see a lack of effort and a lack of respect.
A coach or player led by passion is easy to recognize as well—a team player, energetic, enthusiastic, fun to watch, They have an endless work ethic at an activity that never feels like work. Passionate people are infectious, and they bring out the best of those around them. Unfortunately, negative team members are just as infectious. I began my coaching career as a junior varsity basketball coach.
I was 19 years old,and some of the players were just 3 years my junior. I knew when I was growing up that I wanted to be a teacher and a coach, and by making that decision early in my life, I could immediately go to work on starting my career. The program I took over had a record of the year before my arrival. Now I understand why they would hire a year-old student to take over the program! I was pumped to get the job. I knew it would be a challenge to get those young athletes to believe in a young coach. I went in with high expectations and had a personal goal of getting the team to win at least five games.
I would have to get rid of the negative feelings left over from the previous season, and I recognized that my most important job was to create a positive and winning attitude. Confidence and a winning expecta- tion had to come oozing out of me at our first meeting. I set the ground rules and talked about my philosophy of blue-collar work no one will ever outwork us , of working as a team and respecting each other. They then heard the most important phrase I would ever share, and it is still the focus of my players to this day: We will never quit—ever. It is not an option!
My first coaching season was going pretty well. Halfway through the season we had already won four games. I thought it was cool to dress up as a professional when I was coaching JV basketball, although it was apparent that my peers did not share my thought process! A situation happened to me on the court that season, now 30 years ago, that I will never forget—one of those life-changing moments. We were in an intense game against our conference rival, and the referee made what I thought was a terrible call. I made it known to the ref that I did not agree with his call, and he made a comment that has never left me.
I voiced my passion that day with the referee, and at 19 years old, in my first season as a head coach, I was thrown out of my first game. I am not proud of my outburst, but I would not have changed a thing. My players learned a lesson that day—that they deserved the same respect given to any male athlete—and they understood that I believed in them enough to fight for them.
The team went on a winning streak and finished the season with 10 wins, 1 win away from the conference title. Our job as coaches is to make sure that happens. Passion is about feeling—and acting on that feeling! Capturing and keeping their attention is difficult. We are dealing with some stiff competition! Cell phones with texting, Twitter, Facebook, blogging—the list goes on. I have not figured out a way to stop this besides keeping it off the field, out of the locker room, and off the bus. My conclusion is that the youth of today need constant stimulation. I make sure that my practices are active and require the players to move constantly.
I come up with new practice plans and drills that are relevant and challenging. I try to break practice into segments so that we have the ability to start over and refocus. My players do not get much out of long, drawn- out practices. But my players work best with constant challenges, and I try to bring that every day.
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I am fortunate to have peers who share their ideas and their struggles. Many coaches today are struggling with athletes who do not know how to compete. Young athletes can play up to six games a day! How can we expect them to have passion for six games straight? I need athletes who will put it all on the field every day and not look at the competition as just another game. I have a hard time with that. My plan to combat this problem is to make my fall season a challenging and competitive experience.
Each day I challenge my athletes, especially in strength training and conditioning. I believe that to get my athletes to understand how to compete, they have to be pushed not to the wall, but through the wall. Athletes have to feel the good and the bad and learn how to fight through the tough times. I think that athletes are too quick to surrender. There has to be a definite purpose and goal if you are to progress.
When I was growing up, my back gate opened up into a city park that had four softball diamonds, outdoor basketball courts, swings, monkey bars, rings, slides, and lots of open field. During summers I was at the park from a. All the gang knew to meet up at the park, and we would play all day long. It seemed that I never got tired, never too hot or cold, and I did not want to spend time eating because it would take away from my playtime.
It was a blast! I realize now that all those hours of I played everything, from softball to flag football, basketball, dodge ball, capture the flag, kick ball—the list goes on. I found that I had some athletic ability, and because I was one of the more athletic girls out there, my friends depended on me to take charge—to make the teams, establish the rules, and set the boundaries usually pieces of trash were used as bases. Are leaders born or made?
I learned at a young age that my friends counted on me to get the games started at the park each day, and I learned that I really loved being that person. The idea of becoming a high school coach was a dream for me ever since I was young. I definitely had the passion burning in me to make that dream come true. I am an advocate for making sure that young athletes get proper training. Today there seems to be a coach for everything from pitching, hitting, and defense to fit- ness and strength, running form, and mental training.
If you have a need, someone will be able to give you a lesson for it. Training athletes has become a big business. Multisport athletes are becoming a rarity. The commitment now is to year-round training in one sport. I can understand the decision to focus on one sport,especially if a collegiate future is a possibility. But with so many adults telling these kids what to do and how to do it, I find that these young athletes have no game savvy! The way they play the game is almost robotic. What happened to the team players? Where did all the leaders go?
What happened to the athlete who is passionate for the game, who is upset after a loss and overjoyed following a win? I think many coaches are searching for this answer. If you want to find out who the natural leaders are on your team and which ones have the passion to compete, go to practice one day with just one softball. Throw it out on the field, go sit in the bleachers, and be ready to bite your tongue! Have them figure out who plays on what team, how to call balls and strikes, and who makes safe and out calls.
You will learn a lot from this experience. You may find out that the athlete who you are ready to name captain is someone the players will not respond to. By becoming a spectator at your own practice, you will witness which athletes compete and have the independence to stand on their own. Then you may see the opposite—athletes who are rebellious, not giving their all, not playing with the passion that we are searching for. Why are we doing this? I had too many athletes who did not have the passion and commitment that I believed was needed for us to continue to win championships.
I needed to take action. I called each of these athletes into the office and tried to talk them into becoming regular students—no more a.
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Freedom to work and make money, hang out with friends, and have more free time. I made it enticing. The problem was that five of them took me up on the offer! But I appreciated their being honest with their feelings, and we parted ways the right way. Now How can we win with 15 players, 3 of whom are pitchers only? You will be amazed what can happen when you get a group of athletes on the field who have the same goals, ambition, and passion to win as a team! I never enjoyed a season more, and I was proud of what that team accomplished.
Players thanked me at the end of the season for my decision to let go of the players who had lost the passion. In return they wanted to prove to me that they could accomplish anything—and they did. That season was one of the most rewarding of my career, and I will never forget the lesson I learned: I must surround the program with athletes who have a mission and a goal to be national champions, even if it means making tough decisions.
I take it as a form of respect. I also take it as a great responsibility. I have been called to make a difference in the lives of young people. My job is not only to coach them but also to mentor them and prepare them for real life. Unfortunately, collegiate softball athletes who move on to the NPF National Professional Fastpitch league do not make million-dollar contracts maybe someday! The lights on the field will eventually go out, and my job is to make sure that my athletes are ready to face the world.
Here are a few life skills that I hope I can leave them with. Confidence and Self-Esteem Whether it is on the softball field or in life, I want my athletes to exude confidence. Other kids are full of excuses; they have to blame someone else for their shortcomings. They are afraid of failure. Some athletes I have met are fragile and afraid to look me in the eyes.
They have weak handshakes. They have horrible body language. How do I combat this? First, I never wear sunglasses. I want the athletes to see my eyes. I believe that the eyes are the window to the soul. I want the players to see what I am feeling, and I will make them look at me whenever we are talking, whether at practice or before or after a game. It is important that we connect, and I can tell a lot about the way an athlete is feeling when I look into her eyes. My goal is to bring out a glowing confidence in every one of my players, both on and off the field.
We also talk often about appearance and dressing for success. Whenever we fly, I expect the team members to wear dresses, skirts, or nice slacks. We are travel- ing for a business trip, and I want the team to have that mind-set. I also expect all athletes to attend class in proper attire—no sweat pants, sweat shirts, or practice When they are in the classroom, they are students and should dress like students; when they are on the field, then they can wear practice gear.
For me to have any kind of influence on my players, they must trust me. I work to find time to talk with my athletes, build a relationship, and find out what moti- vates them in life. I encourage my players to stand up for what they believe in and never quit. It is interesting to see the interactions of the athletes at a big univer- sity like the University of Oklahoma, where football is king. The female athletes change when they are around the male athletes, almost as if the male athletes are royalty. I want my players to believe that they are as important as any male athlete on campus and to understand that they work just as hard and deserve the same respect.
I want my athletes to fight for themselves and never let anyone mistreat them or disrespect them, whether on the field or in their social life. Getting young females to be full of confidence and self-esteem is not easy, but I have a passion for sending my players out into the real world ready for whatever comes their way. Ultimately,what I am after is for my athletes to discover a sense of independence. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet. They will never become independent if things are always handed to them or if we as coaches are always there to bail them out.
We need to allow our athletes to make mistakes and let them know that messing up is OK. Mistakes are the greatest learning tool. Athletes need to count on themselves—no lame excuses or blaming others. No crutch! We want them to take accountability for their actions and their lives, and to trust themselves. Wearing the Sooner uniform is a privilege, not a right! You reap what you sow; you earn what you get. I invest my time wisely and with my heart. I work hard for it, and it means something to me.
The coaster is going straight down, and it looks as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But the trip is necessary to get where you want to go. Many athletes do not want to experience this kind of frustration, pain, and embarrassment, but the mature athlete understands that this experience is part of her development. Sometimes it hurts a lot, but to me, feeling is a lost art! I want my players to have a sick feeling after a loss, because they worked hard and then let someone prevent them from reaching their goal.
My trust is that they do not want to experience that sick feeling again. I think that feeling comes with hard work. Having a chance to breathe and gain a renewed spirit and sense of excitement toward your players, your practices, and your season is important. I know that December is an important month for me to unwind from the stress of practice and recruiting. I use the time to become rejuvenated for the team to return in January and get hungry for the start of the season.
What can I do about the other 11 months? We may think what we do is the most important thing in the world and that the softball world cannot exist without us. Get over yourself! I am fortunate to have a husband who reminds me of this every day. At times, I could work until midnight every night because I think that there are not enough hours in the day.
I realize now that the same work will be there for me tomorrow. When I come home from practice or from the office, I need to let go of my job and focus on my job as a wife and mother. Getting softball out of my head can be difficult. As a wife, mother, and coach, I am pulled in many directions. Many times I have thought that as a mother of two kids I should not be coaching. The time and travel required to do this job successfully is not fair to my kids. But I also know that God led me into this position of coaching at a young age and that my mission is to work with young people and be instrumental in helping change their lives.
I had a conversation with my kids when they were young they are 23 and 17 now about what I do for a living. I asked them whether they wanted me to stop coaching. You are supposed to be a coach and we love you! But that is not the case, and I am smart enough to know that! I enjoy speaking at coaching clinics, mostly so that I can hear other coaches speak on a variety of subjects. I love to learn about new ways of doing things. I am also interested in sport psychology and finding better ways of com- municating with my athletes and coaches.
Knowledge is power, and it will keep you ahead of the game. I hope that my athletes feel this energy from me daily.
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We will not always be at our best. But remember that we have a huge responsibility to our athletes. They are counting on us to bring discipline, organization, structure, knowledge, and accountability, which all lead to their feeling a sense of security and comfort. Athletes need to master these important qualities so that they can let go of distrac- tions and be at their best.
Finally, just as it is important for our athletes to show their emotions, we as coaches need to share our passion with our athletes. By sharing, I have formed a trusting bond with my athletes. I may feel a little vulnerable at times, but I am real about it and not afraid to show it, good or bad. I am not big on showing affection, but you can be sure that my athletes know how I feel about them.
They have my heart, and they know it. I am fully invested with each one of them. I celebrate with them, and I hurt with them. If you ask an athlete who the most influential person is in her life, she is likely to name a coach she has worked with throughout her playing career. I want to be that person! My passion is to change lives first and win championships second.
Remember: Passion is about feeling—and acting on that feeling! I am not in it for the praise or notoriety. We put in too many hours, and we are not always paid accordingly. If you want to be monetarily rich, this is not the profession for you! The rewards of coaching are the grin that an athlete gives you when she achieves something she has been working hard for, the hugs you get after a huge victory, the sense of pride you feel watching your team handling adversity and never giving up, the long thank-you letters you receive from your former student-athletes.
These are what keep me going. As all programs do, we try our best to surround ourselves with good people, from the people we hire to the athletes we recruit. We try to have high standards not only for our athletes but also for our coaching staff. I believe that success comes from communicat- ing what we expect from all and then consistently holding our team members to those standards. By doing those two things, communicating and holding mem- bers accountable, I think that any coach can help set a culture within her or his program.
Having a culture at any program means that the team will have a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes the organization. When looking at that definition, think about how you want your players to carry themselves at practices, at games, in the classroom, and in everyday life. Through your expectations you can instill in your players some discipline and confidence regarding their attitudes and influence their demeanor, the way they speak, and the way they think.
For some programs, the goals might be to have a team GPA of 3. If teams are committed, goals should be a motivator to bring enthusiasm to practices every day. Accomplishing the mission should not be the only gauge of a success, but the mission can help athletes set their sights, their focus, and their direction for the yearlong journey. Your players should feel some excitement when they imagine the possibilities of what they can accomplish together.
But for them to achieve their mission or goals, coaches must clearly communicate their daily expectations and continue to hold players accountable throughout the season. Expectations should be realistically attainable and practical. Clearly and frequently stating expectations can reduce the distractions, drama, and setbacks that may occur throughout the year. We want our new players to have confidence, to be problem solvers, and to make smart and mature decisions throughout their collegiate career and later in life.
Of course, talent will always help any team succeed, but if coaches can get players to meet their expectations consistently, they have a better shot at a successful season and may contend for a title. The first item that coaches should try to accomplish to help their players buy into their standards and expectations is to teach them to have pride in the program.
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