Maintaining that even strain

Last week at the NSA World Series, my team got involved in an 11-inning marathon that included four international tie breaker innings. It was bracket play, so there had to be a winner. It was going to be whoever outlasted the other one.

At some points the other team had a runner on third with one or no outs. We used various strategies and some great playing by the girls to get out of those innings (we were visitors so one run was the ballgame), but it was very tense.

Later that night, one of the parents asked me how I could stay so calm during all of it. She said parents were pacing back and forth, some had their heads in the hands at various times, and if alcohol had been available I’m sure more than a few drinks would’ve been consumed. Even Rich, my assistant coach who’s normally a cool cucumber, was pacing madly. Yet through it all I just sat calmly on the bench.

I told her I was anything but calm. I’m sure no one was on the edge more than I was, and no one’s stomach was churning harder. But appearing to be calm is part of the job, so that’s what I did.

The team usually takes it cue from the pitcher, but in times like this they also tend to look to the coach. If the coach seems panicked, it’s easier for the players to panic too. But if the coach seems calm and confident, the players tend to be more reassured and confident too.

I learned this principle in the ASEP coaching course. No matter you might be saying, your body language tells a big story. If something bad happens and you hang your head, no amount of “nice tries” will bely the fact that you’re disappointed. And if you’re nervously pacing the dugout waiting for disaster, you’ll make your players nervous too.

So no matter what’s going on inside, on the outside it’s important to maintain an even strain. You need the cool appearance of a test pilot — someone who’s always in control, no matter what disaster is happening.

By the way, it did help. We won the game. We scored three in the top of the 11th, and it was too big a hurdle to overcome (finally!). Believe me, no one breathed a bigger sigh of relief when our second baseman caught a short pop-up for the final out. All in a day’s work!


About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on July 29, 2008, in Coaching. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Awesome post! We sometimes forget how much the players look to us for guidance. This is especially true of younger ones. They remember it for life!I bet that 10 years from now in a pressure situation one of your players will reflect on how calm you were with your demeanor and will try and emulate you. Thank you for such a powerful post!


  2. Thanks, Coach. It’s in line, I suppose, with a topic I’ve covered before, which is management v. leadership. Making the decisions on who played and what coverage to run was game management. Pretending like I wasn’t a nervous wreck was leadership. 🙂


  3. Your girls are truly lucky to have you as their coach and mentor.


  4. Ken, this is so important. So many coaches get emotional and that has quite a negative impact on their athletes.I actually talked about how body language affects confidence when <a href="coaching”>“>coaching youth softball in one of my podcast.I explained the exact same thing.Marc DagenaisSoftball Peak Performance Coach


  5. Cool. I will definitely check it out, and encourage others to as well. Marc always has good stuff up on his site!


  6. Let’s just say some days more than others. 🙂 I get aggravated like anyone. But at least I try not to let it take over.


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