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!