Why I like working with high school age and up players
This is the third part in my series about working with various ages of fastpitch softball players. Today we’re looking at high school age and up — generally speaking 16U-18U and college players.
As a private instructor, working with older players is a lot of fun — assuming they are there voluntarily and not being forced to come to me by their parents. Usually these players have experienced some form of failure, so they’re highly motivated to listen, learn and get better. They work hard on their own, and tend to make quick progress. They often have a broad enough experience base to understand certain concepts quickly, and want to know the “why” behind what we’re doing instead of just executing it because I say so.
At a team level it can be a little more challenging. If you have the right players they will also learn quickly. But you may find you have some who aren’t interested in learning anything new. They want to do what they’ve always done — especially if they’ve had some level of success. For them, the best thing you can do is expose them to players with better skills so they can see they’re not quite as all that as they thought.
What does make it fun with the right team is you can get into more complex concepts and plays. The game is faster, so execution becomes more important.
There’s nothing like the satisfaction of seeing your players recognize a situation and make an adjustment without you having to tell them what to do. It could be a defensive change — moving into slap defense against an obvious slapper — or something as simple as recognizing a changeup when it’s thrown and stealing a base.
Of course, at that age they can definitely have attitudes — some more than others. But if you take the time to get to know them as people you can often overcome that. In fact, you can build relationships that will last long after the last pitch is thrown. Just tonight I had a Facebook exchange with a girl who last played for me about 10 years ago.
Most importantly, with players this age you can really make a difference in their lives. Giving them confidence, helping them to overcome adversity or fear and teaching them to give everything they have to whatever they do. You can also help them build softball memories that will last them a lifetime.
With younger players coaches tend to need to exert a lot of control. With the older group, if you’ve trained them properly, you get to sit back more and watch all the hard work pay off. Which is a lot like parenting when you think about it.