Be the Scarecrow, Not the Tin Man
One of the world’s most beloved movies is “The Wizard of Oz.” Audiences young and old love the story of Dorothy and her quest to follow the Yellow Brick Road so she can return home to Kansas (after ungratefully wishing she could go somewhere else; you parents can relate).
Along the way she meets three traveling companions. We’ll set aside the Cowardly Lion for now because he doesn’t have much to do with today’s subject.
That leaves us with the Scarecrow and the Tin Man.
These two characters offer the perfect way to describe how your athletes should be moving on the field.
Basically you want them to be the Scarecrow, not the Tin Man.
The Scarecrow is loose and relaxed. While yes, he does fall down a lot, the looseness of his limbs is the way you want your players to be when they are pitching, throwing overhand, hitting, fielding, running, etc.
By contrast, the Tin Man is very stiff. Even after he gets his joints oiled up he’s not exactly fluid when he moves.
He looks rather, well, clunky – because he is. As the Wizard of Oz himself says, he is a “clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk.”
(In case you were wondering, “caliginous” is an archaic word that means misty, dim, obscure or dark. I looked it up. So it really doesn’t fit the rest of the description other than sounding like the other words. You’re welcome.)
In pretty much any athletic movement you want the body to be fluid. The energy should flow from one part to another (usually from the ground up) and the joints should remain unlocked.
But it can be difficult for players, especially younger ones, to understand exactly what that looks or feels like. If they’re used to be stiff when they walk or do other things in their daily lives they may not know how to get that flow.
But if you tell them to be the Scarecrow rather than the Tin Man, they instantly have a visual to help them put it into context. They may not get the Scarecrow part right away, but when you contrast him with the Tin Man it becomes a whole lot clearer.
Remember that coaching isn’t just about saying the right things or having the greatest amount of knowledge. It’s about being able to explain what you’re going for in a way your players can understand – and apply.
Telling them to be like the Scarecrow is a fairly specific way of telling them to “be loose and flexible” that gives them a model they can draw from based on their past experiences.
And if you find they can’t because they haven’t seen the movie – you now have a new team building activity to help them along their own Yellow Brick Road of success.