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Happy New Year! Time to Set New Goals

As John Lennon once sang, another year over, a new one just begun. (Or about to in any case.)

He always did have a way of getting right to the heart of the matter.

For most of us, the turning of a new year is filled with hope and anticipation. It also marks a great time to at least think about making changes.

We make all the usual resolutions – lose weight, get more exercise/join a gym (not always the same thing) quit smoking, quit or cut back on drinking, learn a language, etc. There’s just something about the finality of one year ending and a new one starting that makes it seem like a great time to do a little personal upgrading.

Of course, as U2 sang, “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day.”

Just in case you haven’t heard it enough already.

Yet if those changes are going to happen they’re not going to happen magically. You have to make them happen. A big part of this for fastpitch softball players, coaches, and parents revolves around your goals.

Hopefully you’ve written those goals down and posted them where you can see them. Nothing like a visual reminder of where you want to go.

But even if you haven’t you probably know in your heart what they are.

So here’s my question for you: When was the last time you really thought about those goals? And more importantly, do they still apply?

Maybe it’s been a few months, or a year, or more, since you set your original goals. But you’re a different person now than you were then, with additional experiences and knowledge under your belt.

Is what you wanted six months or a year ago the same things you want now? If so, can you add some specificity to them?

For coaches

For example, if you’re a coach perhaps you had a goal of increasing your knowledge about the sport. You took some online classes and attended a couple of coaches clinics, and are now a better coach than you were.

So you’ve achieved that general goal. But are there areas where you could still do better? Perhaps it’s time to change your goals to address those areas.

In my personal experience I always felt like I was good at teaching the technical aspects of the game, along with the rules and what to do in specific situations. But I also felt like I wasn’t as good at the strategic aspects as I should be.

So my goal became to learn more about different strategies and how to apply them and when to apply them. It became a difference-maker for me.

Coaches, make an honest evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. Where do you tend to lose games or players? How would you attack your team if you were an opposing coach?

Then seek out courses, or a mentor, or some other means that can help you shore up that area.

For players

If you’re a player, think about the major aspects of the game: offense and defense. Then think about the sub-groups.

For offense, you’re basically looking at hitting (including the short game) and baserunning. For defense, it’s fielding and throwing – overhand and underhand for pitchers.

Then break it down further into what you do well and what you don’t. In some cases also take into consideration what you can’t really change and how you can work around it.

Baserunning is a great example. If you’re fast you have a natural advantage. But are you smart?

If you can recognize opportunities sooner, and understand when it’s time to take chances and when it’s time to lay up even if you *think* you can make it, you’ll be a lot more successful. I’ll take average speed with intelligence over blazing speed without a clue pretty much every time.

What if you’re not fast? In fact, what if you’re a complete turtle? There are still things you can do.

Seek out a running coach who specializes in sprinters. He/she may not be able to make you fast, but he/she can probably make you faster than you are now by teaching you how to run better technically and how to condition yourself to run better. Every tenth of a second you can shave off your time going from one base to the next will help.

Then make sure you learn everything there is to know so you’re the smartest baserunner on your team. That’s especially important when you’re the trail runner.

I remember a situation where my team had runners on second and third. Kaity, the runner on second, was one of the slowest on a team that wasn’t too fast to begin with.

A ground ball was hit into the infield and I was entirely focused on getting the runner on third home. I watched the play from the third base coach’s box like a spectator.

Fortunately, Kaity was smart. She didn’t wait for any instructions from me, so when I looked back toward her (finally) she was already standing on third.

I said, “At least one of us was paying attention.” She replied, “Don’t worry Coach, I’ve got your back.”

Over the last six months or a year you’ve probably made many improvements to your game. Think about where you may fall short, or what you’d like to do better, and set that as your new goal.

For parents

Here we’re assuming non-coaching parents. Probably one of the biggest goals you can set for yourself is learning when to keep your mouth shut. Which is probably most of the time.

Just kidding, although in some cases it probably applies. But there are things you can do based on your player’s goals.

For example, if your daughter wants to play in college, and seems like she’s serious about it rather than thinking wishfully about it, start educating yourself about the whole recruiting process. It can be beastly, so the sooner you learn about it the better off you’ll be (and the less likely you are to make a critical mistake).

Step one is to talk to the parents of older players who have already been recruited. Find out what they did, what helped them the most, and what mistakes they made. Softball parents who have been through it can be an invaluable and impartial resource to guide you through it.

There are also tons of resources online. Some are better than others, and some are really just blatant commercials to buy their services.

That’s why you probably want to talk with other parents or coaches who have gone through the process first to give you some background. But those outside resources can help you make better decisions, especially if your player isn’t a can’t-miss P5 prospect.

Outside of that, learning more about the game and pieces of it related to what your player does can help you make better decisions when it comes to selecting teams and private coaches if you so choose. These days softball is a big investment so you want to be sure your money is being spent wisely.

As with players and coaches, think about what’s most important for you to improve on this year and set it as a goal. It’ll improve not only your experience but your player’s as well.

Keep moving forward

Always remember that goals should be concrete and realistic. Not necessarily easily achievable, but achievable.

Once you’ve set those goals, take the time (like now) to periodically evaluate them to determine if you’ve achieved them or even if you want to achieve them. Then adjust your goals accordingly.

The more you keep your smaller goals focused on achieving the bigger ones, the better chance you’ll have of ending up where you want to end up.

Happy New Year to all, and let’s make it a good one!

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

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New Year, New You

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I know the headline sounds like an ad for a diet product or a health club, but there really is something to taking advantage of the turn of the calendar to start making improvements in our lives.

As humans we tend to like to have a clean break from the old when we start something new. The most obvious example is most people like to take a little time off between the time they end their old jobs and the time they start new ones. That little space in-between, even if it’s just a couple of days, helps us decompress and let go of the past so we can focus on the present – and the future.

That’s what’s often magical about the start of a new year. While in reality it’s just another day on the calendar, it feels like the start of something different.

So how can you take advantage of this artificially imposed fresh start? By (dare I say it?) resolving to do one or more things differently this year.

If you’re a coach, spend some time studying new techniques or approaches to the game. Challenge yourself by looking into information that conflicts with your current beliefs – especially if you’ve held those beliefs for a while.

Attend a coaching clinic with an open mind. Watch a current video or read a new book. Not just on fastpitch softball specifically, but also on coaching principles in general. In short, look for ways to be better than you are now.

If you’re a player, think about what a great year would be for you, then think about whether you can get there with what you’re doing now. A good way to do that is to write a letter to your future self describing the awesome season you just had.

If the season you want to have isn’t achievable with your current approach, figure out what you need to change to make it achievable. It could be something as simple as practicing for five more minutes during a session, or finding ways to sneak in an extra 5-10 minutes of practice per week when you can’t get to a field.

It could also mean being willing to change something you’ve been doing for a long time to see if the new way will work better. After all, no one ever created an innovation by continuing to do the same old thing.

If you’re a parent, think about how you can be more supportive, both to your player and to the team. Hopefully you’re already one who cheers in a positive way. But if you’re not sure, maybe set up a video camera and record yourself during your child’s next game to see what you think. Would you want to sit next to you? Or be with you on the ride home?

You might even want to do the same for someone else you may know, assuming they would take the information in the spirit it is intended. Learning to relax and enjoy the game makes it a lot more pleasurable for everyone – including the person who usually gets so upset.

You can also try watching a game where you have no stake to see what you think of how the spectators are reacting. The compare that to how you feel during your child’s game. It can be an interesting perspective.

One other thing you can do as a parent is to educate yourself on what the latest thinking is regarding various skills and see if that matches up with what your player is being taught. Don’t just assume a coach or instructor knows what he/she is doing, or is keeping up with the sport. Learn what to look for so you know whether you’re investing your hard-earned money in the best way possible.

It’s a new year. Why settle for the same old same old?

Take advantage of the energy that comes with a fresh start and use it to create a new, even better you. Best of luck for the upcoming year!

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