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