This winter, every junior softball coach will have all the tools they need to become a super-coach.
iCoach is a series of ten instructional coaching videos created in conjunction with Central Football, aimed at parents who are new to coaching softball, and provide tips, warm-ups and games for each week of training.
Watch the videos:
Week 1 - Philosophy
Week 2 - Communication
Week 3 - Engagemement
Week 4 - Structure
Week 5 - Skill Development
Week 6 - Recognition
Week 7 - Student voice
Week 8 - Adaptable
Week 9 - Whānau
Week 10 - measure
Week 1 - PhilosophyFor the first training of the season, we encourage you to create a positive team environment that will ensure athletes have fun all season long. A positive team philosophy is one that focuses on skill development and having fun, instead of winning at all costs. This week's video features two activities designed to focus on having fun, not winning. For this session you will need: • Base mats • 9 cones
Week 2 - CommunicationFor week two we focus on improving our methods of communication to maximise our team trainings. Keep your team busy and avoid talking at length, don't talk at them, get down to their level and use kid-friendly language. This week, we've selected two activities that will test your communication skills, and have your team communicating with one another. For this session you will need: • Three balls • A tee, bases and a bat
Week 3 - EngagemementMake sure you have enough equipment for everyone, and use stories and make-believe to develop movements and skills. We've included two games that will captivate your players, and encourage you to be silly and involve yourself in make-believe. Trust us, you'll have fun! For this session you will need eleven cones, two tees, two bats, two balls
Week 4 - StructureCoaching junior players is chaos. Organise that chaos by setting up before your team arrive, structuring your sessions the same every week and using games instead of drills. Throughout this entire series we've broken up our sessions into a warm-up and a skill game, and we always recommend finishing your practice with an actual game of Softball. For this session you will need one ball per player.
Week 5 - Skill DevelopmentYou might remember from week one that our team philosophy is to focus on skill development over winning. That's because being skilful is fun! Explain and demonstrate skills, and don't be scared to have the kids demonstrate. Give them the chance to imitate the new skills through skill games, then consolidate that skill in an actual game at the end of training. For this session you will need one ball for every two players in your team.
Week 6 - RecognitionThis week we encourage you to strengthen your relationships with your players through showing them that you care, and acknowledge each of them through greeting and encouragement. We've selected a warm up and skill game that will get you interacting and having fun with your team! For this session you will need two objects of one colour, and three of another. We used red and yellow bean bags, but you could make do with softballs, T shirts, shoes, etc. Also, one ball for every two players on your team
Week 7 - Student voiceCoaching junior players is changeable, high paced and constantly subject to unforeseen circumstances. Come to practice with a plan but don't be afraid to adapt it to the needs of the kids. Welcome the input of your players on adapting your activities. This week we've selected two games that can be easily adapted to suit any training. For this session you will need a tee, ball and bat, one set of bases
Week 8 - AdaptableCoaching junior players is changeable, high paced and constantly subject to unforeseen circumstances. Come to practice with a plan but don't be afraid to adapt it to the needs of the kids. Welcome the input of your players on adapting your activities. This week we've selected two games that can be easily adapted to suit any training. For this session you will need a set of bases, and a small (5x8m) rectangle marked out with cones, and a soft, large ball suitable for dodgeball
Week 9 - WhānauThis week's session aims to better engage your team's whānau. This ensures that their learning and love for the sport continues outside of trainings and games. Involve the parents of your team. They will value being included and it will help to ease the load on game day. Explain your coaching philosophy to parents so that they understand your choices. Lastly, encourage them to play with their kids. At this age kids need repetition to build skills and having a parent at home to support this will be a huge help to your players. This week, we have a set of activities designed to involve parents in their child's touch development, during your regular training, and at home. For this session you will need a red and green fly-swat (could be substituted), three parallel lines of small cones, one large cone and ball for every two players in your team
Week 10 - measureFor this session you will need one 'flag' or piece of cloth per player, a bucket full of tennis balls, and a tennis racquet
Coaching 5-7 year olds will always have a few challenges. These are some strategies that we’ve come up with over years of coaching, and talking to other coaches.
There will be an adjustment period where your child may struggle to define your role in a team situation. Your child might wonder, ‘are you my coach or my parent?’ In the team environment your child will need to learn that you are a coach first and foremost, and you put the needs of the team first as opposed to your role as a parent who specifically meets their needs individually.
Continuously reinforce that you are a coach at practice and games, and a mum or dad outside of those settings. Conversely for you, try not to be too much of a coach at home, just a parent.
Until your child understands the role of a coach, it is not uncommon for them to challenge the authority of the parent/coach by crying and being generally uncooperative. This role definition for your child won't happen overnight. Persevere by praising the behaviour you want and ignoring the behaviour you don't want.
One thing that may help with defining roles is to have your child call you coach at trainings and games.
Coaching is a teaching environment. As any teacher will tell you, if you do not control the environment then learning is compromised and the opportunity for everyone to have fun is reduced.
Strategies that may help you to deliver a fun and quality learning experience are:
- Have the children put their hands up when asked questions
- Ensure the players are listening to your instruction.
- Praise the behaviour you want and ignore the behaviour you don’t want
- Work with the child’s parents to find solutions regarding behaviour
- Continuously outline your expectations of team behaviour and be consistent about enforcing strategies that address negative behaviour. A “TEAM FIRST” approach will not only promote positive behaviour but also create a reference point to which you can create your team behaviour expectations
- Get to know the child on a personal level to build trust and develop a caring relationship. Nobody cares what you know until they know you care
- Outline your expectation to all parents prior to competition about accepted parent behaviour. Be clear in communicating with your players' parents how we talk to people involved in our team environment, everyone deserves an equal opportunity to play and that you are a coach that emphasises fun over winning.
- Check to see if the school have a sideline behaviour policy or a parent code of conduct process.
Deal with it
- Address parent one on one away from the team environment.
- Work with the school to find solutions.
- Give the offending parent the role of monitoring the sideline behaviour.
- Praise the behaviour you want from parents at the end of the game.
- You as a coach need to role model the positive behaviour you want from parents.
- Supply lollipops for overly vocal parents. If they're sucking, they're not yelling.
The Hard to Engage Child
- Invest time to try and connect personally to build a relationship of trust.
- Within the context of your warm ups and skill games, look for opportunities and roles that forces them to engage gradually eg in tag games make them IT, partner activities, ask them demonstrate when they do something well.
- Work with parents or school to find solutions.
Use constraints at your training to change behaviour by modifying the rules to promote skill development, teamwork and fun. If you have a child that likes to dominate the ball, try implementing rules that promote team work such as passing quickly, not scoring twice in a row, etc. It's good to use constraints as a team, rather than with individuals.
Constraints can also be used in games, to ensure that all players get adequate opportunities to develop, and have maximum fun!