Coaches work very hard with players on the details of “what to do” situations that occur on the field. The time invested is critical to a player’s development and allows for advanced strategy to be learned in the future.
However, one thing that we all can get hung-up-on is that once we have taught these situations, we may have a habit of giving instruction to players while a play is happening.
I was watching a seven-year-old league game one day – when a ball was hit to the shortstop with less than two outs. There were runners on first and second base and when the ball was hit, about 6 different people were yelling to the shortstop where to throw the ball. There were a few different answers, and the end result was the player looking left, looking right, and – holding the ball. This is a situation common in baseball and softball and I really believe that the player would have been fine if nobody had said anything. At least, if nobody did, we could have seen what the player did remember about what he had learned when practicing that particular situation, right?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the game the player thought, “I wonder what I’m going to do when the ball comes to me again”, but NOT in a good way. The bottom line is that when coaches and parents speak, our voice is primary to the player and that takes their focus off the ball and the task at hand.
If we let players make the decision on what to do in a particular situation, we will know where they stand in terms of learning the game and we will be able to help speed their development – all while showing the trust that we all desire on the field and life in general.