10 Softball Coaching Lessons from Boot Camp
Posted By Cindy Bristow On April 19, 2010 @ 10:54 pm In All,Miscellaneous | 4 Comments
[Fastpitch Softball Tips Learned from Boot Camp - Chris]
While improved fitness has tons of personal benefits it isn’t easy to make your team want to get into shape. Discover how you can push your players without forcing them to push back!
The magic of a great coach is that they inspire, encourage, nudge and push you to go farther and achieve more than you thought yourself capable of. Great coaches help you feel better about yourself by improving your physical and your mental skills, no matter what sport we’re talking about. My boot camp instructor is one of those coaches. He has his own style and personality and yes, the sport is fitness/conditioning instead of softball but his attributes and skills are easily transferable to the softball field.
First of all let’s be clear – I’m talking about fitness boot camp and not the kind where I learn to march, follow orders and crawl on my belly dodging bullets. This boot camp happens every Monday and Wednesday at 6 o’clock in the morning and lasts an hour. We have about 20 people in the class that range in age from 53 to 24, involve both men and women in all sizes, weights, and fitness levels.
Our instructor, Chris, has 10 weeks, or 20 sessions to try and get all of us into much better shape and because we’re all so different that isn’t an easy task. In essence, we’re his “team” for this 10 week season and like any team, we have our stars, our slackers and all those in-between. Every session Chris has to individually push each of us beyond our perceived boundaries without pushing so hard that we break.
Getting 20 grown adults to run, jump, lift, squat and push to their limits at 6 o’clock in the morning takes a lot of creativity, caring and nudging. Softball coaching requires that exact same thing. While our games aren’t held at 6am and our sport doesn’t require 60 solid minutes of exhausting physical exertion, it does take a master coach and motivator to keep your thumb on the pulse of the team as they hit the bumpy parts in the season, struggle and possibly feel like giving up. Every team has challenges and struggles but it’s how we respond to this adversity that really determines whether the road blocks make us stronger via the solution or weaker via the conflict and the giving up.
I think everyone would agree that getting into shape has a lot of benefits. Sure, it’s hard but anything worthwhile is, and once you get through the first stages it seems to get easier. If we’re going to tackle all the effort, struggle, challenges and commitment it’s going to take to get into great shape then it sure better be worth it. If we take a quick look at the following list we can see the benefits we gain by improving our overall fitness level. We will increase or improve the following:
That’s a pretty impressive list that after looking at it makes you wonder why all of us aren’t in better shape. Well the answer is that while these benefits are all things we’d each love to have, the sacrifices we have to make in order to achieve them are often more than we’re willing to make. The pain and stiffness and strain and breathlessness that we know is required in order to earn these benefits can become pretty big roadblocks to our good intentions. That’s true for everyone but a very select few who absolutely love torturing themselves with pushing their physical limits.
I for one am not one of those people. I’ve always liked exercising but running was another story so this class was a way for me to have someone help me in my quest to reverse what was happening to me while hopefully, gaining more energy and improving my overall health (which is fine, but never can be too sure).
This is my second boot camp go-around having already completed my first 10 week session, and while it’s been unbelievably hard, it’s also been incredibly rewarding. I’ve had this article milling around in my mind for some time as I think Chris does such a good job working with each of us in such a difficult setting that I’ve wanted to share 10 key things I’ve learned from Chris that directly apply to coaching softball.
Chris has really figured out how to get his team of 20+ adults to push ourselves much farther than before, and farther than we would otherwise do on our own. We are all free to walk out at any point during our workouts and yet nobody does. We all stay and endure and push and sweat and complain – and most importantly keep going – for the entire 60 minutes as a result of our instructor who is pushing us forward.
So let’s take a look at the 10 things that Chris does that directly apply to coaching softball:
He Cares – If you miss a session the first thing he asks is “Are you OK?” not “where r u or why aren’t you here”, but are you ok? He shows concern for you as a person. While he isn’t a real talkative guy he does say hi at some point each session even if it’s while he’s standing at the station where you’re lifting weights. He smiles and for a brief second steps out of the “come on Cindy” mentality and is Chris the person saying hi to Cindy the person. And, he knows each of our names and calls us by name everyday. That shows he cares because it’s sincere and personal, he’s taken the time to learn our names and not just say hi guysto the whole group and that’s it.
He Pushes – While I hate it at the time I love the results since Chris pushes me farther and harder than I, or any of my fellow boot campers would push ourselves. As he says, “it’s not summer camp, it’s boot camp” meaning, it’s going to be hard or they wouldn’t call it boot camp so quit taking it easy and push yourself. Chris knows that each of us have an inner desire to push, and an inner level where we stop. He knows he’s got to watch for that stopping point and then urge or push or encourage us to go a little bit past it each time.
It’s Personal – He pushes and urges the 20-something year olds harder than he does me, and yet he pushes me. He manages to nudge each of us harder than we’d nudge ourselves and yet he tailors it to our own abilities. While he might say “OK, 50 squat thrusts” he watches the most in shape person in the room (not me) and when she’s finished then he stops all of us since her 50 has the same impact as the 27 I no doubt completed in the same time period. Or he’ll have us do situps for 2 minutes and tell a few of the more in shape ones to do accordions (which are harder). It’s the intensity that matters within our own ability to endure it and perform. Since we range in age, size, sex, weight and conditioning there is a huge difference in all of us so Chris makes our work load personal to our own abilities.
It Matters to Him – Our improvement really does matter to him – he wants each of us to get better. He takes it personally if we’re getting better or not. His concern for our improvement comes across like he’s in it with us instead of against us. He simply has a different role in my fitness than I do and yet it seems like my fitness actually matters to him. He loves what he does and takes pride in his ability to get a group of people to drastically raise their physical conditioning. This pride and love of what he does shows each session and creates an environment where improvement happens.
We’re Accountable – It’s not enough that we paid for the class, we have to let him know if we can’t make it, we have to keep a food journal listing everything we eat and when we eat it, and we are penalized if we’re late, forget our journals or eat something we shouldn’t. Not because we’re in fitness prison but because he knows accountability is the best way to keep people on-track, change habits and develop discipline. Being accountable to what we eat by logging it in our journals each day really makes a difference when you go to stick something in your mouth. Knowing you have to text him if you are too lazy to get out of bed makes a difference – so you get up and go. Accountability really matters when trying to change behavior!
It’s Hard and Fun – While I struggle to tell you just how hard it is to do 5 island suicides in the parking lot while it’s still dark Chris does have the ability to continually mix things up to keep the hard things fun…or at least new. Fun might be a stretch but “new” keeps things fresh. Imagine how hard hard would be if it were also BORING! For instance, today we did musical chairs. But did I mention that we were each holding a 10 pound weight over our heads and running around the circle the entire time. If we managed to get “out” we had to go off to the side and do situps, squats and pushups while the game continued on without us. While it was hard, it was still musical chairs which in a child-like way was kinda cool. Kind of….
He’s Firm – 6:00am is start time, not 6:05. He doesn’t want to hear why you’re late; you’re late, so give him 50 extra squat thrusts or something as horrible. Being firm about something as simple as the start time shows that class matters and that those of us that got up early to get there on time matter. We also go until 7:00am and not 6:45. He’s firm so we know what and where the boundaries are because let’s face it – even though we’re adults, we’re all still trying to cut corners and get out of stuff since it’s so insanely hard, so boundaries matter.
It’s Individual & Teamwork – Sometimes we’re working against ourselves and sometimes we’re combined and competing against others. Switching between individual and team-like competitions keeps things fresh but also allows for some individual struggle and improvement as well as some group challenges and encouragement. The individual allows each of us to keep our pushes and struggles to ourselves while the teamwork pushes us past our individual limits. The mix of both is necessary for total improvement.
He’s Encouraging Not Humiliating – While I get my share of “come on Cindy, keep your feet up!” or something as wonderful when I can’t even feel my feet, he will also walk by when it’s over and say “nice job today”. For instance I was last, dead-last, on our parking lot suicides and yet I was pushing myself as hard as I could. I really am that bad at it but I was trying and working really hard. He noticed and told me, “good job Cindy” as I was struggling to breath walking back into the gym. Instead of being on me the entire time I was last he could tell that last was my best effort so he didn’t need to push, instead, he knew he needed to notice my effort!
He’s ALL in – Even though he’s just standing there the entire hour you get the feeling that he’s all in with us. First of all he looks in shape which sure makes his commands easier to take. By mixing up the routine you know he’s done his homework and is prepared for each session instead of just walking in and making things up or doing the same thing over and over. He makes sure that any equipment we’ll be using that day is already in our workout room when we get there so we don’t waste time finding it in order to start. He’s prepared, and, he spends his time watching us work instead of watching himself in the mirror.
All of these qualities apply to coaching our softball team from allowing both individual and teamwork to being firm about practice start times, our own skills as coaches need practicing just as much as those of our players. Great teachers and examples and lessons are all around us if we’ll only notice them – in whatever form, sport or arena they happen to occur.
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