I had an incredible opportunity this summer: I was able to coach softball team made up of 13 6-year-old girls, including my daughter. We recently wrapped up the eight-week season and, as I was looking at our team picture, I started to think about on how much fun I had being a part of this team.
Yes, I said 13 6-year-old girls and fun in the same sentence. But it’s true. If you have ever been involved in coaching that many young kids, you probably know it can be both stressful and very rewarding. I really enjoyed the process as both a father and as a person who has a lot of passion about leadership development. No, this isn’t about parenting (but I would, however, recommend every parent take the opportunity to coach their children on a team). Rather, let’s discuss what I learned about leadership and management effectiveness during the season.
You can learn a lot about life and motivation by participating in and coaching youth sports, especially when you’re dealing with very young children. Some of the girls clearly didn’t want to be there. They dreaded the experience and the process. Some of the girls were excited to be there and really enjoyed being a part of the team. Many of the girls had never played softball before and had a lot to learn.
That being said, I learned three valuable lessons this summer coaching youth softball:
1. You must adjust your coaching style to the person you are coaching. Early on, my coaching techniques were not that well received and not that effective, especially with some of the girls who were not into softball on a hot summer day. I learned to relate better to the girls one-one-one and, as a result, I understood what would work for each kid on my team. By the end of the season, the team showed a lot of improvement and most importantly for the age, they had fun.
2. I got better as a coach the more I practiced. Leadership and coaching is like anything else – if you want to improve you have to practice. The more times you give feedback, or handle a difficult conversation, the better you will get and the more you will understand yourself and how you can relate to your team (or your employees). The more you get to know your people and understand what works for them, the better you will be. It all starts with the mindset that you need to practice and always look to learn from the process.
3. The players got better throughout the season because of their practice. Our practices were the most important part of the season. Repetition is essential in individual skill building, and I provided instant encouragement when a player did something well and instant feedback when mistakes were made. Our practices were fun but an emphasis was placed on learning the game and the fundamentals.
I volunteered to coach the team in order to spend time with my daughter and her friends, start teaching the girls the game of softball and spend some quality time outdoors during the summer months. An added bonus was the lessons I learned from the girls. I can truly say it was time well spent.