Is a coaches demeanor reflected in the play of his/her team?

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Attitude Reflects Leadership…

Is Demeanor Reflected in Performance?

There is no doubt that teams that have the correct mental approach & attitude, have a decided advantage. How exactly do you cultivate that advantage?

At the end of the day it cannot be denied that teams are a reflection of their leadership. Coaches need to be intentional about how they conduct themselves because it will translate into their teams performance.

“Attitude reflects leadership….captain.”Remember the Titans

As a coach it is extremely important that you work on yourself, and make sure that you cultivate the correct demeanor and or attitude that you want your players to have. I recently had two experiences that forced me to step back and try to inspect this all a little more deeply. 

Last summer, while coaching in the State Tournament Championship game, I noticed some profound subtleties. We were out classed from a pure talent standpoint. As the game began we fell behind 2-0 in the top half of the 1st inning…and the outs that we recorded were rather loud outs, they hits some balls really well right at our defenders.

It would have been very easy for the players on our team to create an internal narrative that told them, OMG this team is way bigger, stronger, faster than we are. We don’t have a chance!

However, the mantra all year had been to “win one pitch at a time.” In other words, compartmentalize each pitch, each moment, and focus on executing to the best of their abilities. Simply staying process oriented in each moment. That mental approach relieves stress and helps players not get caught up in things that they cannot control.

After the 2 runs were scored in the top half of the inning, it was done, that was no longer something that the team could control. Therefore, it didn’t matter, it was no longer of concern, the only thing to focus on was how to win the next pitch.

Zig Ziglar said: “You cannot become what you need to be by remaining what you are. You can make radical changes in minute steps. People who have achieved great success in this world do it by being consistent and taking minute steps in the right direction every day.

You develop a great vocabulary by learning one word a day.

People build fortunes by investing $1 a day.

You may not arrive at your destination tomorrow, or next week, or next month…but consistent effort in the correct direction leads to great accomplishments.”

“Ya know it is funny Tornados and hurricanes get all the attention…but termites do way more damage. They do all that damage by taking one little bite at a time.”Zig Ziglar

That is all so very true and a baseball game is a microcosm of that. If you can help your players start to understand that they don’t need to get overwhelmed by the overall set of circumstances, and can instead take a step in the right direction with every pitch, then you set them up for success and a winning mindset.

We ended up scoring 2 runs in the bottom half of the 1st inning to tie it up at 2 runs a piece. Yet the pitcher they threw out there was a guy that should have shut us down. We drew 3 walks that inning and got a base hit from the 4 hole. We were like those little termites, just taking one bite at a time.

You could see that the opposing team was so caught up in the idea of winning the state championship, that every time a ball was thrown it was like it was the end of the world. That creates loads and loads of pressure, which can create anxiety, which makes it much more difficult to perform at your peak.

The other team was in the 3rd base dugout, and I was coaching 3rd base. So I could hear their conversations and see how they were handing themselves.

They were extremely energetic, working hard to help put their players in the right position, thinking through all the possible scenarios.

They were highly engaged and doing all they could as coaches to help push their team towards a state championship.

They were not being negative, but anyone could clearly sense the anxiety that they had. It was palpable how worked up they were about this particular game. As they should have been…it was for a championship, but what I think they failed to realize was how their anxiety was imparted onto the players.

When you have anxious coaches, players tend to sense that and it leads to the athletes playing with more tension. 

After every inning our opponents were running off of the field huddling up and each of them was screaming at the top of their lungs “who wants it more!” — “let’s go!” — “our time.” Again that is all good and well, but baseball is very different from football, it makes it more difficult to perform well consistently when your emotions are erratic.

Then after we make the 3rd out on offense one inning I start walking back to our dugout, and their coach runs out of the dugout and yells: “Let’s go! Play angry!!” — And it strikes a chord with me because it was something I distinctly remember saying my rookie coaching year.

In that moment I realized how that assertion is flat out counter productive to most players. Baseball is a game that is played best when your emotions are in check, when you are able to maintain a slow heart rate. Thats why you see so many players consistently using intentional breathing, all in an effort to stay cool, calm, and collected. 

I have always been very high energy, and when I first started coaching, I was much more focused on pumping players up, getting them excited and energetic. Yet I am coming to the realization that if I am a crazy energetic, nervous wreck as a coach…that is exactly the demeanor I am going to impart onto my players.

I was in my first ever state championship game as a coach, and I was a nervous wreck inside. If not for the example of the opposing coach, I more than likely would have been acting in a similar manner to him. Yet I was lucky enough to be given the gift of this learning experience, getting to watch how the well-meaning extreme enthusiasm was partially the hinderance that was preventing this team from playing their best baseball. Thanks to that I was diligent throughout the game of conveying a calm confident demeanor. Reminding our guys to stay in the moment and simply execute on every pitch. 

When it was all said and done, we were fortunate enough to bring home the state tournament championship, winning the game by a score of 7-5, even though we were out hit 12-7. We worked the 5 Ball Plate Approach, which helped us drive pitch counts up and get into their bullpen, as well as lead to several walks. We also were able to minimize damage defensively.

There was so much to be learned from this particular game. Our players were overmatched, but the stronger team let the pressure of expectations get to them. And their coaching staff may have helped exacerbate that by creating an environment that was extremely pumped-up, but also extremely anxious…which led to nerves and crucial errors.

Players are very intuitive, to be the best coach you can be, it is important to be aware of how your actions indirectly impact your players mental state. Be diligent and conscience of what you say and do around your team. Convey the disposition you want to see your athletes demonstrate out on the field.

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