(This post is # 2 in the series “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from 9-year-old Baseball Players)
Years ago I taught world history to high school sophomores. Nobody liked it. In fact, I don’t think high school sophomores even like themselves, but that’s for another blog post some other time. The point is, everyone hated it, myself included. I knew something was wrong, so I called a friend who relayed to me a truth I didn’t want to hear at the time: “If they’re not learning, you’re not teaching.” It’s one of the classic laws of learning.
So much for blaming my students.
As their teacher, it was my responsibility to figure out a way for them to thrive under my instruction. It wasn’t their job to make life easy for me, no matter how much I wanted them to.
The same is true in coaching. If they aren’t getting something, that’s on you, Coach. Figure out a different way to teach it.
Something simple I’ve learned from coaching 9-year-old kids: If you can’t teach it to a 9-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.
Three tips for improvement:
1. Check your vocabulary. Hint: you aren’t making a presentation to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) or to the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) national convention. You’re coaching kids. You should sound like you’re coaching kids. If someone from the ABCA were to attend one of your practices, they wouldn’t be impressed with how many of their catchphrases you can repeat. The SABR guys shouldn’t understand a word you’re saying. That’s right, you coach kids. Talk like it. Act like it. Appreciate it. Figure out a way to put high-level baseball concepts in the cookie jar. If you can’t, you don’t really understand it in the first place. If you won’t, well…get out of coaching.
2. Check the results. If they understand what you just taught them, they will attempt something that looks at least somewhat similar to what you just taught them. If they don’t, go back to # 1. Remember that each kid will be different. Some are ready for a greater challenge and a more difficult concept. Some aren’t. It’s your job to coach everyone at their particular level, expecting results that are both challenging and fair to each kid. Sound difficult? There’s a reason for that.
3. Check with them. Kids live to please the adults in their lives. The kids you coach are no different. They are going to try whatever it is they THINK you want them to do. So, when they do something strange, they THINK that’s what you just taught them. It’s never a bad idea to check with them to find out what they understand and can articulate. Have them teach what you taught them. Allow them to be honest: “Coach, I don’t understand. This is difficult. I can’t seem to get it.” If your goal is to make them better (and not just listen to yourself talk), get their input, work together, and be sure they can articulate it. Coach yourself out of a job.
Coaching kids will never be easy. Teaching them concepts in the game can be one of the most frustrating things you do. Lean into it. Work to do it better. Study. Take nothing for granted. Be willing to start over all the time. Keep teaching. Don’t give up. Those kids need you.
What would you add to my list? What’s worked for you? Leave a comment on the blog, Twitter, or Facebook!
Here’s a link to last week’s post, the first in the series.
Next week’s topic: Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.