Confidence is one of the most important characteristics a coach needs to develop in their team.
With it, teams that might be less talented can reach heights they didn't expect. Without it, teams that appear to be a powerhouse turn into more of a pushover.
Cottondale (Florida) High School coach Shanae Dickens is in her second season at the helm for the Lady Hornets. Dickens is a 2009 graduate of Cottondale who helped guide the Lady Hornets to the district title in her senior season. Dickens took her lumps in her rookie stint as a head coach as the Lady Hornets were knocked out in the first round of the district tournament.
Along the way, Dickens still managed to emphasize six key areas to ensure her players were developing confidence even when the standings and scoreboard didn’t reflect the effort level being put forth.
Establishing set roles
“At practice, I expect them to go ahead and know what we’re going to do so that they can start setting it up and getting ready to prepare themselves mentally and physically as practice time goes on.
“We do field work and we have what we call jobs like making sure all the trash and whatnot is picked up, dugouts are clean, equipment room is clean. Everybody has their role to do to play a part on the Cottondale softball program.”
Consistency of building habits
“I tell them every time we’re doing something or going over something that you should have the drive to not have to have me standing over you to do it correctly. I push them to be self-motivated and do everything at 100 percent even when I’m not watching. I want them to be self-reliant instead of depending on me all the time.”
“Really, repetition so that you can really be ready once you get in that moment. I make sure they know the basics of the game to be able to make those crucial plays in certain situations so that way they’ll feel confident.”
Being a calming presence
“In the game last week we were absolutely getting hammered. So I told them, ‘Don’t worry about the score. Let’s work on something that we do. Let’s bunt and get on base. Let’s put pressure on them. Let’s work on something we’re good at.’ I try to stay in the moment and stay positive with them. That helps a lot.”
Putting things in perspective
“If you’re going up to the plate and you are 0-for-3 for the day and haven’t made any contact with the ball, let’s try to lay down a bunt so you can get on base, working on seeing the ball. I try to instill in them that no matter what the score is that you have a job to do, you have things that you can still work on because nobody is perfect. There’s no time to relax in a game or at practice.
“If a player’s had a good at bat or a bad at bat, I pull them over to the side and let them know, ‘Hey, that was a better at bat but you know maybe next time why don’t you have a different approach and realize what the pitcher is throwing.’ If it’s a defensive error I’ll pull them to the side after the inning and tell them, ‘Hey, that last play get your feet moving or keep your glove down on the ground. I try to really use constructive criticism. I’m not into the hooting or hollering in front of everybody. I think that’s kind of a rough way to do it, especially with girls. I try to reinforce that positive thinking will make it easier for everybody.”