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#AnythingButSoft: How One Coach Rallies Her Team

We believe that softball is more than a sport - it makes players #AnythingButSoft on and off the field. This season, we'll be sharing tips and insights from leading coaches, nutritionists, and parents alike and talking about how softball makes athletes #AnythingButSoft.

Mirandia Gouker is a junior varsity softball coach at James River High School in Buchanan, Virginia, a school where she once played before moving on to Division III Lynchburg College. As a player, Gouker was the most fiery player on her team — always the first to jump up in the dugout and give her teammates a high-five when they made a good play.

Now, as a coach, she uses that same fire to help build confidence in her athletes.

“You have to have that person on the team, whether it’s a coach or a player, that really gets fired up about stuff,” Gouker said. 

“I was like that as a player. Softball was my favorite sport, and it was something that I loved since I was little. So I just see the emotion of the game. I just feel like if I can show that to them, then they’re going to do better and hopefully that will kind of progress to them so when they do make a good play then they’ll recognize, ‘Hey, coach got fired up, that means we can get fired up too.’”

Carrying that attitude with her into her coaching style helps her teach confidence to her players. Starting on day one, she brings that attitude to her team and uses it to make sure they are prepared for anything on the field.

“We’ll put them in situations in practice that we know they’re going to fail at, at some point,” she said. “To me, it gives them the opportunity to see, ‘Well, if they think we need to work on this in practice then it’s bound to happen in a game.’ So when it comes game time they’ll have that confidence to make that play.”

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In addition to those regular drills, they do a lot of games and team bonding with players in the early-goings, focusing on making sure that each player knows that no matter her skill level or place on the team, she is important. That way, Gouker said, no matter what situation a player is put into, she’ll know she’s valuable and will know her coaches have her back.

Gouker said the importance of confidence is something she learned as a player, doing things like always repeating “I can do this” to herself whenever she needed to make a big play. Now, as a coach, she loves getting the chance to teach those confidence tools to her players, too.

“We try to make that a daily thing. You have to have confidence in yourself because there’s going to come a time when everybody on the team has to play an important role,” she said. “We try to make sure that they know they wouldn’t be on the team if we didn’t think that they weren’t prepared and they weren’t working and we don’t have that confidence with them.”

Just like when she was a player herself, Gouker said she has no problem being the first one out of the dugout to cheer her team on.

“I think it’s good,” Gouker said, “for them to see, ‘Look how crazy she is,’ when they catch a popup or something, and I think it’s kind of carried over to them and makes them think they can do anything on the field.”

From GameChanger and Cara Cooper. 

Softball, #AnythingButSoft, Softball Player Development