Coaching Tips for a Helping a Struggling Player Get Out Of a Slump
Big League players are not immune to slumps and funks. That being said, neither are younger players. The baseball coach must become the great motivator and help players who are struggling. Let’s take a look at some Baseball Coaching Tips for a Struggling Player.
#1 Find the Cause
This is pretty obvious but I’ve seen inexperienced coaches that would hope problems like a struggling player would just play itself out. I’m here to say that most likely it won’t without some assistance. The coach should determine if the problem is mechanical, physical, mental or some combination of the three.
A mechanical problem is the baseball swing, pitching form and other baseball relayed movements/techniques. This is an easy fix to the other two which I’ll discuss in a moment. In the case, the coach must identify the mechanical problem and work with the player to improve/change the mechanic.
A physical problem is some type of injury or deficiency. Minor injuries can be a big problem because they can sometimes go undetected for a while but can definitely have a huge impact on performance. Also, minor injuries can become major injuries if they go undetected and the player continues to play.
A mental issue could be things like confidence, frustration and fear. A mental issue can be the toughest problem a coach and a struggling player can face.
#2 Specialize the Solution
Once the problem is identified, the coach can come up with a solution. I also suggest somehow specializing the solution to make the player really know that the coach cares. For a example, a small gesture might be giving the player a link to a YouTube video that demonstrates the hitting mechanic that is being worked on in practice. This shows the coach is invested in the player and is going “the extra mile” to help out. A small gesture can sometimes be very powerful to a child.
#3 Peer Mentor
There are usually a few players who are leaders on the team and these players could help a struggling player. Getting encouragement from a peer is sometimes more powerful than the encouragement that is expected from the coach. Finding an older player in the neighborhood to work with the player may be a good solution that allows the player to work on the problem without the pressure of performing in front of the team.
#4 Get the Team Involved
A struggling player needs support and a great support system would be the entire team. The team rallying around the struggling player could be that extra boost needed to break out of the slump or funk they are in. The team cheering after a big hit may be just the boast the player needs to approach the next at bat with confidence.
#5 Get the Parents Involved
The parents should obviously be another support for the struggling player. However, an inexperienced coach might think it is their job alone to fix the problem. Nothing could be further than the truth. The more support then the better chance the problem is solved. For example, the coach could suggest that the parents work with their child outside the team to fix the problem. Parental involvement might be just what the child needs to get over the tough times at the baseball field.
#6 Opportunity to Succeed
If the player is in strictly a baseball slump then it is the coach’s job to find ways to help the player succeed to build confidence. For example, use the struggling player as a pinch runner if they are in a hitting slump. This will get the player on base and make them feel like they are contributing offensively.
Practice is absolutely the place to work on problems. The coach needs to go to practice with a plan. If there are several new team and/or individual issues than the coming week’s practice should not look exactly like the last practice. It should be customized to address issues that need to be resolved.
#8 Keep it Positive
Always use positive word with a struggling player. The player is feeling down already and any type of negativity will magnify the problem.
#9 Keep it Fun
Through the player’s struggles, the coach needs to keep things fun. Baseball is supposed to be fun and the player will thrive in a positive environment where kids can be kids. For example, always try to end practice with a fun activity like hits, runs and errors. During the activity stop instructing and just supervise. Something like this will help the struggling player and it’s just a great team bonding activity. A good idea might be to let the struggling player pick the activity or let them be one of the captains who pick the teams.
#10 Physical Issues
A coach should always have in the back of their mind that an issue for a struggling player could be physical. Watch for things like arm fatigue that could be effecting both hitting and throwing. Maybe a player struggling at the plate simply needs glasses. The coach must have their “eyes wide open” to quickly identify player problems.
Baseball Zone has many resources to help a coach work with a struggling player.
A baseball coach must “wear a lot of different hats” when dealing with a struggling player. They must be a detective, a problem solver and a motivator. Putting on these different hats will show the player that the coach cares and that will go a long way in getting the player back on track.