By: Jill E. Wolforth
It’s quite common, at this stage in the season, for us to hear from some of our athletes regarding their struggles. The season hasn’t gotten off to the start they hoped and for some, frustration or even discouragement has set in.
Since the majority of players we deal with are pitchers, the things we hear most often are “I don’t know what my role is or I have no idea when I’m going to pitch. As a result, I don’t know how to get my work in to best prepare myself.”
This is indeed a challenge. It stems from a lack of communication. Often because coaches have so many things on their plates, they fail to recognize an issue like this. If’s easy for them to think “You should be ready all the time” but that’s not the best thing for the human psyche nor to get the best out of athletes.
For other players, they simply aren’t getting any playing time and aren’t exactly sure why. So, rather then breaching the subject, for fear that even asking the question will make the situation worse, they stew in their frustration.
When someone typically talks about communication, everyone will agree on its importance but over and over again it is missed.
I remember several times in my youth, our family doing some kind of Ranch work and our dad, in a rather frank, questioning tone would say something like “Why didn’t you get such and such done?” to which I can remember saying to my mother, “How was I suppose to know that? Does he think I’m a mind reader?” Yet, to him it seemed obvious and yes, to him, I should have been a mind reader.
I think this same thing often occurs with coaches. To them something is obvious. To players it’s anything but obvious.
In many cases, there is a divide built where the player loses respect for the coach and the coach believes the player is not committed to the program or simply doesn’t have what it takes to compete.
I remember playing in college and, at one point, as an upperclassman, going to the assistant coach in frustration and in reference to my head coach saying “I don’t know what he wants from me. I don’t know what he expects.” As a player, I was a coach’s dream, hard working, committed, all-in, willing to do whatever it took to get better and help my team. So, again what might have seemed obvious to the coach was anything but obvious to me.
With that said, I remember earlier in my career, when my playing time was limited, I was told exactly what my role would be. At that point, I knew exactly where I stood. It doesn’t mean I was thrilled about it but, because of that communication, I was able to focus on specific things for the short term while continuing to improve on other things that would increase my role in the future.
Lack of communication happens with all relationships; husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, teachers and students but for some reason, it’s seems to be rampant in athletics.
I put much of the onus on the coaches because they are the leader, the “adult”, and they often need to step back and think about how they have communicated the various roles to each and every player under their guidance. Again, it doesn’t mean players always like what they will hear but most just want to know, good or bad. The worst situation is being in limbo.
As a player, if that communication is lacking, you have to take on the responsibility of opening the discussion with your coach. Ask to have a meeting outside of practice time and ask the coach for some help with your specific challenges. You may not like the answers you get but in most cases, you’ll have a better understanding of where you stand.