I just about had it. The kids weren’t able to execute the skill and I was ready to stop and move onto something else. Fortunately a voice inside me told me to press on; stay at it.
I was working with eighteen 3rd-5th graders at a local Elementary School; kids that had never played baseball before outside of gym class (if that). They had never received any instruction before, and we were in our second session. The focus of that day was simple, stance to stride. The session prior we collected their metrics, one of which was their exit velocity as a hitter. When seeing them hit, none of them knew how to stand at the plate and none knew how to stride, understandably. So, for the second session we took the simple approach of having each kid on a line learning the basics of how to stand and how to stride.
Stance to stride is something most people would think is incredibly boring, a skill that shouldn’t take longer than 3 minutes to teach and for the players to comprehend. But, when working with kids that have never played the game before, this can be quite difficult. Make sure the stance is not too wide or too narrow. The stride needs to be short and simple taking your body to a balanced position. We sometimes forget the complexity in the simple things when drawing up practice plans and therefore we do not properly allocate enough time for a segment of practice.
As we got into the drill that day, I could tell this wasn’t going to be a 5-minute drill. Name the potential issues that could possibly occur during the drill and we likely saw it. Too long of a stride; too short of a stride; stepping backwards and not forwards; weight leaning too far forward on the stride; not staying in a line; lifting the whole body up when lifting up the front foot; too quick of a stride; etc. You name it, we saw it. “Stance. Stride. Stance. Stride” were the prompts I called out. And with every prompt, there were likely at least 18 issues (at least one from each kid). I would yell a reminder at each prompt. “Stance. Don’t be too narrow. Stride. I see some with their feet to wide. Stance. Stance. Stance. Hey. Some aren’t in their stance.” On and on we went.
We must have been at it for about 8-10 minutes (but seemed like 20 minutes) when I felt that I needed to abandon ship. But a voice kept at me, telling me that the kids need to get this down or they’ll struggle to even have a chance to hit. As boring as it was for me and the kids, we had to press on. Then it happened. The kids started getting it. With each stance to stride prompt I would watch one kid. As time wore on, I noticed I wasn’t giving any corrective reminders. And it wasn’t because I was tired of saying the same things; but because the kids were getting it. Pretty soon, I was getting through the 18 kids without having to say any reminders. My excitement built, and as the kids could hear the excitement in my voice, and the recognition of them doing it correctly, their enthusiasm grew.
Very often as coaches we find ourselves in a position where the kids just aren’t “getting it.” It’s at these times where we need to ask ourselves a question. Is what I am trying to get them to do necessary? Is it imperative that they learn this skill? If the answer is yes, we have to press on. We have to push forward and be persistent. If it’s that important, see it through until they get it. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to brush the drill to the side saying “we’ll circle back to it some other time”. Or “today’s not the day for this; we will tackle it some other time.” These aren’t acceptable responses. Our kids need us. Our kids need to understand the power and importance of persistence. Do one more rep. If that didn’t work, do one more rep. I promise you that if you keep going…they’ll get it.