Motivation is defined as the Driving Force to Achieve Goals.
If you’re extremely lucky you’ll have a player who acts as a spark plug and keeps the team up, but don’t forget, even an All-Star player becomes only a team mate if the going gets real rough. In fact it can actually hurt a team in certain circumstances if players become resentful of the spark plug.
That being said, let’s get to the Brass Tacks, Team Motivation begins and ends with the Coach. Period. Your team will assume your personality and mental attitude, so be as prepared to teach attitude as you are to instruct hitting.
Spring training is about more than learning physical skills, although it is @ 90% of it, but mental and emotional toughness must also begin to be taught. Getting to know your players is extremely important from all aspects. Watch the reaction of players as they go through their drills. Some players will become angry when they fail, others embarrassed, others take it as a learning experience and go about their business. You must make a mental note of how each player reacts in order to be able to individually motivate him at sometime during the season.
You don’t want to raise your voice or pump your fist to motivate a player who is already so anxious he’s bouncing off the dugout walls. This is when an arm around his shoulder and a softer monotone instruction is required.
“Okay Johnny, listen up. I don’t need a home run. Just make contact. OK”
Let’s look at what we just did. We calmed Johnny down somewhat with the soft voice. We let him know we didn’t expect him to try and overachieve by hitting a home run. We gave him specific directions, make contact. Then reaffirmed it all with an acknowledge question he has to reply to.
A player who has demonstrated passive or emotional feelings, anger, when failing at something requires a different approach.
“Alright now Johnny, this is no different than what you do every practice. In fact I throw faster at batting practice than this pitcher throws. Now go get ’em.”
What’d we accomplish? Our voice has more of an authority tone, which means we know what we’re talking about and we have confidence he’s up to the task. We remind him he’s already accomplished hitting baseballs thrown faster than he’s about to bat against. A final word of encouragement and a directive to do something.
Addressing and motivating a team is naturally somewhat different than an individual because you’re dealing with various styles of motivation at the same time. This is where it’s imperative to make the players a team, they are being addressed as a team and will respond as a team.
98% of the time when I went to the pitching mound the entire infield came to the mound. First thing I did was have everyone take a deep breath to somewhat relax, but mainly to give their minds time to slow and prepare to listen.
No matter the reason for the situation, errors, walks or hits I made sure they understood we couldn’t change the situation we were in, we could only react to it. Then I would give specific directions and remind them as a “team” they could get out of this jam.
The conversation may go like this.
” Alright, everyone deep breath. (Wait) Ok, we got into this situation as a team and we’re getting out of it as a team. I want everyone to come in @ 4 steps. Ground ball…comes home. Fly ball…help one another.” Looking at my pitcher “We just need strikes.” Glancing at my catcher “Good target now.”
As I left the field I always yelled to the outfielders and indicated with my fingers how many outs there were. That not only brought them back to focus but reinforced the “Team” feeling.
There are hundreds of different situations requiring different methods of motivation and 1000s of books, videos and various material with advise on how to handle motivation. Reading or listening to these materials can do nothing but help improve your understanding of how to motivate, but do you really have the time?
The important thing is you’re aware motivation is a needed skill in which to successfully coach a baseball team and it’s your responsibility, as the coach, to set the tone for the team.
Everyone has their own style and mine may sound quite foreign or unrealistic to you, and that’s fine. It worked for me, but another avenue may work much better for you.
I’ll close this segment with this comment:
” The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” Babe Ruth