My last article focused on exactly that, focus. Allowing time for players to slow themselves down, leave their troubles in the dugout, and perform at their best. We all know that getting off to a good start never hurts.
This time around lets take a look at the middle. Starts are exciting, they get our blood pumping, our nerves going, and thoughts racing. Ends also have a similar effect on us. After a long game we find the motivation to finish strong because we can see the finish. What we often overlook is the middle. This article will deal with how to more effectively manage the middle as a coach.
TIMEOUTS– use this process to help you make sure that when you do meet with your pitcher and catcher after an inning has not gone as planned or to chat with your offense about executing a particular strategy it is productive.
- Allow Decompression – have everyone slow things down and take a deep breath, this include you! Be the model, lead by example. Avoid just barking orders immediately. This only elevates blood pressure and heightens tension in your players.
- Give constructive analysis – Be clear about what you see that needs to change or how you want the strategy to work. Being vague or assuming everyone is on the same page will lead to frustration and mistakes. If a pitcher needs to get locate better, then tell them that. The feedback you provide should allow players know how they are doing and to clarify expectations.
- Outline next steps – Once you have provided feedback then you can feed forward. This is a critical step that can be missed. If a visit with your pitcher ends with throw more strikes without giving any concrete ideas about how to make that happen then the visit may have well not happened at all. It may only further frustrate your pitcher who is very aware of their current performance. Advise them the best next steps worth taking. Of course, making sure that you discussed numerous times throughout your season that the best learners always act after receiving coaching.
- Identify Positives – Leave the player(s) with something they have done well. Build them up by telling them you have seen them work out of the jam before or that in practice over the last two weeks their bunting has been amazing. After feeding forward with some steps to take to improve then focus forward on what that might look like and how you have confidence in them.
- Repeat when needed
WIN THE MIDDLE INNINGS – As mentioned before excitement typically peaks in the beginning and end of the game. We tend to find the low point of the game in the middle. This is untested, and I don’t have hard evidence to prove this like many of the other 1PW Measurements but just the idea of making sure your team wins the middle innings is a concept that I have often thought about. I would love any feedback teams might already have with this idea or if you dig into your past data and find a solid correlation let me know.
For example: If it is a 7-inning game then did we “Win” the 3rd, 4th, and 5th? If we won those middle innings what was the final outcome of the game? I am guess there is some sort of relationship there but again I don’t want to chisel it in stone yet.
Even the notion of knowing it is the middle and having a three-inning scoreboard in your dugout might be enough to keep energy and focus up a bit higher than it might normally be.