By Tom Briner
With high school baseball season in full swing, we wanted to give you high school coaches some advice to help you groom your captains into leaders. It is absolutely essential to have strong leaders who will help motivate the team both on and off the field, while being liaisons between other players and coaches. By this point of the season, your leaders should start becoming apparent. Here are some steps to help you develop your leaders.
1. Evaluate who your leaders are. Frequently, coaches think that their best players are always their leaders. You should maintain an open mind. Let your players know that even though they might not be starting, they can be leaders. Non-starter leaders can make sure the bench stays in the game, pick the other teams’ signs, notice tendencies, and stay involved while they aren’t playing. Other players respect teammates who do the little things to help them win games. Look for leaders in any players who bring energy, focus, and the right attitude to the field.
2. Maintain communication with your “leaders.” It is important for coaches to get the pulse of the team from a trusted source. In today’s technological social world, your players will be in almost constant communication with each other. If issues present themselves, players with leadership skills can help effectively diffuse them. Give your leaders ideas on how they can fix issues and let them put their put their skills to use. Check in with your leaders on a regular basis and you’ll see their confidence grow.
3. Ask your leaders to say something pre/post game. Learning how to speak in front of a group is a useful skill for athletes during the season and in life. Don’t put your leaders on the spot, but pull them aside and ask them to say something. It’s important that they feel confident to give the team feedback during the good and bad times. If they feel lost about what to say, help them identify key moments at practice or plays in the game that are worth talking about.
4. Sit down with your leaders and evaluate the team’s performance. Giving your leaders a voice can be an effective way to get them to start thinking about the game with the right perspective. High school players commonly get caught up with their individual performance rather than the team performance. Help them see the big picture. Ask your leaders what the team can do to improve and what they’ve been doing well. Help them see what you see. This will help them learn more about the game and improve their ability to give feedback to the team as a whole.
5. Teach them to lead vocally and by example. Practicing what you preach is essential in a good leader. High school players commonly worry about what others think of them, which causes them to refrain from saying anything that might be challenging to teammates even when it might be important. Teaching your leaders to speak up and put the team first will give them skills that will be invaluable both during and long after their high school baseball careers. You’ll also find that developing your leaders will improve your team’s overall performance while making your job a little easier.