The role of a softball coach can be challenging. Teams are often made up of a wide variety of players at every level. On every team, there are players who go above and beyond with the information given to them by the coaches. Then on the other end of the spectrum, there are the unmotivated players who are there because they have to be. Every team, especially at the younger levels, will have at least one unmotivated player. It’s up to the coach of the team to find a solution and a way to get through to this player. Even when it seems that all hope is lost, there is always another method to explore.
It would be easy for a coach to give up on an un-motivated player, especially if this player’s actions and behavior take away from the team atmosphere. An un-motivated player may be someone who doesn’t hustle on the field, shows little interest in being present, doesn’t interact with teammates, or is someone who complains about everything. It would be easy for a coach to write off these unmotivated athletes, but in reality, they need coaching more than ever.
If a coach finds themselves in a situation where there is an unmotivated player on the team roster, there are several routes that can be taken. First and foremost, it’s crucial that the coach finds the root of the problem the player is having. Often when players show a lack of interest in the sport or activity they are taking part in, there is something more profound that needs to be identified and addressed. It is the coaches job to seek out why the player acts and responds the way she does. Coaches, take the time to get to know your players. This will create a relationship based on trust between player and coach, which is critical to team chemistry.
If there is no root issue to be identified or addressed, the next step the coach can take is to find out what this player enjoys. This could be something softball related, or it could be something off the field entirely. A good thing to do before a practice is to go around and check in with each player. Encourage the players to share one or two facts about them or something new. For example, share your favorite movie and your favorite dessert. This sharing activity will give the players a chance to get to know each other, their interests, and it will give the coach a hint at certain treats or desserts that can be up for grabs during competition drills at practice. You wouldn’t believe what players are willing to do if they know candy is on the line.
The next tactic coaches can use, is competition among the team. Softball players are competitive by nature and enjoy competing on the field against other teams as well as themselves during team practices. This is also an excellent way for teams to make practices as game-like as possible and will prepare teams for the challenges they will face on game days. Competition drills with partners, groups, or individuals may be enough to motivate the unmotivated player because after all, no one wants to let their teammates down.
Discipline is another tactic that coaches can use in an attempt to motivate players. Some players will respond to discipline threats from coaches and perform better. It is also very possible that others will not respond to threats. Softball players are all wired differently. If players know push-ups or conditioning are on the line for lack of hustle or listening, you may see some more pep in their step, and their focus improve. Over time, coaches will have a better understanding of which players respond to threats versus rewards such as candy.
It can be frustrating for coaches who can’t find a way to get through to the unmotivated player on their roster. It takes time, patience, and some creativity. It is possible that coaches will fail in their attempt to motivate the unmotivated player. This is alright, as long as the coach can admit with certainty that they did everything they possibly could. Often in softball, the unmotivated players, or the players who are forced to play because their parents want them to, won’t last long in the sport. It’s a harsh reality, but at the end of the day, softball isn’t for everyone. Coaches who are reading this article, if you find yourself being challenged to motivate an unmotivated player, have a little faith. Try to do everything you can to help this player, not only because it’s your job as a coach, but because every softball player deserves it.