The Trials and Tribulations of Coaching

The sport I chose was softball and although I’ve played this sport before, I’ve decided to try coaching as a new aspect. I’m volunteering with the Coastal Bay Girls Softball League who have a 12U, 10U, and 8U team. The past 3 weeks I’ve been helping teach girls who have never, or have little experience playing softball. At first I thought this was going to be easy because I was a player, but I was surprised to realize that just because you can play the game, doesn’t mean coaching comes easy. I had the hardest time trying to translate what’s I could do into words. The motions such as throwing, hitting, and fielding come so naturally to me now, that I don’t even have to think about what I’m doing. I remember on my first day, I had to take a step back and try and remember what my coaches told me when I was learning as well as watching what the other coaches were saying and doing.

The second thing I realized was that how you coach depends on the age of the girls. You can’t expect a girl who’s six to understand terms such as “follow through” or “pivot” when trying to teach them to hit. I really had to stop and think about how to explain what I meant in words the girls could understand. Not only did I have to simplify my explanations depending on age, the amount of encouragement versus critique you give the girls changed as well. At the 6U age, you just want to encourage any kind of contact with the bat and ball or any throw and catch because the focus is more on just having fun. At the 12U age however, even though we still want them all to have fun, there is more emphasis on the correct technique and executing it properly.

Another surprising thing I discovered was how much I enjoyed coaching. At first I thought it wasn’t going to be so fun because I wasn’t the one who got to play, but after seeing the girls you coach succeed at something they were struggling with or didn’t know how to do is an indescribable feeling.

Relating to the course, I found it interesting how all the coaches besides myself were men. I thought this was a little ironic because softball is a sport generally played by girls. Having only male coaches reinforced for me how sports, even a “girl’s” sport, is still dominated by men. Also the stereotypical place of the woman as the cheerleaders or having little knowledge about the sport was reinforced. The majority of the mom’s present would just cheer their daughters on or be gossiping with the other women. The dad’s on the other hand, were all trying to coach from the sidelines.

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One Response to The Trials and Tribulations of Coaching

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Really interesting observations about the parent dynamics. We often do live and internalize such gender stereotypes. I find your insights into the varying expertise of softball quite intriguing as well. Realizing that just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you can teach it is an important insight. In truth, they are different types of expertise. It is often hardest for experts to be good teachers for beginners, since so much of their knowledge has become intrinsic and naturalized. This process of naturalizing movements that were once learned can also be a site to think about the gendered roles you witnessed as well…

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