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Inspire Excellence Using Sharp Communication

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Greg Moore

I coach 14 and 15 year-olds. How can I get the best out of each of them?

Make players sharp communicators before, during and after they play. In school students open up when questions/prompts require clear mini-plans (goals) before, during and after class. The same is true at practice. Think of each practice, drill, rep and even game as a pre-act, in-act and post-act conversation.

  • Pre-act (rep, drill or game): Player sets micro-goals
  • In-act: (drill, practice or game) Describes feeling of “breakthroughs & struggles”
  • Post-act: (rep, drill or game) Outlines what went well, what didn’t

The result is not only clearer thinkers on the field, it’s sharpened coaches who must be quick on their feet to understand and redirect individual thinking. It’s a fun way to coach, although it takes time, mental and emotional energy. Players follow the fluid, quick conversational style and incorporate this in their self-talk.

Clarifying Conversation is a Win
Whether a player is with us or they’re throwing the ball against the garage, they have a “point” in mind. We give them the “counter-point”, or a least a way of looking for a better way to practice. The grounder coming off the garage in its purest form is fun. In its most complex (and least productive), it’s to get a scholarship. Somewhere in the middle is skill development. The best players enjoy the rep and love developing skills. As coaches we try to pull players into deep practice at the simple task. This is what Belichick calls, “Do your job.” Short Socratic Method flurries inject the energy of law school back-and-forth with focus on the task at hand. Players begin to better understand what their simple job is at different times on the field.

Pre-Practice or drill:
Flip the usual coach-player teaching to look for productive language. Ask players to communicate “their plan” clearly before giving them a plan. They need baseball fundamentals first, and will get them from their coach. This flip encourages slow growth of four fundamentals that lead a player out to drive their development. Below is an example of each, and the type of language that emerges in engaged practice players:

  • Ownership: I have a plan and it’s mine.
  • Discernment: I have chosen to work on this because…..
  • Clarity: I will get this done by…...
  • Simplicity: This one key will help me today. I’ll stay with it until…..
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