I had a tough time when I first got to Esperanza. The school had no tradition and nothing to fall back on as motivational tools-players who had succeeded or teams that had won titles. We had no history of success. At Notre Dame, motivation can take the form of tradition and green jerseys, but few schools have such a history. I inherited some seniors who had bad habits and were resistant to change. I inherited others who were willing to listen and work and saw my arrival as an opportunity for success in their final year. Some of the juniors bought into the program, and, most important, I inherited some sophomores who were fine players, wanted to be a part of the varsity, and were motivated simply by the fact that they had a new coach and a new opportunity. My job was to bring them together. In the process, a number of players fell by the wayside, unwilling to follow the new rules and lacking the discipline and self-motivation critical to a new program.
Motivation Starts With the Individual
In my first year at Esperanza I had one senior tell me that he was going to miss practice to go skiing for the weekend. I reminded him that he had made a commitment to the team and that we were working out on Saturday. "But I go every year," he replied. I said, "You used to go every year." I warned him that he would be dismissed from the team if he missed practice. He went skiing anyway and found his locker cleaned out when he got back. He was done. The next week my pitching coach told me that one of the pitchers didn’t want to put in his running anymore and had walked off the field. We cleaned out his locker as well. He, too, was done. The point is that motivation is fine, but it has to start with the individual.
Getting players motivated can involve a variety of methods or one simple approach. The tradition and success of those who came before can be used as a motivator. Talking about or showing the results of a previous success or championship-a ring, trophy, or other award-can be effective. Something as simple as a motivational speech can get a group excited. Some groups are extremely difficult to motivate. These may need extra help in the form of drills or extra work to get them to perform and to show them the importance of their goal. You may want to increase the length or difficulty of their practice to show them the importance of the goal and thus motivate them to be ready.
Recognizing and Motivating Different Types of Players
Every team is made up of diverse personalities. No two people are the same or react the same way to a given stimulant. A coach needs to recognize what he has and how to deal with it. Influencing the self-motivated players is easy, but what about the inconsistent or passive players? Here the experienced coach can rely on the numerous tools that he has used in the past. But the inexperienced coach has to keep trying things until he learns what gets his team going. He gives motivational speeches, relates success stories from throughout history, talks about people who have overcome difficult odds. He shows his players what they can win-pictures of the championship trophy or championship rings. These are just a few ideas that a coach can use to see whether his players respond.
This is an excerpt from Coaching Baseball Successfully.