As Rainer Martens, the founder of the American Sport Education Program (ASEP), has said, "The most difficult aspect of coaching is this: Coaches must learn to let players learn. Sport skills should be taught so they have meaning to the child, not just meaning to the coach." Although the importance of a skill may be apparent to you, your players may be less able to see how the skill will help them become better softball players. Give them a reason for learning the skill and describe how the skill relates to more advanced skills.
Demonstrate the Skill
The demonstration step is the most important part of teaching a sports skill to players who may never have done anything closely resembling it. They need a picture, not just words, so they can see how the skill is performed. If you are unable to perform the skill correctly, ask an assistant coach, one of your players, or someone more skilled to perform the demonstration.
These tips will help make your demonstrations more effective:
• Use correct form.
• Demonstrate the skill several times.
• Slow the action, if possible, during one or two performances so players can see every movement involved in the skill.
• Perform the skill at different angles so your players can get a full perspective of it.
• Demonstrate the skill with both sides of the body.
Players learn more effectively when they’re given a brief explanation of the skill along with the demonstration. Use simple terms, and if possible, relate the skill to previously learned skills. Ask your players whether they understand your description. A good technique is to ask the team to repeat your explanation. Ask questions such as, "What are you going to do first?" and "Then what?" If players look confused or uncertain, repeat your explanation and demonstration. If possible, use different words so your players get a chance to try to understand the skill from a different perspective.
Complex skills are often better understood when they are explained in more manageable parts. For instance, if you want to teach your players how to field a ground ball, you might take the following steps:
1. Show them a correct performance of the entire skill and explain its function in softball.
2. Break down the skill and point out its component parts to your players.
3. Have players perform each of the component skills you have already taught them, such as assuming the ready position and moving to the ball.
4. After players have demonstrated their ability to perform the separate parts of the skill in sequence, reexplain the entire skill.
5. Have players practice the skill in gamelike conditions.
Young players have short attention spans, and a long demonstration or explanation of a skill may cause them to lose focus. Therefore, spend no more than a few minutes altogether on the introduction, demonstration, and explanation phases. Then involve the players in drills or games that call on them to perform the skill.