We have done this for 7 years. Ups, downs, and in between moments. The moments that shine through the brightest are the easiest to remember. Contrary to what you might think, they aren’t the championship games; they aren’t the extra long practices; they are the lightbulb moments. Those moments when things just click for the kids. These aren’t the moments when we tell them something to do and they just do it. They are the moments when they get it on their own; moments when the kids take pieces of information and snap them together.
I went to school for teaching. Learning to build curriculum, how to differentiate instruction, and how to read kids to see if they are truly “getting it” or just “consuming it”. Bloom’s taxonomy has lived in my head over the last 7 years as I coached all levels 10U-18U. I can tell when a player is remembering the rules for a drop 3rd strike, is understanding why it exists, and then is applying it in a game. The first 3 years of the program, we lived in those bottom 3 layers of the taxonomy. We wanted to make sure that the kids were able to recite the rules and strategies, understand why they existed, and apply them without really thinking about it.
As we have continued to develop and we have seen the kids grow and develop (and stay with the program), I have concentrated on the middle of the triangle. THOSE MOMENTS are the bright spots. Seeing a player evaluate and analyze an aspect of the game to truly develop a passion for the sport is when I know that they are using a higher level of brain function. The best part? They cant get there unless they really love it.
It is in those moments that I know I have a Diamond.
When they are analyzing, evaluating, and creating.
Example? Yeah, I have plenty. Last week we helped with the new umpire training in CT. I sent a pitcher and a catcher on Wednesday night. When it started, they were just throwing pitches and letting the umpires do their thing. I stopped them right in their tracks. I said, you need to get more out of this. I need you to take this opportunity to learn more about how they call pitches, how they control cadence, and how you can use that to create a true partnership with umpires (both the pitcher and the catcher). I didn’t say much else after that, I just let it sink in. From there, we had free-flowing conversation about how the physical placement of the umpire behind plate really drove their ability to see all angles of the plate. We started thinking of strategies to get into the same rhythm of the umpire, talked about how, as a righty pitcher, a good riseball to a lefty batter is going to fly a little out of the field of view. While it looks like a strike from the pitchers vantage point, their view, from behind the plate, was different and obstructed with that location and spin. Within 10 minutes, we went from “I’m just throwing so that they can practice” to an evaluation of what we can do to make the most out out every pitch, both as a pitcher and a catcher. It wasn’t easy to get there, and they needed some help, but that pitcher threw for another 90 minutes and analyzed everything, tried different things and started to take her learning to the next level. Im not sure that I will ever forget those conversations. The kids were 12 – CRAZY.
Same moments go for our coaches (and all coaches for that matter). Rather than taking a drill off the internet and just trying to remember it and execute it at practice, we need to understand WHY the drill exists and try to help the kids understand how it applies in the context of the game. Winter is tough in New England; we need to be able to come up with different ways to spice up practices, and its tempting just to throw a new drill at the kids. Not having a good understanding of where it falls in this taxonomy is a garentee for a practice being a waste of time. Its not good enough to just analyze a kid’s swing and put a couple of quick fixes in to make it look like what we want. We need to be able to transform players into monsters at the plate.