Being a high school coach is one of the most challenging jobs someone can encounter. Younger children simply listen and attempt to do whatever the coach asks of them. Adults have usually matured enough to respect their coaches enough to listen to their ideas. But, high school kids? They have yet to fully mature and they have a million other "highly important" things on their minds while they are on the field or court. Vital thoughts like when they will get their driver's license, the recent argument with their best friend, or most importantly, their new boyfriend or girlfriend. With all of these ideas floating around their developing brains, along with the four tests they have the next day or the five hours of homework they have tonight, how can anybody expect them to concentrate on a baseball, basketball, football, or field hockey game? That is where the coach comes in to play. Below, you will find some tips on how to keep your high school athletes focused and motivated throughout the season.
Before the season even starts, a coach must gain the trust of his or her team. High school kids desperately want to trust the adults in their academic or athletic lives, so this task is not a difficult one. Let them know that you care about them as people, not just athletes. Check their school grades regularly. If they are struggling, talk to them about it. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help. Just as importantly, if they are doing well, make sure you recognize them for their achievements. Too often, the student athletes who stay out of trouble and get good grades end up being ignored, but they are kids, too, and they deserve the same attention as those who are struggling. With all of this being said, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with keeping the athletes motivated. This is a simple answer: teens who trust their coaches will be motivated to play hard for them and will take their advice at face value, rather than questioning their motives.
Team bonding is essential to a successful, motivated team:
A high school coach usually has less than a month to ready his or her team for the first game. Because of that, many believe they have to focus strictly on game preparation during that short time. While this approach is understandable, it is not the most effective way to prepare a team for a grueling season of ups and downs. During the preseason, you have to make time to focus on something more important than bunt coverages or inbounds plays. Before my teams ever take the field, I always explain the importance of teamwork. I implore them to look around and recognize that for the next few months, this group of athletes is your family. The kids will most likely spend more time with their teammates than with anybody else in their lives during the season. I don't expect each player to be best friends. In a family, not every family member gets along with each other, either. I preach that while I am not asking them to be best friends, I am demanding that they look out for each other like any good family member would do. You will find that if they are motivated to go to battle for each other, then they will be much more successful, as a team.
It is also unrealistic to think that the team will just bond because you asked them to. It is your job to place them in situations that bring this emotion out. Instead of having them compete in one on one drills, find some exercises that can only be completed by having the entire team work together to achieve an ultimate goal. These can be completely unrelated to the sport. The bottom line is that the team will never execute the plays if they cannot work together and if they do not trust each other. While doing unrelated exercises may seem counterproductive, they may prove to be even more important than perfecting the latest trick play.