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How to Coach a Standout Athlete

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Every once in a while, softball coaches and parents will come across a standout athlete who are simply far more advanced than her peers. It’s a huge responsibility for coaches to have this kind of budding talent under their wing. To a large extent, they will be responsible for whether the softball star is able to realize her full potential and go on to compete in college or even the pros.

In many ways, it makes sense for an advanced softball player to receive different coaching than her peers. The real question is how they should be coached differently. Fortunately, Psychology Today offers some suggestions on coaching accomplished people. Here are a few methods to try out:

Don’t be afraid to offer advice

Even when dealing with a standout softball player who look like she’s mastered the fundamentals, don’t be afraid to share what you see. You might think the athlete sees things better than a coach would, but it’s likely that your high-achieving softball player wants to hear input as long as it’s presented in a manner she can accept, reject or customize.

Chances are she wants to hear as much input as they can and develop her own methods. In fact, even champions such as Pat Riley, Andre Agassi and Chuck Liddell reach out to get input on their sports psychology — in this case professional motivator Tony Robbins.

Don’t be afraid to interrupt

Don’t be rude. But keep in mind that many overachievers are acutely aware of their time and how efficiently they use it. If your standout softball player is attempting to communicate something and you’ve grasped exactly what she’s talking about, feel free to go ahead and let her know to save time. More often than not, efficiency is appreciated.

Don’t dwell on negative events

Suffer a big loss? Go through a recent breakup? Achievers tend to focus on how to solve problems and the steps they need to take to get there. Point your softball star in the right direction and let her get to work. Don’t keep reminding her about losing the big game.

Focus on positive feedback

This one comes from well-known sports writer David Epstein, author of the best-selling book The Sports Gene. In Time, he explains how positive feedback is linked to higher performance.

Citing Christian Cook’s sports psychology research, he shares how athletes are less likely to repeat mistakes when they’re given positive feedback. A coach’s natural inclination may be to correct an athlete’s mistakes, even if it’s done in a constructive and supportive way. But research shows that we pay too much attention to what’s wrong. Instead, we should focus on what’s right by praising proper execution.

Don’t forget about the rest of the team

Whether it’s coming from players or parents, it’s not uncommon for softball coaches to be accused of playing favorites. Coaching a standout softball star is definitely a big responsibility, but make sure to organize your time so that your attention doesn’t seem one-sided. Maintain a positive environment where everyone can learn and continue to improve.

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