Monday, December 11th, 2017

Everyone has a plan …

April 28, 2015 by  
Filed under Coaching

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

Take a quick look at these two video clips.  The first is one of Derek Jeter’s most memorable plays.  The second link is a recent play by Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis.

Click HERE for Freddy Galvis’ play

Both plays have one thing in common.  Both players improvised.  Nobody (as far as I know) ever teaches a shortstop to be in that location on a relay throw from right field nor does anyone teach a shortstop to dive and turn to throw to first like Freddy Galvis did on his remarkable play.

There are a boatload of challenges you run into when you coach young players.  One of these challenges is teaching players to improvise.

My young son’s basketball team ran into this a lot this past winter.  The coaches taught the team a particular play.  When the name of the play was called out, the players went to work.  A pass, a cut to the basket, a return pass, and a layup was the plan.  The problem was that quite often the player would return the pass no matter how many opposing players were guarding the player he was supposed to pass to.  That was the play so that’s exactly what they did regardless of what they were seeing.

We all teach our players that certain actions by the other team require a proper response.  If a base runner does a delayed steal, here is what you do.  If the batter squares to bunt, here is where you go.  A ball down the right field line, you go here.  On a diving play, here is how you get up to throw.  And on it goes.   The benefit of this is that our players know what to do and where to go on most plays they are going to see.

But as Mike Tyson’s quote above suggests, there will always be times where things do not go as planned.  In those cases, improvisation is needed.

The question then becomes … do you encourage your players to improvise?  If not, they may end up doing what my son’s basketball team did.  They follow the prescribed play because it was the prescribed play and not because it was the correct thing to do given the reality of the situation.

It becomes a delicate balance.  Always do it the way the coach wants and you will probably avoid any criticism or do it my and possibly get an earful from the coach if it doesn’t go well.

My point in all this is to say that coaches should certainly work on situations and tell players where they need to be and what they should be doing.  However, players also should hear of the need to improvise depending on what they see in real-time.  This is easier said then done because young players will probably screw up many times before their instincts are correct.

It may be hard to see at times but it is worth it to your players in terms of their future development to give them the freedom to improvise.

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