"I needed my players to be willing to give up what they wanted in order to give the team what it needed."
When I walked into that job as a 24 year old who was fresh out of college, I knew it would be difficult getting everyone on board for the program I had intentions to run. My program was tough and demanding. It required sacrifice, hard work, and commitment. And everything focused on teamwork. Designing my program was an extensive process that I deliberated over relentlessly. It literally kept me up at night. But when I finally had it all written out and everything had come together…I believed in my program 100%. I still do.
I knew it would be a difficult task to get everyone else to believe in what I was doing. I didn’t coach like a 24 year old girl. I coached like a 65 year old man. What does that mean? Basically, I was old school. I coached the way you would expect a 1970s football coach to run his team and that didn’t always sit well with the parents of young girls. But behind everything I did, was a well-thought out plan. There was always a method behind ‘the madness’.
I want to use my next couple of posts to discuss why I did the things I did and why I think more people should embrace this style of coaching. I understand that my way isn’t the only way. There are always multiple ways to do things and none of them are the ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way. It’s all a matter of personal opinion and these are mine.
The No Cell Phone Policy
Yup. No cell phones. (Errmaagahh the world is ending!) That’s pretty much what my players (and some parents) thought when I first told them they wouldn’t be permitted to use cell phones. We played several days a week and then would be gone to tournaments all day Fridays and Saturdays from mid-February to mid-May. On a given game day we would be gone from 2pm to 11pm. So in these times, being a teenager without a cell phone for that long is like social media suicide. (For clarification, both myself and my assistants had cell phones for emergencies. Players could ask to use our phones if they needed to talk to their parents for some reason and all parents had our phone numbers in case they needed to reach their child in an emergency.)
So why? Why no cell phones? Easy peasy. One word…team. Just about everything I did was an attempt at creating a team atmosphere. We broke out of every single huddle with the same word…TEAM. I wanted my players to believe, with everything they had, that the team was greater than they were. I needed my players to be selfless and willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team. There would be a day when I would ask my #4 hitter to lay down a sac bunt instead of swinging for the fences. There would be a day when I would need to pull a starter because she was so uptight and nervous that she couldn’t perform. There would be a day when I would need to put in a pinch hitter because we needed a long ball and the person up was a short game player. I needed my players to be willing to give up what THEY wanted in order to give the TEAM what it needed. I needed my #4 hitter to put down the bunt to move the runner into scoring position. I needed my starter to take a breather so she can come back into the game focused and calm. I needed my hitter to understand that we needed another specialist for that particular situation. I needed…the team needed these players to be willing to sacrifice themselves for what was best for the team. ME for WE.
You won’t reach the top without making sacrifices. I asked my girls to sacrifice their cell phones when they were with the team. I wanted them to remove themselves from the outside world. No Instagram, Facebook, boyfriend, or parent distractions. Everything they had was geared and focused towards the 24 girls around them. And you know what happened? TEAM. Our bus rides were filled with cheers, singing, jokes, sick beats, and laughter. (My girls were also required to ride the bus to and from the game. They were not allowed to go home with parents. Why? Team. Duh.) Instead of playing on their phones in between games, they were watching their opponents, talking, forming inside jokes, and getting closer. There were no headphones, boyfriends, or other silent distractions. Instead, every trip my girls grew closer and more connected. They became a family.
I wanted my girls to understand sacrifice and how to be selfless. I wanted them to understand how to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Because that’s life. They will be required to give in order to get. They will have to learn to be a cohesive member of a group in order to be successful in the work force. They will have to compromise and sacrifice in order to have a healthy and loving relationship. They will have to be completely and utterly selfless when it comes time to raise children. These are life skills, not just softball skills. And for me and my team, it started with a cell phone.