Your main job as a high school baseball coach is to coach your baseball players to success, but your other duties include teacher, psychologist, counselor, mentor, and friend. It is extremely hard to balance all of these roles while still maintaining your coaching status, but it is a give-and-take that you must develop. If you always stay in the coaching mentality, you will forget to look at your athletes as people as well, people with problems and questions and bad days just like you.
Coaches who only play that role develop strong teams, but not teams based on rapport and trust. Your players will only relate to you when it comes to the aspects of the sport. This is fine, but it will not give you insight into their lives, their feelings, or their needs as people. To develop that kind of relationship, you need to know when to leave the coaching role and enter into the counseling or friend role.
When you see a player having a particularly bad day, or when one of your star players seems unfocused and unhappy, step into the friend/counselor role. Take that player aside either during a break in practice or just after, and mention that they seemed distracted and unhappy during practice. Say that you saw it affecting their abilities at practice and that you would like to know if anything is wrong. If they are hesitant to talk about it, do not force them to explain. Tell them that you are always available if they would like to talk about their issue, and mention that you are only here to help. If they still resist you, drop it and let the player go for the time being. Perhaps check in on them in the following days or within a week. Ask them if they have resolved their issue or if they would like to talk about it now.
If after a week, you see no improvement in your player’s focus, or if their performance is still being affected by whatever is bothering them, call them into your office or to a private place during a scheduled time, so that they feel more comfortable talking to you. If you cannot get anything out of the player, ask their parents. Parents will usually be very helpful and willing to talk to you, especially if you notice that something is bothering their children and they know what it is. Sometimes it will be family problems that the player is uncomfortable talking about, or perhaps a death in the family. The sooner you know what the issue is, the quicker you can accommodate your practices and your coaching styles to the particular player.
Next step… check out our complete collection of high school baseball drills, for specific tips and strategies to help improve your players’ skills!