John Blissenbach has just written a book to help youth softball coaches plan their softball practices. We caught up with him to find out more about the book and his softball coaching philosophy.
What motivated you to write your new book, Well-Prepared Coach™ – 25 Youth Softball Practice Plans?
During my 30+ years of coaching I noticed that youth sports organizations had a tendency to allocate considerably more time for games than practices. As a result, there was a greater focus on exposing kids to the competitive aspects of sports at the expense of developing skills. When kids are in school, they spend much more time learning their subjects than they do taking tests. Teachers work hard to make sure their students are prepared before they are tested. The same should be true of sports. While competition is great and games are fun, kids need to be adequately prepared to take the field on game day. That is the primary purpose of the book; to provide youth softball coaches with an easy-to-use tool for teaching their players the fundamentals of the game.
As a volunteer softball coach, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
In my early years of coaching, I simply did not know all the things I needed to know. In many ways it was on the job training and I often found myself reacting to things rather than anticipating and planning. Like many of my coaching peers, I was a young parent with several kids and a full- time job. I volunteered to coach because I had played the game and felt that I could help the kids learn the fundamentals. I made decisions regarding practice either while I drove to the field or while I was at the field. As I gained coaching experience, I learned that I was not adequately preparing kids for games because I was not as prepared as I should have been for practices. In order to make sure I covered everything I needed to cover, I began preparing written plans for each practice. As I learned more from watching other coaches & from attending coaching clinics, I modified the plans to include new ways of doing things. I wish I had my book of practice plans in my early years of coaching. I know I would have been a better coach & my players would have been better prepared.
How should coaches use your book?
The book provides complete instructions for 25 pre-practice meetings & 25 practices. Before the season
starts, I recommend that the coach read each practice plan so that they have a good understanding of all the topics that need to be covered during the season. Each plan is written for a 90 minute practice. While this is the recommended time, coaches may have a practice field for a shorter time. If this is the case, some portions of the practice plan may need to be modified in order to fit into the allocated time. Prior to each practice I recommend that the coach print out the pre-practice meeting outline and the practice plan & put it on clipboard. They should also spend a few minutes reviewing the plan & highlight or make notes in the margin on teaching points they want to make sure they review with their players.
What did you enjoy most about coaching 4th-8th grade athletes?
Kids in this age group are eager to learn & their skills increase dramatically from year to year. Typically there is great diversity in size, skills & understanding of sports in this age group. During this period they can experience tremendous physical growth; by eighth grade some reach their adult height. From a softball perspective, players develop faster in this age group than any other.
Are there any final words you would like to pass on to volunteer coaches?
Enjoy the time you spend with the kids & realize they play the game because they consider it a fun way to spend their time. And remember to keep a positive attitude. The kids will make mistakes & will need to be reminded several times before they learn something. It’s all part of the growth & development process. When they realize that they learn through their mistakes, they will become more relaxed, they will be willing to try new things, will develop faster & ultimately they will enjoy the game more. Good luck & have a fun season!
Check out Well Prepared Coach – 25 Youth Softball Practice Plans by John Blissenbach at www.coachingwhiz.com