FEATURE: Dad, this is what private coaching taught me
As in other sporting, cultural or academic fields of endeavour, private tuition in baseball is becoming increasingly more readily available – including in Australia, where we have witnessed a boom in the personalised coaching area over recent years as the sport draws upon the experiences and teaching skills of former or current professionals and well-credentialled coaches.
Private coaching will inevitably vary in its quality and effectiveness – as players will respond in their own individual ways to messages and coaching techniques being applied. Some players will benefit considerably from the personalised attention - and others may not.
Regular Alumni contributor Mark Maguire has invested some of his hard-earned on engaging a private baseball coach for his son. The related parent/child discussions offer a fascinating insight into the worth of that investment.
Dad! This is what Private Coaching taught me!
My son has recently turned fifteen. He has been training with various teams at different levels from club to state to country over the last few years. It has been just over a year since he last received one-on-one training from a private coach.
I decided to ask him about it and was it any real benefit at all since he’d been trained in some top-notch teams by some top-notch coaches.
Without hesitation he replied, yes! He said it was more than a benefit; it was the best and most practical training he had ever received.
He went onto explain the reasons why the private coaching was necessary for his skill development and the attitude he needed to have towards the coaching.
At times he went out for the hour of private coaching sharing the time and cost with another friend of similar ability. I thought this would‘ve been more encouraging and effective. I found out later it was only more helpful to my hip pocket. He said he preferred the coach being totally devoted to him. He wasn’t being selfish or inconsiderate to my wallet; it’s just that he gained little knowledge from hearing the input for his friend whom had different technical issues to work on.
He liked the idea that the private coach was focused completely on him and every movement he made. The coach didn’t have an agenda to get through a certain amount of knowledge in that hour, but he could adapt and devote for however long it needed on a particular weakness. Yes, the coach wanted him to get to a certain point and skill level in a particular time frame, however, it wasn’t about the coach’s time frame, it was about my son grasping and developing the correct technique.
I once witnessed this same coach attempting to train four kids in an hour. (I get it; it was much cheaper. And if the coach was as good as what others said, then he should be able to focus on different kids’ weaknesses.) All the players were at different levels and ages. They wanted to hit on the field and not in the batting cages. Therefore, each child got about fifteen minutes of his time. And most of that time was picking up balls in the outfield.
In the end it was a waste of everyone’s time and no one learned anything. And where the parents thought they were saving money they actually threw their money away.
What else? I asked my son. What else have you grasped from private coaching? He said it shouldn’t matter if the coach is demanding or gentle; whether he smiles or not ...
The coach has his style and if I’m there to learn I should be able to accept whatever style or tone how the coach delivers his message.
He said his batting coach spoke with a softer tone and was more encouraging. He said his fielding coach was demanding and tough and pushed him hard until he got it right. My son appreciated both, because, as he said, he was there to learn. He was hungry to learn. It didn’t matter how the message was delivered. He said (now you may disagree with him here) that if you’re worried how the coach is talking to you then you’re not ready for one-on-one coaching yet; I’m there to learn a skill, not there to critique how soft of tough I need the coach to be. If I’m not listening it is my problem, not the coaches.
Trying to relate to my son with what he just told me, I told him the age-old quote, when the student is ready the teacher appears. He looked a bit baffled at that one. But I think he gets it now.
He said the attitude he needs to take into the one-on-one session is he doesn’t need to impress his private coach. He needs to let the coach see him ‘warts and all’ (my words not his) and not feel like he has got to be perfect or close to perfect. He is not trying to prove anything to the coach, but trying to learn everything he can.
If he is worried how he looks in front of the coach then he won’t learn much at all.
His ego is in the way and this will block him from learning faster and just may make him critical of the way the coach is speaking to him. I joked with my son asking him, is it the same as when people have the cleaner come over to clean their house and they feel they must clean and tidy the house first so the cleaner doesn’t think to lowly of them. He grasped this analogy and agreed.
I believe one of the biggest benefits my son has received from private coaching is he has learned to know his body. He said actually, ‘feel his body’, and though it made sense to him it didn’t make sense to me. That’s why I changed the concept to know his body.
Each time a weakness has become exposed in his batting, pitching or fielding technique the coach was able to focus on the fundamental root of the problem. And moreover, the coach was able to get my son to always relax and quickly indentify the problem himself in game or training situations.
Private coaching has taught him to think. It has taught him to identify problems and fix them himself. Private coaching has given him confidence to believe in himself.
One of the reasons I saw private coaching was a benefit for my son was I saw him immediately put into practice what he’d learned that week. He may have tried and failed at it during the game, but he went out on his own into the park or in the garage and worked on the technique. Because he did this, I believe private coaching for him was no waste of money and no waste of time.