When is it OK for a player to take a break from the game? This time of year, with the holidays going on, many parents feel that it is a good time for their kids to step away. The fall season is over, and there’s a lull so it seems like a reasonable thought.
First, let me say this. If a player feels like she needs to rest, if she has some nagging injuries, if she is mentally drained and feels like a break will be productive, then I think it is ALWAYS okay to take some time away from the game. We want our players to be able to speak up when they are hurting and tell us that they need a break. We have to trust that they do know their bodies well enough to make that call.
Overuse and burnout are real issues that impact many players. If we want to increase the likelihood that these problems will not negatively impact our players then we need to allow them to have some time to recover and recharge. The challenge lies in balancing the needs to recharge with the work that is required to continue to grow as a player.
I personally think time totally away from the game is a negative thing in a players development. This is a very complicated game with very difficult skills to master. For a player to really excel in this game I feel they need to keep working on their game.
So what’s the answer?
We need to rethink the way we do things to allow our players to stay enthusiastic about their training while also taking the time they need to recover and recharge. Who has this responsibility? The coach, of course!
Coaches, this next part is for you!
So now that we are empowering our players to tell us when they need to take time off, we need to take a hard look at how we do things. We need to rethink how we do things to decrease the likelihood that our players need time off.
How many games is too many? How many weekends in a row does it make sense to play? How many practices do we need? How many 6-hour practices are productive?
Coaches, I understand!
We want to play games.
We need to showcase our players.
We need wins to validate our team and organization.
We need to practice as much as possible!
We only get to practice once a week so our practices need to be longer to cover everything.
And so on…
Here’s your reality check:
Kids want to play but they want a reasonable schedule. Something like 2 weeks on and one week off.
Players do need to be showcased but when we play so much that they play tired, uninspired or just plain bad softball doesn’t get them anywhere.
Everybody likes winning but playing a ton of games just top build up a record is counterproductive. Most of your players don’t know or care about the teams record! Many don’t even know what their record was last weekend!
I’m a fan of practice. I love getting to see kids improve their skills and practice is the place for the to happen. When your players dread coming to practice (trust me you can tell) you need to look at the number of practices and the time spent at each one.
If we can strike a better balance then I think everyone wins. The players stay motivated and enthusiastic and coaches get to coach kids that are happy to come to practice or games. Crazy? I don’t think so!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.