Keeping Injured Players Involved
While baseball is a relatively safe game to play, injuries may still occur. However, like so many other aspects of sports, injuries provide what we at Positive Coaching Alliance call "teachable moments" -- opportunities to use misfortune or adversity to teach life lessons and cultivate character.
Injuries can be difficult not just because of necessary changes to the lineup and game strategy, but also because baseball is the center of many children's lives. They can feel a deep sense of loss without the ability to practice and play in games. They may feel isolated and may blame themselves for disrupting family plans that may have been built around baseball.
One of the most important things coaches can do to help injured players through these challenges is to redirect the physical and emotional energy that injured players previously brought to practice and games. The key is to keep injured players involved in the team.
Forced idleness is a great opportunity for players to view baseball differently than they do while playing. You can develop "player coaches" by helping them observe and note on-field technical skills and opponents' defensive shifts.
Injured players, and your team as a whole, may benefit from Positive Charting. This technique helps you "catch players doing things right," meaning you can note and later praise players for hustle, good attitudes, "picking each other up," and other behaviors that don't show up in the box score.
Assigning an injured player to lead your team's Positive Charting gives that player a great sense of worth and satisfaction from uplifting teammates with that earned praise. You, as coach, gain another set of eyes and another source of encouragement for the other players.
Ideally, the injured players will share their new knowledge with teammates and apply their new observational skills when they are able to return to the field. That depth of understanding of the nuances of baseball can work to everyone's advantage. The more you know the sport, the more you tend to love it.
The beauties of baseball that may not dawn on the active player, who often must focus single-mindedly and react reflexively to quickly developing action, can be revealed during times of inactivity. Between the injured player's longing for baseball and this deeper appreciation of the game, the recovered player can bring that much more passion upon returning to the field, raising his or her level of play, as well as that of teammates.
It may take long and repeated talks with injured players before they understand and accept the opportunity to learn this way. However, it is worth the investment, because it is healthy for your players and can convert them from potential distractions into dugout assets.
More details and a downloadable worksheet for Positive Charting are available HERE.
More free resources for youth- and high-school-sports coaches, parents, administrators and student-athletes from Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) are available at www.PCADevZone.org. Information on partnering your local youth baseball team with PCA for workshops and other training is available at www.PositiveCoach.org.