Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
Right now we’re in kind of a lull period for fastpitch softball. Fall ball is over, and so many teams have either shut down completely for the holidays, or have at least dialed back on what they’re doing.
That means it’s a good time for coaches to do a little soul-searching regarding themselves. Thus the question that leads off this week’s rant.
So what is the difference between a manager and a coach? Setting aside the baseball definition, it’s really a question of approach.
A manager puts the pieces in place on the team and on the field. He/she gathers up the pieces, through tryouts or recruiting, decides what positions they’ll play (and how often they’ll play them), and shuffles the pieces when the original plan doesn’t work.
In many ways, a manager in softball is like a manager in business. He/she is there to direct things, but not necessarily to develop the people involved. If they want to get better, they’d best find a way to do that on their own.
A coach, on the other hand, focuses on his/her player’s well being and improving performance. If a player is struggling, a true coach will work with her to help her get better or overcome whatever demons have currently taken over game.
The difference between the two comes down to knowledge. There have been plenty of successful managers who didn’t know a whole lot about how to teach skills, break slumps or the like. Their job (as they view it) is to get the machine running properly. If a part of the machine is broken, you replace the part with one that works – either temporarily or permanently. If your goal is to win trophies, you can certainly do it with this approach.
But you can’t necessarily change lives. That’s what coaches do. They help players succeed where they were failing and overcome obstacles to attain success. When a player struggles, a coach has the knowledge bank to help her figure out what’s wrong and point her on the path to correcting it.
Interestingly, being a coach v. a manager doesn’t necessarily win you more trophies. In fact, sometimes it can get in the way. After all, since a manager is focused on the process rather than the people, he/she can often be more brutally honest about a player’s ability and make the tough decisions, i.e. if a kid isn’t cutting it it’s time to cut her.
But being a coach certainly does give you more opportunity to impact lives, not just on the field but off as well. It can also better prepare you to play the hand you’ve been dealt – or that you dealt yourself.
Being a true coach isn’t easy. It requires continuous learning and improvement, developing not just your knowledge of the game but your people skills as well. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to do it.
There are tons of books and DVDs on all aspects of coaching our game. There are local, regional and national coaching clinics. Resources such as the Discuss Fastpitch Forum can be invaluable to this learning process as well.
So while things are on hiatus, or nearly so, give it a little thought. Are you a manager or a coach? My recommendation is to choose coach. In the end, it’s a lot more satisfying.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
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