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Building a Successful Program Takes More Than Just Good Players

Being a leader of men and women takes a certain type of skill, especially when dealing with a group and asking it to accomplish a set of goals over the course of a season.

Each and every coach faces situations that will be difficult. They will also be a part of the athlete’s highest accomplishments and quite possibly lowest points. They are expected to take the role of many people throughout the course of a season.

For high school coaches, building and maintaining a team with departing talent is one of the biggest challenges. Each year fresh faces are expected to learn the team’s schedule and expectations. At the same time, groups of players will be departing.

“Fortunately I coach the junior high program, and we have to develop players,” Loyalsock coach Tom O’Malley said. “We have to get better at that level and hopefully have a good system that way. That’s the key. It’s hard to replace certain players, and that’s always difficult, but hopefully, other players continue to improve.”

Every coach values different aspects of the team as being more important than others. Some value leaders, others put their stock in talent, and others value character. All would put those different traits near the top of their lists, but little, smaller aspects of the team still remain important.

Social media is one area new coaches might have to pay a little more attention to than ones of the past. Social media can be a positive, keeping the players updated on practice times, naming top players of the game, and simply keeping everyone informed. It can also hurt with in-team fighting, pictures being posted, or negative things about the team being said.

Obviously, the negative examples aren’t ones that typically pop up, but they are things that coaches need to be aware of happening.

“It starts with the culture of the dugout,” South Williamsport coach Scott Stugart said. “If you don’t have a good culture where they pick each other up and like to be around each other you’re not going to win. At least not to the level that you could.”

Coaches also have to be concerned with the incoming crop of players as well as the players who will be filling the team’s rosters in the upcoming years. Each and every coach makes sure to pay attention to each and every player on the lower levels of the team. Middle school programs must be on the same page as the high school program.

Once at the top level it’s really about perfecting what has already been taught as opposed to teaching a system for the first time.

“We are there for them anytime all year round to work with them,” Stugart said. “The last thing is just building their confidence. They have to be confident in themselves.”

Success also plays a major part in building a team. It shows current players their work will play off, but at the same time, it shows potential players that a standard is being set.

“It’s really about getting the kids a taste of what it takes to win,” Warrior Run coach Garth Watson said. “When you get a good bunch of feeder kids, and you win it makes it easier for you as a coach to get kids to come out.”

Through tournaments, away games, and, yes, home games, the coach must manage personalities, parents, and player’s success and failures all while maintaining the team and hopefully coaching to a winning record. Coaching is a results-oriented business, but for the coach, it’s a constant act of balancing that takes more than simply putting players on the field.

“They want to be a part of a team that has a chance to win every day,” Watson said. “That’s the big thing. As a coach, you have to hold the kids accountable, but you also have to be able to go the extra mile with them. You have to give them something beyond softball that’s going to make them better people in life.”

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