I am lucky to be learning every single day. I constantly learn from my (almost 2-year old) son: I am learning to communicate with him based on the words he currently knows, his body language, and his mood. I am also always learning how to adapt to his current skill set (which literally changes every day). I am always learning from my athletes about the best ways to teach: one method of explaining or demonstrating a particular skill might work well for some students, but cause frustration for others. So I have learned to develop a myriad of approaches that I can tailor to each individual athlete.
So given my daily experiences and my degree in education, I wanted to share a little about learning today. If you are someone who has felt lost or frustrated when trying to complete an athletic motion, the odds are very good that it has very little to do with your actual skill and more to do with how the information was conveyed to you. Especially as a young athlete, it is natural to feel very emotional when you can’t do something that you know you are capable of.
And it breaks my heart to see athletes go through that.
So here are the best ways to help yourself learn as an athlete (share this blog with your coaches so that you are all on the same page):
- Understand how you learn: Do you need to see things over and over again? If so, when you are trying to learn new pitches, ask to see your instructor or another amazing pitcher demonstrate. They should be willing to do this over and over again for you. Do you need someone to move your body into the correct position for you to “feel it?” Great! Tell your coaches! Do you need verbal cuing? Let EVERYONE know. Is your learning style a combination of any of these approaches? Great! Experiment until you find the perfect balance.
- Understand how much agency you need in the process: How much input do you need in your coach’s strategy in order to be successful? I find some athletes really prefer NOT to have a lot of input in their lessons and would rather have my team and I craft the best possible learning experience for them based on our expertise. Other students really need to have input on almost every level (i.e. “this follow-through seems uncomfortable, what other options are there?” OR “I saw someone doing this motion and I would like to try it”). What is your preference?
- Understand that your own body and how it feels is just as important as your instructor’s opinion: Learning something for the first time might feel a little “weird,” but it shouldn’t feel bad. This week’s blog was actually inspired by one of my long-time students. She is someone who started out with both lessons and The Elite Pitcher’s Blueprint many years ago and took off like a rocket. Then last winter, she stalled a little. We tried several different motions with varying levels of success. Still, she was honest with me: “it just doesn’t feel right,” she said. She was frustrated. She was still having success, but not at the level that she wanted or had become accustomed to. She then did something really amazing. She created her own motion. One that I have never seen before. Ever since then it has been smooth sailing. See? She needed something that “felt” right, which is just as important as something that “looks” right to the instructor. Very often, athletes are stuck because they simply need guidance to be able to find their own way instead of having someone impose some ideal motion on them. If I had just kept having her try out every different motion, there is no way that she would have had the joy and confidence that comes of creating something all her own. Don’t be afraid to come to your coach with ideas about how you can be your most successful. You know yourself best.
- Understand how your emotional state affects your learning: You might not be happy every single time you have a practice or a lesson, but if you are so frustrated that you are near tears, you probably won’t get much done. It might indicate that it’s time to step away from your activity for a while or it might be time to learn how to refocus and do something that you know you are good at. Eventually you will have better control over your emotions, but if this is an ongoing issue that affects performance, I would strongly recommend Havening as a way to help you become your best self.
I hope that this helps you to make the most out of every potential learning experience that you have. Remember that you and your coach or coaches should be equal partners in the learning process! If you want to learn from my team and I in person, but are out of state, your opportunity to learn is coming up with our summer camps this year! Message me for more information and sign up for our newsletter at www.flawlessfastpitch.com.