Sometimes the best way forward is backwards.
Laura Horstkamp started her coaching career at the college level. From there, she moved on to high school. Then to travel ball. And now, it’s private lessons and guest instruction. Which, self-admittedly, is all kinda backwards.
Laura, who started playing softball when she was ten years old, lucked into coaching. She wasn’t looking for a job. She was simply playing in a slowpitch game against the head coach of a local D3 college. That coach liked what she saw and asked Laura to join her staff. The next 13 years wrote themselves.
A good coach, Laura believes, goes above and beyond the basic teaching of skills. You have to be able to lead, inspire and develop your athletes. You have to cultivate a culture of strong women by fostering an environment of constant learning and trust. And, it’s your responsibility as a coach to make sure your players have the right mindset, constantly striving to improve and progress. Because progress, no matter how small, is still progress.
Laura loves coaching. She loves teaching. She loves inspiring. And she loves seeing the results. Sure, she’s had her share of somewhat unmemorable moments. Like the game in which her team gave up something like 20 runs.
But, her truest victories and greatest gifts come from seeing first-hand the impact she’s had on the players she has coached. One of her former students is now giving lessons herself and continually acknowledges the influence Laura has had on her coaching career. She has learned from Laura how to customize training and practice drills to each individual’s style of learning and the importance of meeting kids where they are.
And that makes the coach in Laura proud.
Laura Horstkamp has no children of her own. But hundreds have benefitted from knowing her, both as a coach and a person. When you get a Snapchat on Mother’s Day, from someone who’s not your kid saying how much you mean to them, you know you’ve made it.
Even if you kinda did it backwards.
In keeping with the tradition that Be the Best is a convention created for coaches by coaches, we’ve asked for inspirations and stories from your contemporaries. Click here to share something about your coaching journey. Don’t worry about making it sound good — you coach the kids, we‘ll work the words.
Pop quiz. What was the title of Hall of Fame Major League Manager, Earl Weaver’s autobiography?
The answer: “It’s What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts.”
That bit of wisdom was good enough to guide the World Series Championship manager of the Baltimore Orioles, and it’s motivation for you to continue your own coaching education.
Whichever combination of training, from district, state, or region clinics; Little League University; or other live and online options, that you may choose, pursuing continuing education is crucial to your enjoyment and effectiveness as a coach.
Continuing education keeps the coaching experience fresh for you.
Baseball and softball are endlessly fascinating sports. The deeper and more nuanced your knowledge of the games, the more they fascinate. If you have the slightest twinge of burnout or a sense that your coaching has become a paint-by-numbers exercise, a coaching course or clinic will quickly remind you of what you love about the sport and why you started coaching in the first place.
Education can re-shape your view of your role as a coach.
The wide variety of courses and clinics available cover some combination of fundamental skills, game strategy and tactics, and sports psychology. The best ones not only impart that knowledge to you, but also teach you exactly how to pass that knowledge along to players.
Once you learn how to share knowledge, not just possess it, you can have major impact on your Little Leaguers®, both as players and as people. Empowered as an educator yourself, you gain the intrinsic reward of helping children. And, once those kids see you as a proven provider of baseball or softball information that helps them improve, they are that much more likely to listen to you about life lessons (which are even more rewarding to share than sports lessons).
You gain confidence.
Even if you take just a few tidbits from your continuing education, you now know that you know more than you did before. The fact that you went out of your way to improve will make you more decisive in practices and games and in building your team culture. That sense of confidence can exude leadership that goes a long way with players, their parents, fellow coaches, and even umpires.
That may seem obvious as a reason to pursue continuing education. But let’s face it, plenty of people are satisfied with whatever level they have achieved and many others feel they cannot (or need not!) improve.
Nothing will invigorate your coaching like re-investing time and energy into being the best you can possibly be, and then seeing actual, measurable improvement in your coaching, in player performance, and in how you help players develop as people.
You demonstrate to players and their parents your commitment to improving.
That can’t help but rub off on your players. When they know you have worked to improve, they are more likely to work to improve. Parents who see you having that effect on their kids will become friends and allies for life, and more of your community will gain from the idea that “It’s What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts.”