It seems like a simple game. Throw the ball. Hit the ball. Catch the ball. Repeat as often as necessary. The team that scores the most runs wins.
But, try and teach this “easy” sport to a bunch of eleven-year-olds, and watch how quickly it becomes complicated. All of a sudden runners are leading off, daring the pitcher to pick them off, batters are dropping down bunts and before you know it, chaos reigns – the ball is being thrown all over the diamond, kids are yelling in mass confusion “throw it to second!”
“No!” another one answers, “throw it to third base!”
A third kid chimes in, “over here, over here, over here!”
In the end, everybody is confused, disorganized and unable to work as a team.
Turns out, the game is not so simple after all. My guess is you face the same obstacle in training your seasonal staff. To you, it seems straightforward. When you check campers in for the week, you do this and this and this. Once all your campers have arrived, you do this and this and this. Each Monday during this particular session we do this. Each Tuesday we do this. If this happens (say, a kid sprains an ankle playing capture the flag), you do this. And so on and so forth.
You’ve been doing this for years. The procedures and policies, many of which you developed, seem logical and straightforward. Anybody can understand them.
And, guess what? You’re right. Anybody can understand them. But, the goal is to make sure your staff actually does understand them – both the letter of the procedure and the spirit, so when things go haywire, they understand what the goal was and can think on their own, solve the problem and advance the program – as opposed to having all progress come to a grinding halt while they hem and haw over what to do or try and track you down to solve their problem.
With my baseball team, we accomplish this by following a three-step process:
1. Written Instruction & Follow Up Tests (essay questions, so we can determine if they really understand the material)
2. Walk-throughs/Live Practice
3. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
The central element to our teaching is not what to do, but why we do it. Our goal is for them to understand, why we throw two-bases ahead of the lead runner when the ball is hit to the outfield so if things go haywire (ie: they miss the ball and the lead runner has advanced) they know how to adjust to the changing situation and still accomplish what we set out to do before things broke down.
In addition to always answering “the why question” we make sure to emphasize communication. Life is easier when you know why you’re doing what you’re doing AND you have communicated with your teammates so you know with certainty what they’re thinking (and whether or not they’re on the same page) as opposed to having to guess or assume (and we all know what happens when you assume).
In this issue, we tackle some of these training issues as well as give insight into policies and procedures that need to be reviewed at this time of year. Hopefully, there are several nuggets worth incorporating into your own camp program. And, of course, we’ve got a handful of excellent programming stories chock full of ideas you’re free to steal, err… borrow, lock, stock and barrel.
I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
Till next month…
Rodney J. Auth