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NICHOLAS MERCER: Smooth transitions and softball

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——— - SaltWire File Photo

Being the new guy is never a fun role to play.  

 

Especially when it comes to coaching sports. 

Outside of the fact you don’t know anyone on the team, it takes a bit of time before you get to know the group dynamics. 

Whether they realize it or not, every team has a noticeable rhythm. It dictates group hierarchy, players' interactions with each other and even the cadence of their inside jokes.  

When you’re a coach taking over a new team, or just helping out with a new team for that matter, the rhythm can escape you for a period of time. But that is to be expected. 

How you do things and how they do things are completely different. 

If you try to insert yourself too quickly into a team’s rhythm, you can alienate players and put yourself farther behind when it comes to integrating yourself. 

In the last couple of years, I’ve experienced this as a I’ve jumped on to help two teams in basketball and softball. 

Being the new guy on the coaching staff means you spend as much time learning about the group as you do teaching what you know or trying to iron out bad habits. 

You’re learning personalities, you’re figuring out the best way to teach and you’re trying not to step on anyone’s toes for fear of a clash. 

This fall I coached female softball in Grand Falls-Windsor. Having no previous connection or knowledge of any of the players, I acquired the nickname 'Mr. Crooked' for my not always sunny disposition in practice. 

It was obvious my style had clashed with the dynamic of the team. It didn’t last long but it just shows how things play out when you coach a new team. 

There are you times you never truly stop feeling like an outsider. You don’t want to go to the park because you don’t feel like you’re meshing with the club. 

A struggle that makes you question if you made the right decision. 

Having a team warm up to you takes time, and vice versa. 

As much as it can be a struggle to fit in with a new team, it is still a privilege. 

The payoff when you’re as comfortable with the group as they are with you far outweighs any early apprehensions. 

I wanted to write this as a thank you, really. 

This softball experience, that concluded with a semifinal finish in the provincial tournament, was much more enjoyable because of the group as a whole. 

Their dynamic was born after many summers spent on the ball field with one another. Their coach has been their coach forever. 

It would’ve been easy for them to dismiss anything I had to say just simply because I was the new guy. 

Instead, they welcomed me and gave me the chance to work with them toward a common goal. I’m happy they let me hang around. 

It would’ve been easy for them to let me remain the new guy. 

They didn’t and it was appreciated. 

Maybe even more than they know. 

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