What Schools Can Teach Teams When It Comes To Common Vocabulary
Language is one of the most important tools that we as coaches have. Creating a system around vocabulary for both players and coaches is a worthwhile task to undertake. Creating a systemic approach to vocabulary has several benefits for everyone involved. Without a properly vetted and agreed upon term it makes language clunky and lacks efficiency that we need. Without a proper word or a common understanding of a word we are stuck in this area of inefficiency in teaching. Creating a simple list of concepts and terms that you want to unify across an organization is something that is overlooked but an area that can be improved upon.
From my experience baseball teams have started to look more like schools in just about everything they do. Don’t think so just look at several of the job postings that we have seen over the past few years for Coordinator roles. Many include some type of verbiage about ‘Curriculum Design’. I think that looking at how schools have created systems like this might help us to get a feel for what might be able to be done to help with this.
Schools have invested heavily in reading and math programs that have teachers using the same concepts, and vocabulary so that as students progress through different grades they aren’t continuously learning new words for the same idea. Schools have attempted to have teachers use similar terms and activity names to make learning more efficient. Why re-learn a concept by a new name if students already have a good grasp of it under a specific name.
Schools have come to realize that teachers spend far to much time re-teaching or going over different words to similar concepts. Many of the best schools have made it so that teachers are using common vocabulary when teaching. Though some teachers have found this practice to be restrictive in some ways the benefits of the process far out-weigh the negatives that can come from this practice. If the goal is to increase efficiency in teaching then having 25 student show up day one with a common vocabulary is a big step.
We see this a lot in coaches as well. Where a player will learn and display a technique or movement only to ‘graduate’ to a new level only to have to relearn the same move that is put in a different way. Or you can image coaches use different names for drills, activities, and movements which creates a sense of confusion from players and other coaches when they use different vocabulary. This creates a situation where players are essentially re-learning the same drills only to categorize them into different words. This wastes critical time in the development process as a player begins to merge their previous understanding with a new concept that the coach is attempting to instill.
An example of this may be a specific concept. We have a player who is drafted by an organization and they come in with a basic understanding of the concept ‘Attack Angle’. Their college coach used it and they have experience with the concept.
All of a sudden their new organization has a coach who emphasizes ‘Getting Extended’ and explains that as the bat moved through the zone the extension is where players start to get loft. Both terms are correct. Both have the same underpinning concept to them. The difficulty becomes when a player goes to try to understand each concept they are stuck in the middle of these two ideas. (Both of which may mean exactly the same thing)
After a few months the player has some success and they move from Low A to High A only to find that their new Hitting Coach is using the concept of Attack Angle. The terms Extension which took weeks to teach, and explain is now taken over by Attack Angle which the player now has to fit back into their knowledge.
The amount of time that this wastes for both players and coaches can be extreme. Even as the player move through a system We are wasting plenty of time reteaching concepts that should be consistent across the board. If the goal is to improve the coaching process we need to realize that the words that our organization uses on the whole are important. Schools wouldn’t have made the shift they have without thinking through the repercussion of their actions. Having students move through grade levels with common understanding saves time, confusion, and helps to create a more efficient learning process. The same thing should be true for Baseball Development.