From the Thunder Team: Using Open Communication & Online Tools

Sports have been around awhile. The Internet has not. So how do we bring the two together? We spoke with TeamSnap user and Head Coach Art Morrison from Eastern North Carolina and was struck by how successful he and his Thunder Fastpitch Softball team bridged an old sport’s fundamentals and open communication with the new online world and its management help.

According to the Amateur Softball Association of America, softball was invented in 1887 at the indoor Farragut Boat Club gym on a freezing winter day in Chicago, IL. George Hancock, a reporter, and his friends tied up the laces of a boxing glove to be used as the first softball for their game. The game spread across the country to people like Lewis Rober, a Minneapolis Fire Department lieutenant, who had his men play during their off hours to stay fit. Rober’s first organized team was called The Kittens in 1895.

To say the least, the sport has grown a lot in popularity since the boxing-glove-for-a-ball days. Today, over 40 million people enjoy playing it each summer. Softball is now the No. 1 team participant sport in the US. That’s a lot of competition for the Thunder team and others to push their way through to play as a successful and cohesive unit.

“The first times we played, we lost the first four games. We went down 1, 2, 3, 4. We were competitive, but we lost.” Morrison said. “The team then sat down and talked about what was working and what wasn’t; what the coaches needed to change and what the players needed to change.”

It helped. In the newly formed team’s second tournament, Thunder took second place, and those previous issues were gone. “Now after every practice and every game, we have a Q&A with the girls to talk about what happened during the practice or the game: what worked, and what didn’t,” he said.

Ten U10 young girls formed the team last year who wanted to give 100%. Morrison’s coaching staff instilled the values of having fun, drilling down the fundamentals, and having open communication while using TeamSnap to get them there. Morrison attributes their improvement and success to the girls who listened to what the coaches told them at practice and then took it onto the field. He also attributes it to a great coaching staff of three and their philosophy encompassing open communication.

“TeamSnap has been my fourth assistant coach. It allows me to keep track of availability of my girls, it sends out reminders so I don’t have to remember to send them out for practice, it helps to control the payment coming in so I can keep track of who’s paid – it does it all for me. TeamSnap does what I don’t want to have to do on a daily basis.”

Morrison also communicates online to keep the team dynamics rolling before and after a game. He regularly uses TeamSnap as well as tools like Facebook to help him on the side, and he plans to continue to bridge the old with the new. The name Thunder was even inspired by the 1980’s song Thunderstuck by AC/DC and was recently shared as a YouTube link on their Facebook page to pump up the team as the newly dubbed team song. If the music video has over 5 millions views on YouTube, then maybe these girls will get that many wins someday if they keep it up on and off the field! We said maybe…

Morrison’s coaching tactics of open communication, using online management, drilling the fundamentals, and having fun is working. These things, new and old, are applied to the long-standing sport of softball to help in ultimately winning games and easily managing their team in the process.

We were struck by what we learned of the team’s communication outside of the ballpark and their quick success inside the ballpark. Who knows? Maybe this new Thunder team, with the amount of time they spend on fundamentals and in being organized on and off the field, could have challenged that old 19th century Kittens firefighter team today. The Thunder vs. The Kittens: if it could happen, we as the “Fourth Assistant Coach” would bring the AC/DC Thunderstruck pump up music and manage everyone to be there.

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